Recovery – Part 2

After my second emergency operation I was back into the surgical recovery unit briefly, then back to the ward. I don’t remember huge amounts about it, until one afternoon, I was visited by an infection control nurse.

I’ve already detailed the whole story in this post but I shall summarise a bit for you.

I had MRSA. It was unclear if a visitor had brought it in or if I had picked  it up in the hospital, but I had it. At first I thought this meant I would die, and that ignorance is a problem, but I was given a course of antibiotics (Vancomycin) a special body wash, and nasal gel. I was put into a side room and barrier nursed – visitors also had to wear aprons and gloves, and be even more though with their hand gel use.

I still had to do physiotherapy – learning to walk again and it was quite isolating being on my own and not chatting to other patients in the bay – but it did mean I got better sleep. The rest of the hospital stay was fairly uneventful. I had my staples removed, and was eventually allowed home, about 3 stone lighter and trying to get used to life with an ileostomy bag.

There followed a few weeks of dressing changes, a few scary moments when I blacked out due to anaemia, and slowly building up my strength – progressively longer walks, being knackered just from having a shower, getting rid of the MRSA and getting back in touch with friends.

One story always makes me chuckle now – a friend from uni, who I spoke to on a fairly regular basis – thought they had somehow offended me as they hadn’t heard from me, to eventually after about 6 weeks get a voice mail from my mum explaining I was in hospital. This was pre-Facebook!

So having spent 7 weeks in hospital, now it was time to start rebuilding my life – finding a job, getting benefits sorted (I was self-employed at the time so no sick pay) getting off the painkillers and steroids – and this all went quite well. Some leaks and the odd big explosion, but all was good. I started working, in December 2005 as a youth worker in Peterborough and was able to return to fencing. Without a colon, things seemed to be much better. However, I was not finished yet…

This blog post is part of a series I’m writing in the run up to my stoma surgery in January 2015. If you’ve found it interesting, please do share it, and if you can, support CCUK & the ia by donating at my Virgin Money Giving page

A word about antibiotics…

Antibiotic_Guardian_CertificateOn 18th November it is European Antibiotic Awareness Day (link to UK resources). There has been a lot of coverage in the media in the last 12 months about concerns that we are going to run out of antibiotics – including from the World Health Organisation. There are a number of reasons for this, including over prescribing by doctors, not completing the course by patients, as well as increased use in farming. The threat is that we may suddenly find ourselves unable to treat what were previously very treatable infections as they develop resistance to the antibiotics we have. Antibiotics are very expensive to research and develop, and don’t make pharmaceutical companies as much money as other drugs, so they are not that interested in creating more.

However, this is not a new thing. For at least 10 years we have heard about the rise of hospital superbugs,  such as MRSA (or the MRSA virus in some parts of the American press – so very wrong on so many levels). And I know all about that, because when I was in hospital in 2005, I picked up MRSA. It was detected after a second emergency operation. I was stuck in a hospital bed, with staples right down my middle when a military officer appeared and drew the curtains around my bed. They told me they were from the infection control team, and that I had MRSA. Now, at that time I was  less aware than I am now, and I asked them (and please bear in mind I was not in a great place at this point, being about a month into my hospital stay) if I was going to die. That is what I knew about people in hospital with MRSA – they died.

Thankfully, the Daily Mail is usually wrong and I was assured that I was not going to die, but would be given treatment. I was moved into a side room and barrier nursed for the rest of my stay. Part of the treatment was a very potent antibiotic called vancomycin, which is given through a drip. It is nasty stuff, and after every three doses I had to have a new cannula fitted because it felt like it was burning my veins. I had to wash in a special antibacterial wash, and apply a nasal gel. I eventually managed to get two clear swabs a week apart, and a nice sticker on my hospital file. I’ve had to be retreated several times too.

Actually, 30% of the population carry MRSA. It’s only a problem if you have an open wound but can be easily spread. It is why visitors (and staff and patients) in hospital are asked to use hand gel – and do ask them too if you are a patient.

So how do super bugs become super? Ever had a course of antibiotics and not finished the course because you felt better after a few days? Or pestered your GP for antibiotics for something that was probably a viral infection? Do you love antibacterial everything? Well, collectively all of us who have are in part responsible. Not to mention increased antibiotic use in the food chain.

Remember evolution? When we only partially complete a course of antibiotics the bugs that were not killed get a little bit stronger. And eventually adapt to no longer be susceptible to the antibiotic. So a new one is required. And that brings us back to a lack of new antibiotics. There have already been cases of vMRSA. The zombie apocalypse could be infections we can no longer treat. You can however make a difference. Pledge to be an antibiotic guardian. Visit and spread the word. Believe me, you don’t want to have to deal with MRSA.