“The first thing that crossed my mind was, ‘Am I dying?’” said 11-year-old Addie Rerecich, of Tucson, Arizona.
This was 2011. Addie was bedridden in the hospital. Her body was overcome by a Staphylococcus infection. Her lungs were failing. Without a double lung transplant she would die. But surgery would be tricky because other drug-resistant bacteria were also growing in her slender frame.
Thankfully, Addie would eventually pull through, but her struggle continues.
In the video below the interviewer asks Addie if she would mind showing people her scars. “No, I’m kind of proud of them,” comes the spunky reply. And promptly lifts her shirt to reveal multiple gunshot-looking wounds to her belly. What draws your attention, however, is the deep scar that cuts diagonally across her right hip, the remnants of the Staph infection that began it all, which she describes as “the size of a football at one point.”
Here is Addie in her own words:
We understand life by comparing new events to what we have experienced. For example, when we hear that in the US alone, over 2 million people a year contract an antibiotic-resistant infection – and live, we understand that to mean they go through something like we have, with pneumonia, say.
Addie, now 15, makes her story public because she wants you to know that that’s not how it works. Her mother Tonya, a nurse, describes 3 key differences with drug-resistant infections:
They move quick: “Within 24 hours, my little girl went from happy and healthy to being intubated and hooked to a breathing machine. Her small body was riddled with tubes and wires.”
Drugs don’t work: “Addie’s doctors had run out of the most common antibiotics used to treat these serious bacteria so, in desperation, they turned to an antibiotic known as colistin. Colistin is very powerful, but it is also so highly toxic to the kidneys and other organs that doctors rarely use it. We started saying extra prayers.”
It’s a life sentence: “When we left the hospital, Addie was in a wheelchair. She had lost the use of her left arm, had almost no vision in her left eye, and had restricted vision in her right eye. She had limited use of her left leg. She had suffered a stroke. She had lost 30 pounds, almost one third of her body weight. She was so weak and debilitated that she couldn’t even turn herself side to side in bed. With intensive therapy Addie is improving, but progress is slow, and no one is sure how much function she can regain. My once normal, strong, athletic Addie will need medical attention and therapy for the rest of her life.”
“I’m so grateful that she’s still with us and that we made it through, but my heart aches when she looks up at me and asks, ‘Why me?’, because I don’t have an answer.”