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Utah Woman Recovering After Drinking Tea Laced with Lye

Courtesy photo
Jan and Jim Harding

The family of the woman who was severely injured when she drank sweet tea mixed with lye at a Dickey’s Barbecue in South Jordan spoke to the media Thursday at their attorney’s office. Family members say they are not thinking at this time about pressing charges, but their lawyer says he is gathering evidence and witness testimony of the incident.

When Jan Harding showed up at the Emergency Room on August 10th, it was not clear that she would survive. She had severe burns to her mouth and esophagus, and her throat was swelling shut. Within hours, family and doctors determined that day that the sweet tea she sipped at Dickey’s contained lye - a highly toxic chemical used as a degreaser.

On Thursday, though, her husband Jim Harding greeted the press with a smile, as he announced that his wife is no longer in critical condition, that she is breathing on her own, and can speak now.

“I’m just grateful for each day,” Harding says. “I’m grateful that she’s getting better. I’m grateful that she has a voice. I’m grateful that the life and death thing has been taken off the table. I’m just grateful for where we are, so I bring you a good word today, an encouraging word.”

Prosecutors have said they need more time to determine if criminal charges are warranted. Harding, a retired pastor – says he is not angry with anyone, and is not thinking about lawsuits right now.

“I just want my wife to be OK,” he says. “That’s really all I’m thinking about now. We’re doing this because we want to get the word out for people to be careful, we want there to be change, so no one else ever has to go through this again, and we want to give honor and glory to our God who has seen us through this.”

Meanwhile, the Harding family’s attorney Paxton Guymon says he’s working to gather witness testimony and preserve evidence. Initially he thought it was an isolated incident, but recently learned that a Dickey’s employee had also burned her tongue last month on sugar mixed with lye.

“To me, it means that the company was on notice that there was a hazardous substance, that wasn’t properly labeled, it wasn’t properly controlled, and that things should’ve and could’ve been done to prevent my client, Mrs. Harding, from being injured,” Guymon says.

Jim Harding is just looking forward to the day his wife can come home, though doctors have not been able to tell him when that will be.

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