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Prayer sought for Utah burn victim

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah (BP) — A Baptist leader is seeking prayer for his wife who was upgraded to serious condition today (Aug. 18) after drinking iced tea accidentally laced with lye at a Utah restaurant a week earlier.

Jan Harding, 67, was admitted to the University of Utah Hospital burn unit after taking one sip of the tainted tea Aug. 10 at a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in South Jordan, Utah, and had been in critical condition a week with severe chemical burns in her esophagus. She is the wife of Jim Harding, an extension professor at the Utah campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and former executive director of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention.

“God’s got us. He’s got us. We have absolute, confidence in our God,” Jim Harding said in an Aug. 14 FOX 13 interview after doctors removed his wife’s breathing tube. “When the breathing tube came out, we all smiled and then I think we cried. … I keep telling our kids God’s got us.”

Jan Harding spoke her first words Aug. 17 since the accident, longtime family friend Dan Walker told Baptist Press.

“We actually physically heard her voice yesterday for the first time, though it’s … not her natural voice yet, but she was as of yesterday morning able to speak,” said Walker, executive director of the Salt Lake Baptist Association. “Beyond that, I really need to accommodate the family’s wishes and not make a lot of other comments.”

The Harding family, Walker and friends are requesting prayer.

“Our big concerns and our prayer requests at this time are really around these things. First of all, she so desperately needs some good rest. Secondly, we’re praying for the healing of her esophagus because … there is risk of perforated esophagus and that would be disastrous,” Walker said. “On Wednesday of this week they’re going to be doing another endoscopy to check out the healing and we’re just desperately praying that that would have favorable results.”

Walker also requested prayer that the family would gain strength and be able to rest.

The Hardings held a press conference today with TV’s “Inside Edition” but has suspended all other interviews until an Aug. 21 press conference, preliminarily at 2 p.m. Mountain Time in the office of their attorney Paxton Guyman in Salt Lake City.

A former Dickey’s employee, identified as Rebecca Rackley, said Dickey’s knew about the toxic substance used to sweeten the tea.

About a month ago, Rackley said, she mixed a crystalized cleaner that resembled sugar into a vat of sugar. She told news outlets including the local FOX 13 station that she realized her error and tried to empty the mixture in the trash but was prevented from doing so by company regulations. She quit her job for undisclosed reasons before Harding was injured and has expressed sorrow that the substance was used to sweeten the tea.

“It’s bad, because I’m the one that messed up the sugar, but I didn’t give her the tea or put it in the tea,” Rackley said in a FOX 13 interview. “But I still feel bad because I messed up the sugar.”

Dickey’s expressed sadness in an Aug. 16 official press statement and requested prayer for the Hardings.

“The entire Dickey’s family is saddened by the events that occurred in Utah and takes this incident very seriously. We are keeping the entire Harding family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” the company said, describing the case as isolated and expressing the location owner’s deep sadness. “Dickey’s appreciates all of the messages of support. We ask for your prayers for the Harding family.”
Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).