When it comes to providing dinner for the family, especially when there are young children at the table, the ideal meal is home-cooked, packed with nutrition and tastes wonderful. But to be honest, sometimes it’s just easier to hit the drive-thru. And although it’s usually the unhealthier option of the two, no one thinks that a cheat meal will result in an emergency trip to the hospital…
But when one family took a trip to a fast food restaurant, they got more than just some delicious, salty, fatty food. One of them would find himself in a struggle to survive…
Friday Night Treat
On a Friday in August, Trevor Walker and his wife Rachaelle needed to get a meal for their kids. When you have three young children, there are few options that are faster, more convenient, and more universally accepted by picky eaters than fast food.
On that day, the restaurant of choice was McDonald’s. After strapping their 12-month-old baby into the car seat and loading the other two kids in the car, Trevor and Rachaelle drove off to the closest McDonald’s to their home in Riverton, Utah.
They got a couple of happy meals for the kids, a couple of chicken sandwiches for themselves, and a couple of Diet Cokes to wash it all down. Trevor began sipping his drink as he drove the car on the short ride home.
But when he got home, the 33-year-old software engineer started to feel like something was off. He’d seated his two older boys on the couch with their happy meals and was holding his baby and reading emails at the computer when he started to notice physical symptoms of something.
He knew something was seriously wrong when he tried to type an email and he couldn’t seem to get his fingers to hit the keys as he wanted. Initially, Trevor thought he might be having a severe anxiety attack.
But in very short order, Trevor’s symptoms got worse. His vision became blurred and he was losing feeling in his arms and legs. Growing scared, he handed the baby off to his 8-year-old son and sent two text messages to his wife, who was working in their in-house salon.
“Something is vey (sic) wrong with me,” he texted. “I am having sensation in my arms and everything is moving slowly. I’m feeling scared. I don’t know what to do.” Trevor wrote. “I’m so scared I’m trying to be calm. I need you.”
Shortly after that, Trevor says that he blacked out. When Rachaelle found him in the living room, he had been face down on the floor, unconscious for at least a minute. When she was able to partially rouse him, he mumbled her name and something about not being able to feel his hands and feet.
Finding the Cause
Rachaelle acted quickly, calling over neighbors to come watch the kids as she rushed him to the nearest hospital. Once there, doctors were able to determine through a urinalysis that he had the drug buprenorphine in his system.
Buprenorphine is a medication used as a “heroin substitute” to help safely wean people with opioid addictions off of the drugs. The drug had interacted with a medication that Trevor had already been taking, causing him to have a reaction that might have killed him if he hadn’t gotten to the hospital for treatment.
How’d it Get There?
The big question now was how the buprenorphine had gotten into his system. Acting on a terrible suspicion, Rachaelle asked her neighbors to bring the McDonald’s meal to the hospital and not let the kids anywhere near it.
While Trevor was still being treated, Rachaelle inspected the meal for signs that anything was off. When she opened her husband’s Diet Coke, she said she noticed a white, filmy substance and little speckles floating on the surface of the beverage.
Rachaelle immediately informed the police, who sent the drink to the Utah State Crime Lab for testing. Her hunch turned out to be correct when the crime lab officials confirmed that Trevor’s Diet Coke contained the drug.
Since none of the other drinks contained buprenorphine, it seemed as if sometime between when the drink was poured and when it was sipped, someone had put the drug into Trevor’s drink.
Emotional Roller Coaster
When he first found out that someone had spiked his drink, Trevor was relieved that he wasn’t experiencing some other kind of health condition like a heart attack or stroke. But that relief quickly turned to anger and confusion about why someone would do such a thing.
The police suspected one particular McDonald’s employee whose social media posts had suggested that he was a drug user and that he liked to occasionally disrespect customers through the Drive-Thru window. That suspect also happened to be the younger brother of the restaurant’s manager.
But when police requested the surveillance video of the night of the incident, they were originally sent footage from the wrong day. When they got into contact with the McDonald’s again, they were told that the footage from the correct day — footage that might have shown the suspect spiking the drink — had been automatically deleted.
Trevor’s attorney also said that employees were somehow unable to provide confirmation of who worked on the night in question. Still, police interviewed the suspected worker as well as his sister, the manager of the store. The interview proved fruitless but both the suspect and manager quit their jobs shortly after.
So no arrests were made and the investigation couldn’t definitively say where the drugs had come from. It seemed to Trevor that his only path to some kind of justice was a lawsuit against McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Swirer Coca-Cola, which is Coca-Cola’s local distributor in that area. He saught unspecified damages to cover his medical expenses, loss of income, and punitive payment.
Could Have Been Worse
“I would like there to be some justice for what has taken place. I don’t want to see somebody else go through what we’ve gone through,” Trevor Walker told the Associated Press. “It could have been my son. If one of my sons had drank my drink, the outcome could have been worse.”