Friday, August 01, 2008

Time To Talk About MRSA

I live in the Springfield, Illinois area, and can report that there is a silent epidemic that no one seems to be talking about - not the local press, and not the local health industry. I'm talking about MRSA.

Several decades ago as a small child I caught a antibiotic resistant form of Staph - today it would be called MRSA, but back then the doctors treating it had never seen it before.

It started as an innocent scratch on my outer right ankle.

I was only three years old.

My mother who worked in the pediatric ward at St. John's Hospital most likely transmitted an antibiotic resistant form of Staph - probably by not washing her hands properly before treating my wound. This is what I believe, although this is not the story told to me by my mother.

My mother insisted that it was another nurse at the hospital that infected me, but I find it hard to believe that my scratch was so badly infected that she felt I had to be placed into the hospital BEFORE being infected with Staph.

Thus, years after her death, I blame my mother - doesn't really matter anyway.

MRSA was EXTREMELY RARE in those days, there was only one place a person could get it - either in a health care facility, or coming into contact with a "colonized" health care worker, or recently released patient.

I recall to this day having my pedestrian clothing removed by candy stripers and soon being taken to my hospital room. It was a frightening place for me.

I was assured by my mother that I'd be in the hospital for a few days at most, but it turned out that I was not to be released for months - that's right - months.

They tried every antibiotic, and hot wrap treatment, but the infection only spread.

Soon they decided to amputate my leg.

A NOTE: If only they had used maggots on my wound I would have healed quickly.

My mother decided to push aside her Munchhausen Syndrome long enough to make the moral decision and bring me home.

There were two conditions for my being brought home, the first was that we purchase an air conditioner, the second was my home treatment.

My home treatment consisted of the following.

My mother would take a large pot of water and bring it to a roiling boil on the stove.

She would then add Epsom salts, actual salt, and baking soda, and with the water still steaming hot I would plunge my entire little boy leg into the pot of scalding hot water.

My mother and father would stand next to me, and give me a towel to squeeze as I writhed in agony from the boiling water.

I did this several times a day, each day for weeks.

And eventually my body won, the infection died out, and I kept my leg.

I bring up this story as a way of warning people about the power of MRSA, which is an antibiotic resistant form of Staph.

It's out there folks. In the subsequent decades it has spread to the greater community, and is in schools, gyms, fitness centers, and nursing homes.

It spreads innocently, and a large percentage of the population is "colonized" by MRSA - one in three.

It waits until an individual's immune system is weakend, and then it strikes.

It appears usually as boils, or a small patch of redness, but it gets much worse, and it needs to be treated quickly because it spreads - as it eats flesh.

And right now as I write this it's an epidemic - and few have even heard of it.

A relative of mine has had it for over a week, and the doctor totally missed the diagnosis. Many older general practicioners have no clue what it looks like, and so it is important to learn as much as you can about the symptoms of MRSA.

MRSA does respond to some antibiotics, but not others, which is why it is so important to become knowlegible about this disease. Delay in proper treatment can lead to amputation, and even death.

Meanwhile pharmaceutical companies have little invested in developing new antibiotics, and the few remaining antibiotics that treat MRSA may not remain effective for much longer. This will lead to a future in which amputations for infections will once again become common.

Why is big pharma holding off - money, antibiotics just aren't as profitable as another antacid.

You can catch MRSA from contact with people, and objects. It's highly contagious.

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