Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What is MRSA?




I want to make it clear that I am not a doctor and my understanding and explanations of MRSA are coming from my own personal experiences as well as doctors and the internet.
MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.    MRSA is a “staph” germ that does not get better with the first-line antibiotics that usually cure staph infections.
When this occurs, the germ is “resistant”to the antibiotic.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Most staph germs are spread by skin-to-skin contact (touching). A doctor, nurse, other health care provider, or visitors may have staph germs on their body that can spread to a patient.
Once the staph germ enters the body, it can spread to bones, joints, the blood, or any organ, such as the lungs, heart, or brain.
Serious staph infections are more common in people with a weakened immune system. This includes patients who:
  • Are in hospitals and long-term care facilities for a long time
  • Are on kidney dialysis (hemodialysis)
  • Receive cancer treatment or medicines that weaken their immune system
  • Inject illegal drugs.
  • Had surgery in the past year
MRSA infections can also occur in healthy people who have not recently been in the hospital. Most of these MRSA infections are on the skin or less commonly lung infections. People who may be at risk are:
  • Athletes and other people who may share items such as towels or razors
  • Children in day-care
  • Members of the military
  • People who have gotten tattoos

Symptoms

It is normal for healthy people to have staph on their skin. Many of us do. Most of the time, it does not cause an infection or any symptoms. This is called “colonization” or “being colonized.” Someone who is colonized with MRSA can spread MRSA to other people.
A sign of a staph skin infection is a red, swollen, and painful area on the skin. Pus or other fluids may drain from this area. It may look like a boil. These symptoms are more likely to occur if the skin has been cut or rubbed because this gives the MRSA germ a way to “get in.” Symptoms are also more likely in areas where there is more body hair due to hair follicles.
MRSA infections in patients in health care facilities tend to be severe. These staph infections may be in the bloodstream, heart, lungs, or other organs, urine, or in the area of a recent surgery. Some symptoms of these severe infections are:
  • Chest pain
  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • General ill feeling
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Wounds that do not heal

Signs and tests

Your doctor may order a “culture.” This is a sample from a wound, blood, urine, or sputum (spit). The sample is sent to the lab for testing. This testing can take a few days to finish.

Treatment

Draining a skin infection may be the only treatment needed for a skin MRSA infection that has not spread. A health care provider should do this procedure. Do not try to pop open or drain the infection yourself. Keep any sore or wound covered with a clean bandage.
Severe MRSA infections are becoming harder to treat. Your lab test results will tell the doctor which antibiotic will treat your infection. Your doctor will follow guidelines about which antibiotics to use and look at your personal health history. MRSA infections that are harder to treat are ones in:
  • Lungs or blood
  • People who are already ill or have a weak immune system
You may need to keep taking these antibiotics for a long time, even after you leave the hospital.

All this information comes from  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004520/
There is also another very information site   http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/


Now in basic terms from what I know everyone has staph on their skin.  When you hear someone say their wound, cut, scrape etc.. has become "infected" it is usually a type of staph.     Whether you are lucky enough to carry the MRSA type staph is not understood.  Farrah's doctors told me that it colonized mostly in your nasal passages.  This is why they also give you the medication mupirocin  to put in your nostrils twice daily for 5 to 7 days for all people in the home of the infected person.    It is not understood why certain people acquire the infection if it spreads and why some don't.  For example, in my home we have four people and five cats.    Farrah and Colin use to take baths together while they were younger.  We always seems to end up in bed together, and I was the primary caregiver for her wound care when she had an active infection.  At the time I wasn't concerned with using proper precautions and gloves to take care of her, yet I never became infected, nor did my son.  My husband might have had an infection.  He had something weird going on one time, was give antibiotics and it never returned.   It was clusters of painful pimples.  It may or may not have been a form a MRSA. 
Answers are not clear on this type of bacteria.  It was confined to hospital settings and they called it hospital acquired MRSA or HA-MRSA.  It wasn't until the late 80's that it started becoming a lot more prevalent in the community where they called it community acquired MRSA or CA-MRSA.
There is so much that is not understood on this subject in healthcare, as well as so many others.  I have tried my best to read as much as I could through the internet, books, and talking to doctors.
There is so so so much on this topic.  I have poured over everything trying my best as a simple person to understand the facts.  I am only coming to you as a mom who has done her best to eradicate her home and life from repeat MRSA infections.
I am hoping to give good helpful information to those who are searching like I was.  If I can help anyone, it will feel fantastic.  I know how scary and intimidating it can be.

The blog is a work in process, so stay with me as I continue to update our entire journey!

This was our first trip to the doctor for MRSA round 1


Friday, December 13, 2013

Hey MRSA, Hold it right there!

  Going over this blog again makes me cringe.  If it is at all unclear, I sucked at English.  Writing papers was probably my least favorite thing to do.  I'm not sure how I skated by so many years in school being so terrible at correctly expressing myself on paper.      Besides being a mediocre writer and editor, I am reeealllyyyy clueless about blogs.  Really!

  Anyhow, the point of this post is because this blog is unfinished.  I "intended" on sharing Farrah's story and THEN explaining our attempts at warding off the MRSA monster for good.      After I wrote the last entry, life got hectic, and I didn't get a chance to sit down and murder punctuation and grammar again.  Plus, my computer is from the cretaceous period :(.  I do a mental sigh every time I have some desktop related task to do because that means dealing with the beast.

  Okay. Wanna hear about it?  Here it go.  Following Farrah's last battle with MRSA and my complete freak out, all I could do is my best.  I researched and researched and researched.  I cried and cursed people for not finishing their antibiotics, doctors for giving them out to everyone with a runny nose, and for not having a livable bubble invented yet....kidding.  I think I mentioned my tendency towards dramatics.  It is an unfortunate part of having severe general anxiety.   Wow, can I stay on topic?

This is a fairly complete list of everything we incorporated into our lives.  I overdid it a bit, but I wanted to be sure, so...
--Potty training was numero uno.  Farrah was still 18ish months old and hadn't really shown interest in the potty, but since it was her diaper area that kept being the open wound portal, I figured this was necessary.  I rolled up the carpets and she was free.  We did a half ass version of the 3 day boot camp.  It really did take only 3 days.  I was pretty impressed.

--We used mupirocin, which I think is also called bactroban.  It is like a suped up neosporin.  We all swabbed it in our noses for 7 days.  

--No more baths with a caveat.   Because I was told that bathrooms are high powered germ factories (perfect environment), we switched to showers only.  They hated it at first, but quickly grew to like or maybe just tolerate them.  They really didn't have a choice.   The caveat was that Farrah did take a bleach bath once a week for two months, tapered to one every two weeks, once a month, and then done.  We used one cap of bleach to a full tub.

--All wounds were cleaned and dressed immediately with waterproof bandages.  They seem to seal and stay better.  Wounds are a point of entry for nasty bacteria, so it helps to stop them in their tracks.

--No sharing of towels, razors, etc...  I don't think we did, but I can't be sure.  I mean, I remember growing up in a house with 10 people, and 1 bathtub.  We shared water and towels.  Apparently, since MRSA colonizes in your nose,  you can spread it with your towel when you dry off.

--I made sure to wash bedding once a week on hot.  Towels never got rehung and everything we was thrown into the laundry at the end of the day.  We didn't wear or use anything twice.

--I switched from everything antibacterial, to everything natural.  We started using vinegar, dr. bronner's soap, tea tree oil, lemon, garlic, turmeric.  The idea is that antibacterial products are super strong and kill all bacteria.   We have beneficial bacteria on our bodies that keep the bad bacteria crowd in check.  If you kill all, then either or has a chance to pick up and take over the leader role.   That was a bit how the infectious disease doctors explained it to my little un doctor mind.
 I sometimes even dabble in the crunchy  "cures" so to speak.  My husband's finger was very infected around the knuckle.  He is a mechanic and can never keep his wounds clean.  I made a paste of garlic, onion juice and turmeric.  I washed and bandaged his finger 3 times a day over a long weekend and by the time he went back to work, it wasn't full of puss and pain.  It healed over the next week.
There are so many natural and holistic ways to treat things like infection, cold, flu, etc.. I am very slowly learning more and more on a daily basis.  

--Finally, we did little things like eat better.    We cut down juice to once a day.  We went organic, grass fed, and local.  I cut out a lot of processed foods and started making dinner every night.    It can never hurt to be healthier no matter if you have MRSA or not. 

  I feel like I'm leaving so many things out, but since it has been 2.5 wonderful years of being MRSA free, I am almost glad to forget.    Farrah will be 4 on Sunday <3.    We still incorporate a lot of things, like showers and not reusing things, but I have relaxed on being such a germ freak.    My son started school when Farrah was younger and I had to realize that we couldn't keep germs away from her no matter how much I tried to drive myself crazy.  I had to let go and hope that we were doing the right things to keep her healthy.

  She is now in school as well and I want to just squeeze the daylights out of her about once an hour.   She makes me laugh a lot.   She's imaginative and beautiful, inquisitive and playful.  Her brother, her, and I are the best of friends, and I couldn't be happier with how things have worked out.
Wants to be just like her brother!
1st day she learned to ride her bike without training wheels, AND as a devil.
A costume a day makes life more exciting :)


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Round 2, MRSA makes a comeback




         So, life went on for 9ish or so more months with no mention or worry about the ordeal that we had gone through.  As I said, I had thought, okay so Farrah got an infection.   It got bad enough to require hospitalization, but we took care of it.  We’re good.   I had no idea that it could return.  I also had no idea that I should have stayed far far away from google.  I mean, everyone kind of knows they should never google, but I had to because I didn’t understand this infection and Farrah’s pediatrician, although good, couldn’t offer me many answers.  I came to find out later that many people don’t have solid answers about MRSA. 
            Farrah was still in diapers at this point.  She was 17 months old and it was May of 2011.  I went to change her one day and I saw a very familiar looking pimple in the crease of her leg along the diaper line.  It was not your normal looking pimple (for anyone currently freaking out about a pimple)  It’s more red, with or without a whitehead.  Farrah’s already had a whitehead at this point, but was still small.  I used mupirocin on it (the cream) and just kept a close eye on it for changes.    To my pleasant surprise it went away after a couple of days.  It never got bigger or formed a boil. 
            A few weeks later I found another one.  This one was on her inner thigh very close to her diaper.  I wasn’t so lucky with just using the cream this time.  It quickly turned into a very painful boil.  It was the size of a small egg underneath the skin and very red on top.  She couldn’t walk right because of the pain.    I quickly made a doctor’s appointment for that day and my doctor agreed right away that it was probably MRSA again and we got her started on another 10 day round of clindamycin.  This stuff tastes awful.  I tried a bit just to make sure she wasn’t being a baby about it.  Thankfully, applesauce masked the taste well enough to take the full course.    We saw the doctor 3 times during the treatment to make sure it was getting better.  I wanted to get better answers now, so I made an appointment with a pediatric infectious disease specialist in the city.
            Also, then was about the time I started googling, and it was the best and worst decision of my life.  Seriously.  I have general anxiety to begin with, so reading about people with MRSA who have lost limbs, lives, lbs of flesh…let’s just say panic set in.  This was my baby girl.  I read stories about people who had reoccurring MRSA for years with no explanation and drugs that were becoming resistant to their strains.  My mind started spiraling into thoughts of, what happens when the drugs stop working? What happens if Farrah gets it and it spreads to her organs and she becomes septic?  What happens if the worst happens?  I can be a bit dramatic I guess, but that’s what anxiety does to you.    I imagined burying her.  I cried countless hours praying to God to keep her healthy and rid her body of MRSA.    This is what google does to you. 
I can’t say that my experience was all bad though.  Google did point me in the direction of many MANY sites with ideas, possible natural cures instead of antibiotics, ideas about the cause of reoccurrence of MRSA and things that might possibly help to prevent its return. 
            See, the hardest part about MRSA is that it is a bacteria (remember I’m no doctor, so if I don’t say something completely right, I apologize) that lives on your skin and colonizes in your nose.  How does one protect a person from themselves????  This was my biggest question.   I could bleach bomb the entire house, which I did, TWICE.   I spent hours wiping every single toy.  I washed and dried every single stuffed animal.  I stripped the beds and washed everything on hot twice, with tide and borax.  I vacuumed and cleaned the carpets.    Still, the bacteria was partial to living on her.    I don’t know the percentage of people who carry this kind of staph, but it’s a decent number.   How does one rid someone of microscopic bacteria?  How do I keep her safe? 
            As a mom, this was a very difficult thing to comprehend.  I didn’t know how to keep her healthy and safe.  Yes, I am more paranoid than most, but I knew more now.  I knew how dangerous this could become.  Feeling helpless is one of THE worst feelings you can have as a parent.  This is how I felt.  



I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go

Friday, November 1, 2013

Our First run in with MRSA

The Diaper Biker
This photo was taken one month before Farrah's first bout of MRSA.  Little did I know how our life would change.   Little did I know how much I would learn about something I had never even heard of before.
Since I am a couponer, I had stocked up on diapers all the way up until Farrah was almost 10 months old.  Pretty good, but not as good as some people I know.   And, with as much stock as I put in natural products I should have been cloth diapering her anyways.  I go over this in my mind sometimes.  Like, maybe she would have never gotten an infection, had I just gone the more natural route.  I find it easy to blame myself, but that's just in my blood.    While Farrah was busy growing, Pampers put out a new diaper.  It was the dry max diaper.  It was supposed to be lighter and absorb as much liquid without ballooning out, etc.  New and improved.   I kind of remember hearing some negative things about the diaper in regards to rashes, but I didn't pay much attention if any.  It didn't seem to be a significant topic anywhere, so I didn't think twice when I bought them.
Farrah's first couple of days wearing the diapers resulted in a severe rash.  It was kind of weird and spotty, not like a normal rash, but it was everywhere.  Looking back, and knowing what MRSA looks like I know now that she already had the start of an infection.  It hadn't grown into any full blown boils, but there were MRSA pimples present.  I just thought it was a rash, use some diaper cream or some vasoline and it would go away.
It didn't, but I switched diapers anyways.  When I was changing her one of the many times, I noticed a huge bump on her upper leg.  It was hard, and when I touched it, seemed to cause her pain.  It was warm and red.  At this point I did make a doctor's appointment, but was not yet worried that it was even something serious.
At the doctor, my son, Colin, Farrah and I were laughing and goofing around while we waited for the doctor to appear.  The doctor came in, gloved up, and looked in her diaper.  I showed her the bump and she said that she thought it was a staph infection, possibly MRSA and she was going to treat it as so.  She took some sample from another small spot on her stomach to culture.     She gave her bactrim, an antibiotic, and told me to call her if the large bump didn't start looking like it was going down or if any more appeared.  This was on a Friday.   On Saturday, the bump on her upper leg finally formed a head.  Now this is really really super gross, but it was literally like a the most gigantic zit you've ever seen.   *I thought* well, if I squeeze it and get all the yucky stuff out, maybe it will help it to go away and plus it won't hurt so much anymore.  Again, I know nothing.  I'm not sure why I thought this, but I did it anyways.    It had to be one of the most disturbing and disgusting things I've ever done in my life.    It was also painful for her.  So much puss and infection came out of the boil, that it covered an entire washrag.   I was SO glad when it was over, but unsure if I helped or hurt something.  I also noticed another boil on her ankle around the same time.  I called our doctor and she said take her to the ER.  
At the ER, she was admitted and put into isolation on IV antibiotics, clindamyacin, for three days.  Her dad had to leave the room when she got her IV.  He's not one for seeing his kids in pain.    Plans were made for Colin and we were off to our home for the next three days.  We saw dozens upon dozens of doctors and residents.  For those parents who have children in the hospital for extended stays, I don't know how you do it!!   I mean, it was a little different for us because we couldn't leave the room, but WOW was that a long three days!     I just had my mom bring me some of her clothes.  She works at that hospital and lives close by, so it was easier.  She was able to come visit us a couple times a day, but had to be in full covered up mode.  I looked like hell.  Farrah was tired as hell of living in a room.  I had to lay sheets all over the floor so she could crawl around.  I was pretty skeeved about her crawling on the floor at all, but what could I do?  She only wanted to be held for so long, and she never wanted to stay in the in crib.
Now, still in the middle of all of this, I did not know the full extent of what she had.  I guess I just thought, oh she got an infection and it went too far, but she's okay.  They just put her in the hospital as a precaution.  The doctors made it seem like it was such a common infection that I think that is why I was never really alarmed.  I also didn't know/wasn't really informed, that it could come back.  I wasn't told that it could be deadly or far more serious.
We were given some general go home instructions, 10 more days of antibiotic, keep your bathroom clean, don't share towels or hygiene products etc....  The boils were not fully gone yet either, but the doctors said they would gradually go away in the next couple of weeks.  I didn't like that.  I wished they were just gone, but I accepted the explanation.
I thought, this is great.  Finally, we get to go home.
I immediately disposed of all the pampers diapers and went with a different brand.  I'm not even sure which at this point.    Farrah took her medicine mixed in with applesauce or yogurt and life went on.  I didn't think about MRSA again......until 9 months later.
Take Love Multiply it by infinity and take it to the depths of forever and you will still only have a glimpse of how I feel for you!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A little background on Farrah and us:
This is what was on my feisty baby girl when she was born, a perfectly shaped heart birthmark.  That's love right!  Farrah was born in November of 2009.  She was gorgeous, and a surprise!  We thought, just by feeling, that we were having a boy the whole time.  When they said it's a girl, my husband and I both cried and tried to take in the fact that we had a daughter!  He has 2 boys from a previous marriage and we had a son before her.  I think that he thought he only made boys.  So, it was quite a shock, but a wonderful and amazing one.
Farrah was a sweet and beautiful baby.   When she slept 22 out of the 24 hours of the day I panicked, calling my aunt Jeanne.  Oddly, I couldn't remember if this was normal or not.  My son was only 2 and 1/2 at the time, but I had already forgotten what it was like to have a newborn.
She ate like a champ, a little too champy actually.  She would nurse until she burst, literally!  She would be happily nursing in the middle of the night and her internal "I'm full" button was broken, so she would projectile vomit EVERY where.    It would mean a complete change of clothes for me, her, and the bed.    You never quite new when it was going to happen, so I tried to regulate her feedings since she seemed to have trouble with it at times.
Colin, her brother, was very good with her.  He's not so much anymore lol, but that is sibling love for you.
She was almost never sick, maybe once in the time leading up to her first experience with MRSA, but otherwise healthy as a horse.
I wanted to get our story out on the internet because when I was going through our fight with MRSA I turned to the internet, and the doctors, and the specialists.  Answers are vague at best.  The internet was terrible!!!  I couldn't seem to find one positive MRSA story.  They were all horrible with talk of rotting flesh, packed wounds, infection after infection, death.    I have general anxiety as it is, so the internet was not my friend.  I would just make myself sick over these stories that people had.  I would sleep next to her at night and sob praying to God to keep her healthy.    Whether you believe in God or not won't really be discussed here though.  I believe in God, and I pray.  Sometimes it's such a touchy subject.
Anyways, I wanted to get our story out to let people know, who might be going through it at this moment, that it can get better and it can end.    There is hope.    There are good stories.   I want to share and celebrate the fact that Farrah is alive and well, and has been MRSA free for almost 2 years.    I can't tell you for sure if the things that I know work for sure and that is why it has not come back.  I am not a doctor or a health professional.   All I know is what I've learned from the doctors and my own research, but who knows.  Maybe there is something in here that someone hasn't thought of.  Maybe there is something in this blog that you haven't tried.  Or maybe there is just hope.