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Reading “Superbug”

2010/05/26

which is about MRSA.  I think everyone should read this book.  If I didn’t know so much about MRSA from our family experiences with it, it would scare me.  But the truth is, MRSA doesn’t kill that many people, compared to say… heart disease.  However, it is VERY contagious.  Tim has had what is called soft tissue CA-MRSA (Community Acquired) 5 times, I believe, starting in June of 2008.  I came home from Europe, and he had a spot on his forearm that was red & swollen.   We went out to dinner that night, and by the time we got home his forearm was about 50% larger than normal.  It is so amazing how quickly it attacks.  It was misdiagnosed as a brown recluse spider bite.  This is very common, because it looks exactly like a brown recluse spider bite.  Tim hadn’t been bitten, to his knowledge.  So, he was treated with the wrong antibiotics for 5 weeks.  That makes the MRSA adapt and become more resistent, we’ve discovered.   Tim & I were talking about this first “attack” this morning and I remembered my friend Steve kept saying “Brown recluse spiders aren’t in this part of the country.”  He said it several times, and he was right.  Once in a blue moon, but highly unlikely one would get bitten and not know it.

Then he started getting another one on the same arm.  I can’t remember exactly where.  He felt awful because of the cellulitis.  The tissue around these lesions swells a lot, and it’s extremely painful.  After they discovered it was MRSA, they started him on the correct antibiotics (well, after the insurance company allowed them to; first he had to take the 1st line of defense antibiotics, and it was pretty much too late for them).  Ultimately, both of the lesions had to be removed surgically, and they were very deep.  The infection gets into the muscle.  The wounds had to remain open, so I had to unpack, clean the opening w/ saline, then repack and re-bandage twice a day.  The things you do for love…  Couldn ‘t do that for anyone else, except my kids.  So, after 2 months, he was better, but he was down, man.

Then he got it again a few months later.  I can’t remember where.  A few months after that he got it in his ear.  That was excruciating for him.  The ear was so swollen I couldn’t get the drops in it, so he had to go to an ent and get this expandable thing to put in there, and it expands when the liquid saturates it and enables the meds to get down into his ear properly.  It healed the nicest of any of the infections, and not having to unpack/pack was a big bonus.

Several months after that he got 2 lesions on his torso.  One kind of under his arm which healed with antibiotics, then another about 6 inches below, which didn’t heal with antibiotics, so it had to be removed surgically.  MRSA is a penicillin-resistent staph infection, by the way.  And even then, if it gets too far, antibiotics won’t get rid of it.

The end of January this year he got a place on the bridge of his nose, to the side of it.  It swelled so badly his eye was almost shut, and that whole side of his face was very swollen.  This time he had to be hospitalized for 3 days so he could get Vancomycin via IV.  They let him come home but I had to give him the Vancomycin IV or another 5 days, then he had 3 more weeks of antibiotic, which makes his stomach funky. 

It completely disrupts our life.  Tim lost his job because he felt pressured to go back to work before he was feeling compeltely better, plus he was having extreme anxiety and just couldn’t perform well.  It was awful for him.  He lost another job this year after an infection had to be removed surgically.  He just couldn’t work the hours that were required, and recover as well.  It’s been awful.  However, he’s alive, doing just fine at the moment, and working part time, doing what he loves. (financial analysis-yuck!)

We have learned a lot about CA-MRSA, and this book would seem alarmist to someone who hasn’t experienced it.  It is making me a little paranoid.  I have a couple of mosquito bites (I guess) which I’m watching.   Tim & I watch his skin and if he gets a red bump (starts out looking like a little zit) we clean it w/ hibiclens and put a topical antibiotic on it until it goes away.  I use Borax in the laundry just in case it lingers on clothing, and wash all laundry except delicates on hot.  He had de-colonization once, but I’ m not sure how effective, or rather how lasting, it was.  Plus, lots of people are colonized with it but don’t get infections.  I or our kids or even the dog could be giving it back to him.  This is the infection people used to get at the hospital, and now  the infection has changed and is getting out in the community, at a rather alarming rate.  Tim probably got it at the Y.  And if it gets in your lungs or bones or bloodstream, the prognosis is extreme illness and possibly death.  The lungs are very vulnerable.

Anyhow, that’s Superbug.  I’m learning a little more, but nothing really new.  It is definitely an illness where you have to advocate for yourself and educate yourself, because every doctor you see will tell you something different.  It’s understandable, though, because the infection is changing all the time, adapting to new antibiotics and becoming resistant to them.

This book is written by an excellent, experienced Science writer, Maryn McKenna.  She has a site called Superbug and it’s full of great information.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask me, because we’ve been dealing with it now for a couple of years, and have learned a lot.  This book is a quick read, I should finish it the next day or 2, depending on how busy I am.  Then–my Natalie Wood book will be here and I can lose myself in scandal!! 

I’ve been immersing myself in Genealogy when not reading this book.   I made a great connection on my Howerin side, Granny’s maiden name.  I’m so excited about it!!  It was such a funky name, the census takers got the name wrong on several documents throughout the years, but I’ve now discovered them, and have learned so much.  It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.  Well, I’m not a huge fan of puzzles.  It’s like a chase & I finally catch what I’m chasing, and learn more which leads down a different path.  I love new paths!

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2 Responses to “Reading “Superbug””

  1. Courtney Says:

    I, too, have been dealing with CA-MRSA for about ten years. It comes and goes with every new treatment plan but this time I am more hopeful to get rid of it once and for all.
    My latest treatment is: daily 10 minute baths in a half-filled bath tub with 1/2 cup Chlorex. Followed by a rinse of Hibiclens or plain yougurt for 20 minutes and a cool rinse. The infection is gone after 3 months but I am still trying to get my skin cleared. THis seems to be a challenge.

    • Julie Says:

      Wow, Courtney. I can’t believe you have been dealing with it for so long. I hope this treatment works for you. 3 mos. is pretty good. Wishing you the best… Julie


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