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Restaurant mixup strikes Baptist leader’s wife

Jan and Jim Harding

SALT LAKE CITY (BP and local reports) — Jan Harding remains hospitalized indefinitely in Salt Lake City with ulcerated lye burns down the upper third of her esophagus after a chemical mix-up at a restaurant, but no longer faces the life-and-death struggle she initially encountered, her husband said.

Jim Harding, Jan’s husband and former executive director of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention from 1995-2000, had no words of bitterness despite a number of media questions to elicit such a response during at August 21 press conference.

“I’m not angry,” Jim Harding said at least twice. “I’m sad. We’re sad. We’re sad for Dickey’s, for our family, for everybody involved.”

Jan Harding was seriously injured at a Dickey’s barbecue restaurant in the Salt Lake City area when she took a sip of sweet tea on Aug. 10. The tea mistakenly contained caustic lye, which is used for cleaning the barbeque restaurant’s cooking equipment.

“God’s got us. He’s got us,” said Jim Harding, now a professor at the Utah extension center of Golden Gate Seminary who regularly serves as an interim pastor. “We have absolute confidence in our God.”

The Hardings were at the national dining chain’s restaurant waiting for longtime friends and regular Sunday dining companions Dan and Sherrie Walker when the incident occurred. Dan Walker is director of missions for the Salt Lake Association.

When Jan Harding took a sip of tea, she immediately bent over and spat out the liquid as she choked, gagged, and coughed. “I think I just drank acid,” she managed to gasp to her husband.

Jim Harding quickly rushed his wife to a nearby hospital, where the decision was made to transport her across town by helicopter to a medical center with a burn unit.

“I’m just grateful for each day,” Jim Harding said. “I’m grateful she’s getting better. I’m grateful she has a voice. I’m grateful the ‘life-and-death’ thing has been taken off the table. I’m just grateful for where we are.”

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