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The infection affected his mind. He recalled staring at a clock in his hospital room and not being able to tell time. "I was thinking, 'Why do they have this strange clock in here, and why is it set up differently?'"
Meyer said he grew paranoid, believing that his doctors had written him off for dead. Doctors had not given up on him, but were perplexed. A test for the most dangerous form of E. coli familiar to Americans came back negative. They sent specimens for additional analysis to lab with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta.
In early June, CDC confirmed it was the German strain.
Around that time, he had begun to recover. His kidneys were improving. His awareness returned. He was moved out of intensive care more than three weeks later, and on June 17 he was sent home.
But he was far from normal. He and his wife said his muscles had atrophied, his red blood cell count was still down, and the lining of his colon had become a layer of dead tissue, unable to absorb nutrients. A man who had been an athletic 6-foot 2 and 185 pounds was down to 162 pounds and able to walk only short distances using a cane. He was hungry, though. Voracious, even, eating two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners each day.
"He had such a huge appetite because he was still not able to absorb as many nutrients," his wife said.
Now he's up to 170 pounds and working part days from home. He's been in physical therapy and regaining his strength, though he's months away from the kind of vigorous exercise he used to do.
Meyer and his wife contacted a local attorney, saying they were worried about possible problems with getting health insurance to pay his hospital bills. That turned out not to be an issue. But the attorney referred the couple to Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer considered the nation's pre-eminent plaintiff's attorney in food poisoning cases.
Marler is looking into the possibility of a lawsuit, with potential targets including the company that owns the Hamburg hotel where Meyer stayed.
He called Meyer's suffering "horrific," and echoed Meyer's wife in worrying that he may suffer long-term problems.
For his part, Meyer feels lucky to have survived, crediting his doctors for saving his life and his good health and fitness before the illness for helping him get through it.
"Many unfortunate people didn't survive," he said. "It really is a frightening thing."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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