Edited 5/13/14 – Update post Primary Care visit.
I am leaving this topic up, although the resoundingly good news from my PC is that I do NOT have MRSA. YAY! I do have a lesser issue bacterial infection, probably picked up at one of the previously suspected locations. Starting with a receptionist that had no business reading a lab report rather than having me return to see a doctor, to a wrongly prescribed antibiotic that would have quite likely made me worse, this entire thing was an exercise in enormous stress. I am lucky. Many people are not. MRSA and other antibiotic resistant infections appear to be on the rise in the community at large from all of the data available, and although they are decreasing in frequency in medical settings, the ones prevalent there are taking lives as they have become highly virulent.
There are hundreds of thousands of people living with this every day. We need to be aware. We need to have empathy. We need to only use antibiotics when necessary and complete them (not finishing a scrip actually gives rise to resistant strains).
Huh? Most people would say about the headline. “What’s that?” We’ve heard of MERS in the news lately, from the hinterlands of the Middle East. Scary stuff. But pretty exotic and not a true issue for those of us not in health care or traipsing about foreign shores. Me, I’d heard of MRSA, even knew what the acronym stood for – methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus. Common staph that has grown resistant to antibiotics, possibly related to their overuse and abundance in people, livestock and our water supply. I thought nothing of it though, it was one of those ‘somebody else’ kind of deals.
***Please note – this is anecdotal personal experience. I am not a licensed (or unlicensed) physician, nurse, or in any way related to the medical industry except as a consumer. If anything on this page resembles something you are experiencing – SEE A PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY. ****
Regular readers will know that I recently undertook a wonderful adventure in camping. It soothed my soul. It rocked my world. It grounded me and restored me from my frazzled state. It also may have introduced a monster into my body that I really did not wish to become familiar with.
MRSA has two common divisions – HA (acquired within a health care setting) and CA (community acquired). I’d like to create my own third category – MA (mysteriously acquired). A little background for those of you too lazy to check out the Infectious Diseases site, the CDC site, or the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality weekly report, a fascinating little rag produced by .gov). There are multiple families of bacterium that have over the last 100 years evolved to have immunity from antibiotic therapy. There are all kinds of little families of these busy, ubiquitous, unseen things that normally go about their business on our skin and in our environment, relatively unknown outside of the microbiology or medical world. There are Gram positive and Gram negative types. In both types, there are antibiotic resistant lines. A few in these groups are now resistant to all but the strongest front-line antibiotics, and an even smaller group are resistant to all. known.pharmaceutical. antibiotics. You’ve heard of the ‘flesh-eating bacteria’? That’s one of the little critters in this group. If one hasn’t been hospitalized, in long-term elderly care, or have close contact with someone in those groups, the HA is probably not a worry, right? If one isn’t engaged in communal activities such as living in a large family, participating in athletic groups, in the military, in prison, going to the gym, or in day care, then CA probably isn’t a worry either, right? WRONG. On both points.
Now for some facts, just so you know that I don’t have MRSA in the brain, eating away at my grey matter:
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a drug-resistant bacteria, are infecting a growing number of people in the community and outside hospitals, including healthy athletes and children. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates that MRSA alone infects more than 94,000 people and kills nearly 19,000 annually in the United States – more deaths than those caused by emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and homicide. (2005 numbers cited by R. Monina Klevens et al. “Invasive Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infections in the United States,” JAMA, October 17, 2007: 1763-1771.
People, we’re nine years past that number. And yet most of you reading this page know little to nothing about this thing. Neither did I.
USA Today did a great article on the mystery among the numbers, with the CDC reporting only ‘invasive’ MRSA (in the bloodstream or internal organs), while hospital billing codes showed 460,000 patients defined as having MRSA in 2011. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/16/mrsa-infection-community-schools-victims-doctors/3991833/
Like employment figures, something here doesn’t add up.
Canada, a little more transparent in their public advisories, admitted the following:
- The healthcare-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection rate increased more than 1,000% from 1995 to 2009.
A nifty graph on HA MRSA from an orthopedic surgical website:
And it goes on and on. Remember the big hullabulloo about those compounding pharmacies with the injectable steroids? Uhhmm. Contaminated with resistant bacteria. A tiny, 24-patient issue. Yet 400,000 plus cases of MRSA get really no comment? What’s up with that?
Back to my life, or rather, my new life with MRSA.
I’ve always preferred being barefoot to wearing shoes when I’m not at work. I futz around the yard without shoes, go to the mailbox without them, and take a shower at a campground without them. I also walk around hotel rooms on the same trip, without shoes. A little over two weeks ago, while puttering around on my patio, I got a cactus thorn between my toes from the unending supply of cacti from a neighbor’s yard. A little painful, but nothing really to write home about. I didn’t even treat it. I usually heal pretty quickly from even serious things, as I have a fairly healthy body and immune system. In fact, I’m rarely ever sick. This year I got a little respiratory bug that went around the office, my first illness since 2008, when I had food poisoning.
So when I got a cactus puncture between my toes, I thought nothing about it. It was just a minor nuisance. Actually, I thought it might be related to Athlete’s Foot, which had plagued me since my first marriage. Showering with men, you know 😉 But I have not had it since my husband died and I moved from the house that we shared. However, since it was in my life history, that is what I ascribed the itching and inflammation to. I picked up some kind of treatment at the local drugstore, and applied it. Nothing changed, it got worse, and soon I had what appeared to be a blister between my toes, accompanied by some really funky necrotized skin underneath my toes. Still, I truly thought nothing of it. Then came Monday, at work, where I wore my regular heels, but came home with an aching foot. That didn’t seem right, so I checked my foot that night. Red streaks ran from my toes to my arch. The apparent blister was pretty big. I had a fever and felt tired and worn down. I immediately treated it with Wild Oregano Oil, put a half-assed bandage on it, and went to bed.
The next morning the ‘blister’ had popped and was oozing all sorts of goo. I called in to work from home. Something didn’t seem right. I spoke to a friend of mine in the healthcare field and she mentioned MRSA. I quickly sorted through ghastly photos until I found something that looked like what I had. I queried MRSA and learned that it was contagious, antibiotic resistant, and notified my boss that I thought I might have MRSA and would work from home until I could get it validated. Reading on the transmission and potential for spreading, I certainly didn’t want to expose my co-workers to such. I never made it to the outpatient clinic that week, as the workload was too heavy. But I did go in that weekend for a culture. Armed with the photos of MRSA, understanding the resistance to normative antibiotics, and treating it with a naturally occurring one, I thought I had done well. Imagine my irritation and anger when confronted with a doctor that said I had a blister from wearing too tight shoes, and that he would preemptively say that it was not MRSA, despite my using “Doctor Google” to DX my symptoms. I won’t mention the additional dismissive and rude statements that this Doctor threw at me. Why are some doctors so angered by patient awareness and active involvement in the care of our bodies? Unfortunately, he wasn’t around at the clinic when the diagnosis returned and indeed proved out the MRSA activity. I’d have to say that Google did a better job than he, and even has a far better bedside manner 🙂
However, once the clinic provided an actual DX, they told me NOTHING about how to manage and observe MRSA, how to deal with not spreading the contamination, or anything other than to prescribe an antibiotic. What little I had learned on the ‘net taught me that this lack of guidance and non-management of a serious infection lent insight into how this is becoming a public health nightmare that is just simmering in the background, waiting to explode. Most people aren’t nosy, insanely curious and have a love/hate relationship with Google coupled with a minor distrust of the overall allopathic medical set up.
The micro-haus now looks like a miniature trauma unit, with the gloves, gauze, alcohol swabs, band-aids, surgical tape and then the line-up of natural antibiotic substances that occupy the kitchen counter. Again, this is my personal response, and if you have any kind of symptoms, please see a qualified physician immediately. MRSA, if it enters the bloodstream, is deadly in many forms. People lose arms and legs and end up in lengthy hospital stays. It is NOT something you want to self-diagnose without a lab culture and consultation. SEE A DOCTOR!
When I first realized something was terribly awry, as I mentioned earlier, I started immediately treating with wild oregano oil. Overnight the pain, red streaks and ugly flesh changed, and my fever was gone. I also began taking the oil internally, and upped my Vitamin D intake. I always keep oregano oil around and in my bug-out-bag, as it is some amazing stuff! After reading more online at PubMed, I discovered the antibacterial properties validated scientifically in Manuka honey.
I now make a poultice of Manuka honey, tumeric, oregano oil and freshly grated organic garlic. Yeah, I don’t recommend it for a popular summer scent, but it sure is healing everything nicely. I’m really lucky, as I’ve not had any of the huge boils and deep wounds that many suffer from. I have the one original site, and a couple of tiny little bumps that I hit right away with alcohol and then apply a band-aid and the poultice components. So far nothing has progressed and that’s great! I also take a tumeric/ginger/cinnamon/pepper mixture twice a day internally, along with the oregano oil in V-8.
I see my Primary Care physician tomorrow to find out if I truly will have to take the antibiotic or not. I eschew them as a rule, understanding that our overuse of them has actually led to the resistance in these bacterium. Some studies show though, that combining natural antibacterials with some forms of antibiotics actually increases the performance.
Studying the inhibiting factor in garlic, against MRSA
Tumeric against drug resistant bacterial strains
I’m scheduled to travel to Illinois and Oregon for work in the next month. I’m hoping that by then, this nightmare will at least be managed, I’ll have better knowledge and medical guidance, and be able to travel. The long term impact of this on my life is yet unknown. I think about all of the children that have this, and what their lives will be like. Is it just a minor nuisance? I self-isolated based on what I learned so as to be the least impacting on others. But kids have to go to school, they go to day care, and other folks don’t have the ability to work from home. What choices might a single parent make when diagnosed? They have to work. What if they, like me, received no guidance on what to do, how to treat things, when and how one is contagious? It is sobering to think about.
That’s the new challenge here at the micro-haus. Y’all stay well 🙂