MRSA Rampage: Two Stories of Infection In The Community And Hospital

Mentioning MRSA to someone outside of the medical field often elicits a blank stare or a vague look of confusion and mistrust.  In fact, going so far as to mention Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is usually enough to end a conversation completely.  For the most part, the destructive, life-altering scope of MRSA isn’t known to the general public—nor is the risk of acquiring MRSA in the hospital.  Knowing many patients and health care workers, I’ve seen prognoses that have varied from life-threatening and permanently disabling, to non-deadly, but career ending.  This is the story of two acquaintances of mine: one who contracted MRSA in the community at large, and another who contracted MRSA while at the hospital.

Down on her luck, living in a small, government subsidized apartment, my first acquaintance was forced to share her space with several other near-homeless individuals.  Crowded in a tiny room, many of her roommates were poorly fed and suffered from mental illness.  As is the case in many situations of extreme poverty, drug abuse and poor hygiene were rampant—as were skin infections.  Such close-knit quarters were a breeding ground for CA-MRSA, or Community Acquired MRSA.  Community Acquired MRSA differs, in that it’s a) often more aggressive b) less resistant to antibiotics than its hospital counterpart.

After several weeks of living in such squalid conditions, my acquaintance began to develop a rapidly deteriorating pneumonia—presenting with a high fever and severe shortness of breath.  After she collapsed on the floor, writhing for breath, her boyfriend of the time called an ambulance.

After coughing up blood, she was immediately transferred to the intensive care unit.  The presiding doctors diagnosed her with ARDS—acute respiratory distress syndrome: an often deadly condition that requires a mechanical ventilator to assist breathing.  A study from the University of Maryland estimates the mortality of ARDS to be anywhere from 36% to 52%.  For the next two weeks, she struggled in and out of consciousness—suffering mild brain damage from the loss of oxygen.  Although she beat the odds, in the end, she still has mild residual lung damage and memory loss.  For several months after her ordeal, she was required to take a high dose antibiotic decontamination protocol, which was also toxic to several organs.  After many months of struggle, her life is back on track and her health has improved greatly.  Most importantly, she is now fully MRSA free.

My second acquaintance contracted MRSA while training to become a doctor.  After having treated several patients infected with the disease, her nasal cavities became colonized.  From there, the colonized MRSA spread to her left arm, where it formed a small, but continuously open, sore.  As a potential source of infection to her patients, she was taken out of hospital and was unable to continue her studies.  Among healthcare workers, MRSA nasal colonization is a constant problem.  A French study from 2004 found that 9 percent of workers in clinical wards were colonized with MRSA.  HA-MRSA or HospitalAcquired MRSA is usually a) less aggressive than its community counterpart b) more resistant to antibiotics

The sore on my acquaintance’s arm remained for more than a year, despite high dose antibiotics and a stringent decontamination protocol.  By this time, she was so far behind in her studies she had to drop out of school.  She now lives in constant fear that her infection may spread beyond her arm or even into her bloodstream.  She tries her best not to think about worst case scenarios.

Despite having had profoundly different experiences and outcomes, both of my acquaintances share one thing in common: MRSA infection.  If better decontamination protocols had been in place within hospitals, or better public health policies existed for the homeless and near-homeless, I have no doubt that my acquaintances would be much healthier and happy today.  As hospitals begin to meet the MRSA challenge head on, new and innovative strategies that think outside of the box are required.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome: estimated incidence and mortality rate in a 5 million-person population base
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11056707

Carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among hospital employees: prevalence, duration, and transmission to households.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14994935

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One Response to “MRSA Rampage: Two Stories of Infection In The Community And Hospital”

  1. April Heater says:

    My boyfriend has MRSA. He was dignoised with it in 2009 and has 2 major outbreakes sence he developed the MRSA. We are not sure if he got it from the hospital or the home he was staying at after his back surgery. 3 weeks after his surgery he was getting sick and the sight where they opened him up got really nasty looking they tld us at that time it was just the usual staff infection and they just did a wash out and took the hardware out of his back. Well just when we though he was on the road to recovery he started running a very high fever of 105 to 106. It hit him very hard and fast all in about 2 days. We lived a hour away from the hospital that was treating him we didnt make it to that hospital. We had to stettle for a hospital that was about a half hour from the on we were trying to get him to. When we got to the first haspital they refused to treat him but told him that they had called St. Marys in Rochester MN. They sent an abulance to pick him up. The ER Doctor came out to tell us that they were keeping him confortable until the ambulance got there and that they were not able to treat this suvior of infection and that they were transporting him to Rochester. When we all got to Rocester they told us that we were very lucky that we made it there when we did. He was only 12 hours from being parilized and 24 hours from Dieing, About 5 hours after we got there he was once again back in surgey. When they went in they found that they left 2 screws in is back and were not replaced or just never taken out from the wash out surgery. When he came home he could hardle walk still in really bad pain and had t go and get infusions 2 a day at the local hospital for 6 weeks. the following year just when he started appering better he started getting little sores around the surgery sight and was starting to feel just not right again we toke him back to St. Marys and it was just a small skin outbreak. We managed to get keep the outbreak isolated and the sores heald. About 1 year later one day just out of the blue he was complaning that he was in suvior pain and spiked a very high fever. This time we just went straight to St.Marys (Mayo Clinic) in Rochester. Sure enough the MRSA desided to woke up and was attacking his blood bone and soft tissue. They keep him for 5 days in the hospital. When he came home I was trained to give him his infusions. I was to give him infusions of what started at 1500mg of vancomacine a day in one weeks time the raised it to 1800mg cause is blood levels werent droping. We did this for 3 months 4 times a day and the last 2 weeks his blood level was a 4 right were a healthy persons should be at. But sence that episode he has not been the same. He in now alergic to the vancomacine. So if he had an other out break we dont know what they will teat him with? His blood levels habe been ranging from 9 to a 11 indicating that his system is trying to fight something off but is it the MRSA is it something else? We are not sure of that and nor are the doctors. They dont want him on any atibiotic unless there is no other opptions due to the fact that they want what ever type of antibiotic do to if he has a out breake of the MRSA again. I am so scared because nonody can tell us it will never come back again or how many more out breakes his body can indore before it wins and my 3 children lose their father and I lose my true love, best frirnd, and my soul mate. Does anybody have any advise for me about this MRSA. I try and keep myself well informed about the MRSA, But it seems that because not many people are informed about MRSA there is only limited kbowledge of it to us on the outside world even if you are a person with the The SuperBug! I just wish they could kill this Bug before it takes his life. If anybody has any informaton of this please inform me please!

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