Sunday, August 5, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Boy, this summer has not turned out the way we had planned.

It all started with a teeny tiny dot we found on Julia's leg that turned out to be infected with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), which is a type of staph bacteria resistant to certain antibiotics.

Then, a few weeks later, the outside part of Chas' ear (the Tragus, to be precise) started hurting him.  After it began swelling, he went to the doctor and they told him that a tiny cut he had on that part of the ear had become infected with MRSA.  Unfortunately it did not respond to the oral antibiotics and he had to be hospitalized for five days for IV antibiotics, steroids, and eventually, surgery to put in a drain.  He was discharged with a different oral antibiotic, but after after ten days spiked and fever and was readmitted for another five days of IV antibiotics.  The infection seems to have moved into his sinuses, and in September he will be having another surgery to fix it.

Last Friday I noticed that I had a spot on the top of my head that hurt.  It felt like a pimple, and haven't we all had pimples that have been painful before?  I didn't want to make a big deal about it, or even talk about it, because EWW, who wants to hear about a stupid pimple?  Well, it got more and more painful, so after a couple days I went to the doctor.  Guess what it was?  Yep - MRSA.  I sometimes get raw spots on the top of my head, and apparently that's how the infection got in.  Lots of warm soaks (a.k.a. hot baths with the back of my head completely immersed) and antibiotics later, I'm almost back to normal.

However, right after I got started on my road to recovery, Brendon showed us a red spot on his upper thigh.  Since I am now a self-declared expert, I was able to immediately recognize it as, you guessed it, MRSA.  Yay.  We took him to the doctor, he was started on oral antibiotics, but by the next day the cellutis had increased dramatically.  We took him to the ER and he was admitted for IV antibiotics. 

We decided that Chas would stay over with Brendon each night in the hospital, so after making sure that Brendon was settled in his hospital room (around ten at night), I drove over to my sister's to pick up the other two kids and bring them home.  Unfortunately, my sister had discovered a suspicious spot on Julia's chest.  As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was.  Aaron spent the night at my sister's; Julia went with me back to the ER.  We caught hers extremely early, but she is back on antibiotics as well.

The public response to MRSA actually reminds me of the early years of HIV.  Do you remember the story of Ryan White?  He was the first child living with HIV to try to attend school.  He was met with such opposition due to public fear and ignorance that ultimately his family had to go to court in order to allow him to attend school with his friends.  People just didn't understand how HIV was spread.  And people just don't seem to understand how MRSA is spread.

Here is what the CDC says:
The key to preventing MRSA infections is for everyone to practice good hygiene:
  1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.
  2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
  3. Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
  4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
In other words, it is okay to come into our house (which, by the way, has been cleaned/sterilized from top to bottom and I am continuing to wipe all surfaces down with bleach wipes every day until we are ALL finished our antibiotics).  It is okay to play with the kids.  And, I promise, it is even okay to give us a hug.  Just don't borrow my razor, and don't touch the wound on Brendon's leg (which is covered), and if you have a cut, clean it and cover it! 

This summer has made me a self-described expert on MRSA.  I now know that MRSA is on just about every surface.  I know that if you were to test the general population, you would discover that over half are carriers for MRSA.  And apparently, all medical professionals would test positive as well.  I have learned that everyone would test positive for staph itself.  And I have learned that the most important way for everyone to prevent getting sick is to wash their hands. 

I began this post by stating how this summer has NOT turned out the way we had planned.  But then again, what in life really ever does?

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