Wednesday, February 20, 2008

MRSA

This week I was diagnosed with MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus). You can pronounce MRSA as “mursa” for short. Apparently everyone else in the world has heard of this super-bug, except for me and Robb. But now we know way too much about it. It is essentially a staph infection that is resistant to most antibiotics. Because of its resistance to antibiotics it can be very difficult to treat. It is very possible to have MRSA for life and if it gets bad enough it could kill you. Most people contract it from staying in a hospital. However, a trend is emerging where it is also becoming prevalent in the community. I’m not sure how I contracted it, but I’m pretty sure I contracted it this summer, while still living in Florida. I had symptoms starting in July, but I didn’t see a doctor because I didn’t have insurance.

This past weekend a cyst formed on my cheek that grew so large and swollen that my left eye was almost swollen shut. My doctor’s office is closed on the weekend, so we were sent to Urgent Care in Tacoma on Sunday. The doctor gave me an IV to administer antibiotics (I hate IVs more than anything. Give me a shot any day, but I loathe IVs. It was very painful and scary to have an IV. I feel very sorry for the nurses who have to give them to me, because as hard as I try to stay calm, I usually end up crying out and then crying a lot.) The doctor also took a culture so that she could test for MRSA. It takes two days to test for MRSA, but I was given a booklet explaining MRSA.

On Monday (President’s Day – no work for me) I was much worse. Everything was much more swollen and painful. Robb had to work and I insisted that he not miss it, so I drove myself to Urgent Care. Dr. T decided to give me another IV with antibiotics that specifically fight MRSA (even though my test results weren’t back yet.) So I was subjected to another IV. Administering this medication took over an hour, and then an additional hour of saline. They put me in a private room and I tried to watch a movie. But I was mostly feeling sorry for myself because the IV hurt and I was in pain. They gave a narcotic to help with the pain, and while the narcotic made me very dizzy and tired, it didn’t help with the pain. Because I was administered narcotics, Robb left work early to pick me up from Urgent Care and take me home. I slept most of the day and into the evening. Found that vicodin works wonderfully well for my pain.

The next day I was doing a little better, but not much. Because I was still in a lot of pain and taking vicodin, I called in sick to work. I finally had a doctor’s appointment in my local clinic. Although I wouldn’t be seeing my doctor, the local clinic would have my test results and discuss next steps in treatments. When I got to the doctor’s office the nurse looked at my chart on the computer and immediately told me I had MRSA. Dr. S came in and took several minutes to look at my chart. During that time he was coughing and not covering his mouth and also seemed extremely impersonal. He didn’t ask me anything about how I was doing or how I felt. When he finally finished reading my chart and making personal notes, he told me that he needed to get a culture to see what I had. I said, “Oh, the nurse just told me I had MRSA.” Dr. S said “oh, okay”. He then told me I need a shot of antibiotics. I asked what they were and he said that it was the same antibiotics I’d had via IV the night before. I was confused as to why one was in IV form and one was in shot form, but oh well. So I got a shot and was told to make another appointment for the next day to follow up. I was also told, twice, that I was not allowed to return to work.

Around 4:30 that afternoon Dr. S called me and told me that I needed to go to Urgent Care immediately and get another antibiotic. The ones I’d been receiving were not working. I asked if it was to be an IV or shot and he DIDN’T KNOW! So, Robb and I fought rush hour traffic and made it to Tacoma, where I wasn’t seen until well after 7:30. Dr. T (from the day before) came to talk to me. She asked what Dr. S had sent me to Urgent Care for. I told her and she was concerned. Apparently, even though I told Dr. S that I had MRSA, he didn’t comprehend it. The shot he had given me was a completely useless antibiotic. The “new” antibiotic I needed to get immediately that evening was the one I had received the night before. I asked Dr. T if I was allowed to return to work, and she said “of course you can.” So, Dr. S didn’t read my whole chart, wasted my time earlier in the day, told me I wasn’t allowed to go to work, and gave me medicine that I did not need. Robb and I were livid. Dr. T encouraged us to make a formal complaint about Dr. S, which we are planning to do.

So, while I was there, Dr. T decided that another round of the antibiotics would do me some good, and she added another kind of antibiotic. So there I was, ready for my next IV. Goody. The nurse they brought in to do it though was excellent and had techniques for me to calm myself a little. Again, extremely painful and I cried a lot, but Robb was there to hold my hand and help calm me down. After a couple of hours it was time for me to go home again. This time they left the IV in my arm and wrapped it. This was so if I needed more antibiotics on Wednesday, they wouldn’t have to re-stick me.

Now we’re to today. I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon (again not with my primary care doctor, but at least it wasn’t Dr. S). My pain and swelling has decreased, so Dr. V decided that I didn’t need anymore IV drugs. Yay! The IV was taken out. I am to continue on my oral antibiotics and come back Friday for another follow-up appointment. I am on several different oral and topical antibiotics. I look like I’m a walking-pharmacy. Apparently MRSA is pretty contagious, so I need to be vigilant about using antibacterial products constantly. Luckily it doesn’t seem as though Robb will get it, and I’m not really close enough to other people for them to catch it from me (although apparently pets can contract it. The cats seem fine though.)

So that’s my MRSA ordeal. Dr. S was terrible. Dr. T was amazing (she even called to check up on me today.) I hope on Friday when I finally meet with my primary care doctor that he can tell me more about the long-term issues with MRSA and if I will have it for life. I’ve never been really sick before, so to have a super-bug is somewhat strange. Let’s hope that the outbreaks are few and far between.

And finally, I want to say that my husband has been absolutely amazing. He currently has a knee injury from work, but has dropped everything and ignored his pain to take care of me. I feel incredibly lucky that he is with me.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

If it's so contagious, why did the doc say that you can go to work? I've heard some pretty scary stuff about this bug, and would hate to think doctors are telling people to work while they're contagious!

On a lighter note, I am glad you're getting through it, and I hope you feel better soon. :)

Katherine said...

I don't normally reply to comments, but I wanted to let you know why I am allowed to return to work. For people at work to catch it from me would mean that I am touching them frequently, after touching my affected cheek. I don't touch my co-workers. And as long as I use antibacterial soap and lotion often, then I shouldn't spread it through hand-surface contact either. In addition, an infection would only occur if they had direct contact with me AND they had an open wound. It is very common to pick MRSA up from hospitals, group homes, gyms, and pools; the common office, not so much. It turns out that I've had this disease for months and no one close to me (including my husband) has been affected. So yes, I'm potentially contagious, but if I'm doing everything right, then I shouldn't infect anyone else.

John Alexander Golden said...

Oh hunny I'm so sorry! I'm glad you're doing better now!!!

dmohney said...

Katherine,
I am so sorry you are battling this terrible illness. I wish you the best of everything. I have been enjoying your blog on your adventures in the state of Washington. I have been wanting to contact you and get your job info for the PA Weekly and for our distinguished alumni list. Please email me at dmohney@mail.ucf.edu
Thanks. Best of luck to you and Robb. ~Donna

Jillian said...

I am sorry to hear this. Hope you are feeling better now and you don't have to deal with anymore IVs or stupid doctors! Take care :)

Dawn said...

Katherine,

You are so courageous in sharing your MRSA story. There is a good article on MRSA today on the ABCNews website and why its becoming so resistent to our antibiotics (big pharm is of course partially to blame).

Hang in there! It will get better soon. Also loved your story about caucising for Barack. Its good to know that the vast majority of the JMU Dems crew is for once on the same team :)