My Predicament and Grant Hill

My Predicament

It started simply enough.  It was February.  I had dry skin.  There was a small crack in the skin of my knee. I moisturized my knees, and didn’t think anything else of it.  Who knew it could turn into something so nefarious?

Over the next two days, the knee began to look infected. And it HURT.  I covered it and decided to go to the doctor.  They ordered antibiotics for the knee and ordered that I keep it covered with ointment.

The snow began to fall. I sat on my couch, soaking my knee, wishing the pain away. By 11 pm, I could stand the pain no longer. The redness in the knee had spread halfway down the calf and halfway up the thigh. I needed a doctor and I needed one now. The kids were in bed, so I told Ben that I was driving myself to the ER.  In the snow. With an infected right leg. And so I did. And the pain was nearing unbearable…. or so I thought.

I was admitted to the hospital that night with cellulitis (a deep infection of soft tissue) . The infectious disease doctor was to meet with me in the morning.  In the meantime, they put me on antibiotics and tried to leave me sleep.    The next day, the infection was diagnosed as suspected MRSA. The surgeon was called and he cut out the infected tissue. He noted necrosis of  tissue of the tissue above the knee. I heard MRSA and necrosis and got scared. Very scared. They took a culture of the knee to confirm.  The doctor ordered vancomycin, a strong antibiotic available only in IV, to treat the MRSA and left. I was left with a hole in the knee, wondering if I was going to lose my leg.

I thought the pain was unbearable before, and boy was I wrong. Before the leg began to heal, it got worse. Much worse. Now the entire leg, hip to ankle was a deep red.  The cellulitis  had spread to all the soft tissue in my leg and was deep. My leg was a harsh crimson color and throbbed.  The leg was swollen three times its size.  I could not bear weight on my leg without wanting to scream, a stabbing feeling to the bone, my pulse pounding in my leg, a reminder that the infection could spread further. I could not walk. MRSA had taken its toll and I was scared. For two days I feared my leg may be in jeopardy that MRSA might have spread to the bone, without the doctor confirming otherwise.  It wasn’t until later that I learned that there was never a real risk of that happening, but those two days were long days.

Six days later,  six days without my family, I was finally sent sent home. I had had 12 doses of vancomycin via IV, endured 1 days where I could not walk at all without literally collapsing in pain,  2 days where I could not walk more that 2 step without excruciating pain, 3 more days where I was only able to walk aided by a  walker, and had a hole in my leg.  I had to soak the wound.  My entire family had to be treated as MRSA carriers.  I was on antibiotics for  10 more days.  The home was sanitized in my absence (thanks Ben, and mom, and mom!) all surfaces cleaned deeply, ALL clothes, sheets, and couch cover (got to love IKEA sofas) washed in hot water. It is an experience I never want to relive. (Which, unfortunately, I did…. having a secondary MRSA infection later, common in those that had it once, even with all the insane precautions I was taking… which was much more tame.)

So, what is MRSA anyway?

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is essentially a staph infection that has become resistant to methicillin antibiotics, making it a “superbug.”  Staph bacteria can be found on most people.  MRSA is carried on the skin and the nose. As of 2007, it was estimated that 2% of the general population and 7% of healthcare workers were colonized with MRSA sans symptoms. These numbers are rapidly growing.  MRSA can be found on the grass, in the dirt, and on many hard surfaces.  It often causes soft tissue infections, but can also be blamed for certain types of pneumonia.

MRSA and Grant Hill

Last week, I had the privilege on being on a conference call with Grant Hill. Grant Hill is a legendary NBA player who suffered from a severe MRSA infection in 2003 after surgery on his ankle.  He suffered from high fever, convulsions, and had to endure skin grafts before his ordeal was over. Grant Hill, a father and and advocate,  is working on a campaign called Stop MRSA Now aimed at educating the public what MRSA is and how to prevent it. It was an informative call.  Hill answered many of our questions, and above all, he educated us all on MRSA awareness without fear. If you would like more information on what you can do in your schools and communities to prevent the spread of MRSA, Stop MRSA Now is loaded with resources that you can use to educate in your community.

The Problem

In my tweets with those on the conference call with Grant Hill, I became aware of the misconception of how MRSA has become as strong as a disease as it is today. Many people on the call stated that they avoid taking antibiotics  so that they do not become drug resistant and can avoid diseases like MRSA.  While part of their thinking is true, it does not describe the whole problem. It is true that overuse of antibiotics can cause a tolerance in an individual. It is also true that overuse of antibiotics has created antibiotic resistant diseases.  What this means is that the disease itself does not respond to the antibiotic anymore. While it is important that you do not overuse antibiotics so that you may not become resistant, it does not mean that you are any less likely to pick up a disease like MRSA.  It also does not mean that if you were to get MRSA a normal course of antibiotics would work on you as opposed to someone who has been on a number of antibiotics in their lives. MRSA does not respond to normal antibiotics. Some strains of CA(community-associated) MRSA still respond to Bactrim, but Bactrim is becoming less effective as well. The over-use of antibiotics and anti-bacterial soaps build bigger and badder disease. It is a “survival of the fittest” thing. These antibacterial soaps and drugs are used to kill diseases. They kill most of the bacterial cells. The cells that are left are the strong ones. The ones the antibacterial soaps and antibiotics didn’t kill.  These stronger, more resistant cells reproduce, creating a more resistant strain.

So, What Can We Do?

First and foremost, we must not panic. Yes, MRSA is a dangerous disease.  Yes, It has been known to kill.  But as long as we are aware of the situation and we are properly educated, we can do alot to prevent it.

  • Keep all cuts and broken skin covered. MRSA enters the body through breaks in the skin. By covering these cuts, MRSA is less likely to enter.
  • Barriers.  Always place a barrier between your body and public surfaces. Gyms are a breading ground for diseases like MRSA. Use a towel as a barrier between you and the mats.  Wipe them down before and after use.
  • Wash your hands often. Wash them with warm water and soap, scrubbing as long as it takes you to sing Happy Birthday twice. Pay special attention to your nails and cuticles as bacteria will tend to hide there.  Use a nail brush if necessary.
  • Wipe all surfaces down with a 10% bleach solution.If you would like to avoid bleach, tea tree oil is said to be effective in killing MRSA on surfaces as well.  Add a few drops to a water solution.
  • Avoid overuse of antibacterial cleansers and soaps as they increase resistance. Normal soap works just fine as soap breaks down the cell membrane of the bacteria.
  • If you see a suspicious infection on your skin, starting as a small looking pimple and becoming bigger, make sure you see your doctor right away for treatment.
  • Wash all athletic clothing and sheets often.

With a little education and these prevention tips, hopefully you will be able to avoid the hell I went through and avoid MRSA altogether.

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13 Responses to “My Predicament and Grant Hill”

  1. Pop and Ice 3 November 2009 at 6:53 am #

    Very good, instructive post on MRSA. My son had a serious cellulitis infection when he was in High School and I remember being totally baffled, having never heard of such a thing. A recurrent infection due to an injury landed him in the hospital for 4 days, but luckily, he improved after the IV antibiotics.

    Also, it’s very good to know about tea tree in those instances where you might not want to use bleach. I keep some in my medicine cabinet already.


  2. The Mother 3 November 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Yes, antibiotic overuse (and MISuse–when the bottle says to take ALL of the medicine, whether you are feeling better or not, they MEAN it) is responsible for MRSA getting started.

    But, NO, don’t panic.Most people will never get an MRSA infection. Some people are colonized with it. We don’t know why (mostly).

    We live in a careful balance with our normal flora. They keep us healthy. Even the bacteria on our skin have a purpose.

    When we work too hard to kill it off (antibacterial hand soap, for instance), that’s when we create bad strains that are dangerous.

    NOT a fan of over sterilization.
    The Mother´s last blog .. My ComLuv Profile


    Corina Reply:

    Yes, my point is not to raise panic, just awareness. I know bloggers in other states and countries that have been affected by MRSA as well, so I just wanted to share some advice. Thank you so much.


  3. kim.hormone-colored days 3 November 2009 at 9:09 am #

    Wow, I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. With so much focus on N1HI right now, this is a good reminder that it’s not the only dangerous bug out there. Thanks for the tips.
    kim.hormone-colored days´s last blog ..Special Programs for Gifted Children: Luxuries or Necessities My ComLuv Profile


    Corina Reply:

    Thanks you!


    Corina Reply:

    Thank you so much. I hope so too.


  4. Jen 3 November 2009 at 9:09 am #

    Thank you so much for this post and for all this great information. I am so sorry you had to go through all that, and hope that your work as an advocate saves many people from infection and hiospitalization!
    Jen´s last blog .. My ComLuv Profile


  5. wwbd 3 November 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    Scary, I’m sorry you had to go through that! I was hospitalized for 11 days for a staph infection caused by mastitis and had to have three pockets of infection surgically drained. It sucked, but luckily while it was a penicillin resistant form of staph it was not MRSA.


    Corina Reply:

    Wow. I am sorry that you had to go through that. Staph can be a scary thing and is not to be messed with that is why I always say that one should see a doctor when they suspect an infections. I hope you are better now.


  6. Mocha Dad 3 November 2009 at 7:05 pm #

    Thanks for the PSA. I was totally unaware of MRSA.


  7. Grammy 3 November 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    Excellent, clear explanation of MRSA. It is becoming an all too common complication after surgery.


  8. Kelly 4 November 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. I think your story is important, and I’m glad that we bloggers have a voice to talk about things like this.

    It’s definitely made me more aware. I constantly get cuts on my hands in the winter from dry skin, so I’ll be sure to follow your advice and cover them well.

    PS The doctor sounds like a jerk!


  9. SilentBen 5 November 2009 at 10:49 pm #

    I also had MRSA infections at the same time (3 in a row) – luckily nome of mine got so bad that I needed hospitalization.

    I don’t know to what extent discontinued use of antibacterial products will slow the development of resistant strains unless a greater movement to get them out of popular use was started. I DO think that limiting use on an individual basis keeps each of us more resistant to infection from these strains by allowing our bodies to defend themselves.


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