I Survived the Superbug, at Least for Now

Feb 18, 2019 | Shilo Zylbergold | Best Medicine
I Survived the Superbug, at Least for Now

image by: cottonbro

Staph colonization is remarkable. There is no other disease-causing bacterium that is carried, without causing infection, by such a substantial slice of the population - Maryn McKenna, Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA

Look up in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superbug!

Superbug? Is this another of the Marvel Comics Superheroes turned into a blockbuster box office smash?

No, actually, the superbug I refer to here is none other than MRSA, an acronym for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. To put it briefly, this potentially fatal menace is a bacterium that has grown resistant to many of our “go to” antibiotics. Although it is found almost everywhere, especially on skin and mucous membranes such as inside the nose and mouth, it can wreak havoc if it finds its way into your bloodstream and is allowed to multiply exponentially. If this happens, MRSA can cause serious infections and abscesses in the host body.

Why am I discussing such a morbid subject? It’s because I was struck down by this little MRSA vermin just before Christmas.

I know, I know, everybody has problems so why do I have to publish mine in the healthworldnet.com blog? I’ve already written extensively about my experiences with prostate cancer and the rare Sezary syndrome lymphoma I have been struggling with for a few years. Couldn’t I just suffer in silence like everybody else without letting the whole world wide net in on it? Don’t I realize that my reading audience is sick and tired of hearing about my physical ailments?

No. Apparently not. So to continue with my story, one day in late December my wife came home to find me doubled over the kitchen counter in abject back pain. We waited through a sleepless night and decided the next morning to drive to Emergency at our local Lady Minto Hospital. Blood samples and an x-ray hinted that something was amiss but nothing showed to be conclusive. To make matters even more trying, the wind outside was whipping up in what was to be the fiercest windstorm in decades.

Here’s where things get a little hazy for me. I remember at one point the power at the hospital going out completely (as it did all over the rest of the island we live on) but fortunately there was a generator in place to keep the electricity running. Unfortunately for me, however, I had just been given an enema to clean out my internal system but now the flush toilets were out of commission, even with the generator running. Luckily, a portable commode was found just in time and everything worked itself out for the best.

I was kept overnight and next day was whisked into an ambulance and transported via the government ferry to the closest municipal hospital for a CT scan. The pain in my back was unbearable so I had been given narcotics to make the trip easier. Who knew that ambulances, with their short wheel base, would be so uncomfortable! Later that same day I was returned to Lady Minto. The CT scan had not been completely conclusive, but suspicions were now rising that I had been infected with MRSA.

After another bad night in Lady M., the powers that be decided I needed an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to tell for sure if my back had been infected by the superbug. For this, I needed to be transported to the Royal Jubilee hospital in Victoria.

Another ferry ride in an ambulance, with my wife driving in urgent pursuit behind the emergency vehicle, we arrived at our destination and I was deposited by the paramedics at the medical imaging section of the hospital. By this time, my back was hurting so badly that there was no way I could lie flat on the sliding table that would carry me into the vortex of the machine. I was supposed to keep still for the wicked ninety minutes that it would take to do a complete scan of my spine, but I knew that I, a natural fidgeter at the best of times plus being claustrophobic, would not last five seconds on that table.

I convinced the lab techies that I could not go through with the scan unless they gave me something that would knock me out. They kindly gave me a shot of Ketamine, a fairly common sedation drug, and I was out like a light in no time, and the MRI was completed successfully.

What I or anybody else did not know at the time was that I was allergic to Ketamine. Once I was returned to 5 North of the Patient Care Centre and started to come around, I went psychotic. And I mean out-of-control crazy. I did not remember the events of the last two days and I didn’t realize I was in a hospital. I surmised that I had been abducted by aliens and they were preparing to do brain probes on me.

I tried to make my escape by staggering out of bed, but in the wretched shape I was in, I only managed to bounce my body off the hallway walls. Eventually, the nursing staff summoned Security and two burly uniformed guards roped me back to my room. I still struggled to escape, but they made that impossible by anchoring each of my limbs to the bed frame using thick webbed straps. I was stuck. I fought those restraints for hours, calling out for my wife to help me, at the same time thinking she was in on the plot. The entire scene resembled that notorious acid trip clip from the 60’s movie classic “Easy Rider”.

When my psychosis finally dissipated I returned to my old addled self. Blood tests confirmed that I had a superbug infection and that the bacteria had settled into a sticky abscess in my spine. From there the bacteria were seeding into my bloodstream where they could migrate to vital organs such as the brain or the heart.

The course of action was obvious to the doctors. Hit the little suckers with every type of antibiotic ever discovered until they found one or more to which they weren’t resistant.

Every day, at three different times of the day, I was infused intravenously with several antibiotics. Most of them did little or nothing. One of them, Moxifloxcicin (sounds like a good name for a pet cat), made me develop an allergic reaction and break out in hives.

I was poked with syringes several times a day (the human pin cushion) and had test tubes of blood drawn from my veins, which started to close down in protest. The blood samples were cultured to see if they contained MRSA bacteria and to determine whether these little critters were multiplying. I was told that they would consider me healed and the infection under control if I could produce blood samples that were sterile and had zero bacteria for five straight days.

The problem was that I couldn’t produce sterile blood. Some days the bacteria decreased to almost nothing, but then shot back up the very next day. The doctors shook their heads. I was sent for more x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, and MRI’s. A PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line was pushed up a vein in my arm until it reached the superior vena cava vessel in my heart. It was a lengthy and painful procedure, but it meant they would not have to poke needles and other horrible instruments through my skin in order to draw blood or drip antibiotics into my body.

Days turned into weeks and slowly the tide turned. The specialists marvelled at how tough these specific bacteria were and they claimed they had never seen such specimens that were so hard to kill (guess they’d never been to island on which I make my home).

After five weeks confined to a single floor at the Royal Jube, I finally passed the blood sterility test. I was told that I would be set free in the near future if all remained as was. But just as I was about to be discharged the very next day, a new complication arose. The platelet level in my blood, which had been one element of my body chemistry that had been quite normal, took a precipitous dive towards the danger zone.

Platelets? These are the little saucer-shaped cells in your blood that are responsible for clotting. Too many, and you’re vulnerable to a blood clot or a stroke. Too few, and activities like blackberry picking or shaving could cause you to bleed to death.

Next, my B12 level took a precipitous dive. It seemed like the separate elements in my blood were taking turns jumping off the chart!

A whole week has now gone by since my platelet and B12 scares and I have had the levels return to normal by stopping one of my antibiotics and replacing it with another. As I write these words, I am buoyed with the assurance that I will be discharged on February 1 (the day before Groundhog Day, uh-oh).

Nobody asked me but six weeks bed-ridden in a hospital with an infectious disease is nothing I want to experience ever again. Three more weeks of antibiotics treatment at home and I should be totally clear of the MRSA. Then it’s back to the challenge of seeing how long I can continue life in my sweet home on the my island home, while I dance with my old enemy, Sezary Syndrome.

And now that this superbug has stepped aside, I’ll be able to focus on the next arch villain. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it.

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