Saturday, June 6, 2009

Robert 4, MRSA 0

MRSA infection is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — often called "staph." MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It's a strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. MRSA can be fatal.

How many times do we see a report on the news about some new superbug, and think, “How sad for the people that got it, but it could never happen to me.” We always took precautions, we’re a bit OCD about washing our hands and cleaning cat scratches or cuts with peroxide. So when Robert got a little pimple, we didn’t think anything of it at all. Not even when it got a little bigger, we just ignored it. Then he got a fever, and he started getting some pain. By the time I took him to the Emergency Room FOUR HOURS LATER, the pimple abscessed and grew from the size of a raisin to the size of an 8” banana. It tunneled into his body, turning flesh and healthy tissue into a liquid acidic pus. Had he gone to bed that night, the doctor said he would have died in his sleep. We were fortunate that he got intense pain and a fever immediately, which made going to the ER an option. The abscess was drained in surgery, and he was given a healthy dose of antibiotics by IV. The hospital stay lasted a week, and he was confined to the house until his wound healed. My entire house smelled like bleach, my towels and linens bleach stained from soaking, rubber gloves and antibacterial hand gel became the norm.

I was concerned for my own health, because of how it tore through his body. It isn’t uncommon for me to have a scratch or cut on my hands, because we have cats. But I never got it, never got sick with it.

Staph bacteria are normally found on the skin or in the nose of about one-third of the population. If you have staph on your skin or in your nose but aren't sick, you are said to be "colonized" but not infected. Healthy people can be colonized and have no ill effects. However, they can pass the germ to others.

There are some things you can do at home. Clean wounds immediately, no matter how small they are. Use seat covers in public bathrooms. Wash your hands after bathroom visits. Wash your hands before and after touching food. And the big one for me, Ladies, STOP PUTTING YOUR PURSE ON THE FLOOR!! Think about where you set your purse down. It’s common to just throw them on the floor or under your desk. And it’s also pretty common to put them on the kitchen counter or kitchen table. Germs transfer surface to surface. Also, for houses with kids, make sure they get into the habit of using a tissue to wipe their noses, instead of their sleeves. Wash hands after playtime, or if they are in contact with sick kids.

If you get antibiotics, take the full course. Do not save a pill or two for another time, this is dangerous, and how germs mutate and grow.

Like other superbugs, MRSA is the result of decades of excessive and unnecessary antibiotic use. For years, antibiotics have been prescribed for colds, flu and other viral infections that don't respond to these drugs, as well as for simple bacterial infections that normally clear on their own.

Now, 18 months later, we are getting over the fourth bout of MRSA that has attacked Robert. This one sent us to the hospital again, it was too deep to drain at home. So, once again, my towels are bleach stained, bleach wipes and rubber gloves abound, and a special container is on the bathroom counter to collect the bandages and used gloves. And I couldn’t be happier. Because, once again, Robert has defeated MRSA. And I still have my husband.

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