Tell Us Your Story about Hospital Infection

Have you or a loved one contracted a hospital infection when you went in for surgery or other illness? We would like to hear your story, or any other comment you may have about your hospital experience.

Stories about Hospital Acquired Infections

Infant Dies Following Hospital Acquired Infections

My pregnancy was completely normal and everything seemed perfect. Charlee was my husband’s only child and his pride and joy.

Shortly after she was born, we were informed that our daughter’s oxygen levels were low. Tests were done to determine the cause. We learned that she had Down syndrome and a hole in her heart caused by a condition called atrioventricular septal defect.

Charlee needed heart surgery. The cardiologist assured us the type of surgery that she needed was performed often with a very high success rate. He wanted to wait six months before operating, to give my baby time to grow stronger.

Her heart was working hard and it was initially difficult for her to gain weight. But after a feeding tube was inserted, she gained weight like a champ! She spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at home.  We took her to her big brother’s football games and out to watch our friends play softball. Because she had a "compromised immune system" we took standard precautions to prevent infections. For instance, everyone washed and sanitized their hands before touching her. But, by no means, did we live in a bubble. 

By late January, Charlee was ready for surgery. It went very well, according to the surgeon, better than he had hoped! He was thrilled with the "miniscule" post-op leakage. We expected our baby to spend a week to 10 days recovering in the hospital. Instead, she suffered from a series of infections following a medical mistake. She died in the hospital 95 days after she was admitted.

At 1 a.m. on the morning following heart surgery, a nurse woke me and directed me to leave Charlee’s hospital room. People were everywhere. I had no idea what was happening. Someone would talk with me in the waiting room, the nurse said. My husband raced to the hospital to be with me. A few hours later, the heart surgeon came out to tell us that the catheter which was inserted into her heart to keep it hydrated had slipped out. My little 12-pound baby now had four extra pounds of fluid putting pressure on her heart and lungs. As a result of the hospital’s mistake, they had to perform CPR. The CPR damaged Charlee’s heart, requiring a second heart surgery, and eventually a third and damaged her lungs permanently.

In the following three weeks, she underwent two additional heart surgeries. Two months later, a complication from an infection required an emergency abdominal surgery. Between the time of her heart surgery and abdominal surgery, Charlee developed at least seven infections. Three different infections were caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae, another was from Serratia marcescens. She also suffered a urinary tract infection, and a yeast infection. Finally, she developed colitis, as the result of a C. diff. infection. We later learned that several babies in her unit also had Klebsiella and C. diff. infections.

The infections severely damaged her colon, which ruptured during a colonoscopy. Half of her colon and part of her small intestines were removed. She did not get enough oxygen during an abdominal surgery, even though she was intubated as a precaution. We learned a few days later that she was in a vegetative state as a result of the lack of oxygen. After the ventilator was turned off, she passed within just a couple of minutes.

We never will understand how this could happen. Our daughter was on her way home several times. At one point when she was doing so well, the hospital moved her to the bed furthest from the nurses’ station. The nurses had me bring her car-seat in and they took her for walks down the hall.

But the infections kept her from coming home, time and time again. The nurses and doctors would say that my daughter’s "immune system” was to blame, until I reminded them that she did not get sick once in the 4 1/2 months we had her at home. I have two boys in the home and pets. We live a normal life and were able to prevent illness. The hospital will take credit for lives saved. Why won’t they take responsibility for lives lost?

My Hospital Infection Nightmare

My Hospital Infection Nightmare

In November 2006, following a medical procedure, I came down with a 104 fever with an extreme headache. Informing the doctor of my symptoms, I was told I had probably caught a "flu bug" and to wait it out until my post-op appointment two weeks later. Within 3 days, I called the emergency nurses hotline at the medical facility where I had the procedure. I was told to go to their office immediately. I felt they were discrete and secretive and they refused to explain my condition and complications to me. The staff seemed burdened by my problem. After the procedure I was told that my condition had nothing to do with their facility or the procedure and that I should see a chiropractor. Nothing was mentioned about an infection.

My symptoms continued to worsen so I went to the local ER in Lake Arrowhead, CA. I was diagnosed with a herniated disk and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon in Lake Arrowhead who suspected a much more severe problem, told me to go directly to the ER at a hospital in Colton, CA where they had proper equipment for diagnosis. I was to tell the hospital that immediately, I needed a MRI and possibly surgery.

My organs were shutting down and my appearance looked like death. I went to the ER in Colton, but I was sent home with pain meds and told to call and make an apt for a MRI, which took over a week to get in then told I would be notified of my results. A complaint was sent to the CEO of the Colton hospital about the lack of medical attention and treatment they have provided. The response to my complaint was to go back to the ER to be re-evaluated. Upon finding a 5 inch intra-vertebral abscess in my spinal cord, I was admitted to the intensive care unit. Infectious disease and control was called and the first 3 days of my 2 week stay, was spent doing a CT scan, Spinal Tap, Bone Scan, Needle Biopsy and growing a culture to then be treated with proper antibiotics for a Strep group B infection. Discharged from the Colton hospital 2 weeks later, my diagnosis was a Strep Group B blood infection as well as Osteomyelitis and Degenerative Disk Disease, which resulted from being misdiagnosed for 6 weeks.  My infection was treated with antibiotics through a picc line for 2 months. Both mental and physical recovery turned into the biggest challenge of my life.

Several months later, I was able to walk with a walker and a cane, but with a lot of pain. I didn’t feel right and wounds were not healing. I went to a new doctor who suspected the severity of my condition prior to being admitted. I was then diagnosed with a Staph Infection (MRSA) and treated appropriately. I believe I developed the staph infection during my stay at the Colton hospital.

As a result of these infections, devastation to my life was everywhere. My children have been traumatically affected as well and although I have continuing medical needs, I am grateful for my life and that my children didn’t lose their mother over a preventative hospital infection.

John McCleary of Maine

John McCleary of Maine

John McCleary, my father, was admitted to the hospital on September 26, 2008 with a minor fracture of his ankle. He was in that 25 bed hospital for 12 days for rehabilitation and discharged in good condition on October 5. On October 7, he was unable to get up from bed. Profound weakness and fever held him down. He was readmitted that day. This started his 3 month battle with hospital acquired MRSA pneumonia.

MRSA triggered a series of catastrophic medical events that caused him to become a complete care, bed bound patient overnight. The first event was a heart attack. He was in the hospital for 20 days and the in the nursing home for 9 weeks. He lost his strength, his independence, his hearing because of Vancomycin, his appetite and over 50 lbs, his dignity and ultimately his life. When he died on January 9, 2009, he barely resembled the handsome rugged Irishman we had loved all our lives.

Questions and conversations with his doctors and hospital administrators about why this happened and what they could do to stop it were unsatisfactory. I studied a great deal about HA MRSA and realized that our hospitals are not doing all they can to prevent MRSA or other hospital acquired infections. MRSA colonized and infected patients go into hospitals every day and are undetected because no screening is done. These patients are housed with non infected patients. No special precautions are taken and the infection is carried throughout the hospitals by families, staff and visitors. Two other patients had died of HA MRSA in my father’s small hospital within one month prior to my father’s first admission. I was unable to get any information about the number of infections from the State CDC. I was told MRSA is not a reportable illness. This allows our hospitals to have absolutely no accountability for HA MRSA.

My mother and the rest of my family still feel as though we were blindsided by this horrible event in our lives. Dad was elderly, but he lived at home independently with my mother, his wife of 62 years. He worked so hard to rehabilitate after his ankle fracture. The sudden decline of his health status because of an infection that he got while hospitalized was a shock to him, and to all of my family. He was a fighter, but MRSA won out. When I found out during my research that MRSA is preventable, I became very angry. I channeled this anger, sadness and frustration into studying and writing the proposal for prevention of MRSA in Maine hospitals. My goal is to help save lives. I only wish I had done it before I lost my father.

Written by Kathy Day, daughter of John.

 

MRSA to Handicapped, incontinent and can hardly walk

In February 2008, I had pain in my right flank area that lasted in the same spot all night. Thinking it could be a kidney stone, I went to the ER the next morning and they checked my urine and did a CT scan. No stone just a UTI, but they saw a shadow on my kidney, so the doctor ordered a MRI. The MRI showed a right kidney tumor which tested positive for cancer. I was sent to specialist to remove the tumor laparoscopically and save most of the kidney. So this is what I did.
 
The following month I went in to a New York hospital and had the surgery. The doctor saved 95% of my kidney with no chemo or radiation needed. They left a kidney stent in to be removed in 4 weeks as it healed. I was released from the hospital in 3 days with no restrictions. I could shower till sterile strips fell off. The doctor told me to go to my local urologist and have the stent removed in 4 weeks and make a follow up appointment to see him after. So I went home and rested. I asked to go visit my daughter in CA for a few days before I went back to work. I was told I could go.

A few weeks after the surgery, the left back of my shoulder was bothering me like I slept wrong on my muscle. I got to CA and in 2 days I got the chills and felt like I was getting the flu. My shoulder/neck was hurting with a temp of 102. Then I was getting worse and couldn’t pick my head off the pillow. My daughter called the ambulance and took me to a hospital in Southern California. They did a spinal tap, testing me for meningitis. It came back negative but I continued to get worse. They admitted me and my blood work showed an infection. Then my neck started to swell on the left side where my shoulder hurt. They wanted to do an MRI, but they were concerned if there was metal in the stent. It took 2 days for the New York doctor to get back to the doctors in CA as I continued to get worse. They finally did and it showed I had an abscess wrapped around my cervical spine at C-3 to C-5. I was rushed into surgery with no choice--it was MRSA and osteomyelitis. They took me to recovery room and I noticed I couldn’t move any of my limbs. They called in a neurosurgeon who took me back into surgery and he did a corpectomy, put a bridge and 4 screws and hoped I would move again. I was put in the ICU on a ventilator to breath. My doctor told my family it was touch and go with the infection in my blood.

About 5-6 days later I improved and got off the ventilator. I was transferred to rehab and had to learn to do everything all over again. At this time I had quadro paralysis and spent 1 1/2 months in rehab until I could be shipped home to another rehab in New York. All the doctors felt the stent was the source of infection. When I came home I continued to work hard on walking. Doctors said I was a miracle. Now, almost 2 years later, I lost my insurance and I’m still paying off 12 doctors and 4 MRIs. I can't afford physical therapy anymore; the co-pay is too much and I need it at least 3 times a week. Now I'm falling again and in constant pain. I have found that being a patient you’re nothing but a number. I was a very healthy active 53-year-old. Now my husband takes care of me 24/7.

Lucille M. Burns of Scranton, Pennsylvania

Lucille M. Burns of Scranton, Pennsylvania

Our mother, Lucille M. Burns, was admitted to a Pennsylvania hospital on October 31, 2007 due to a fall. She was initially misdiagnosed by the ER doctor with a broken hip and treated with morphine. Later the same day, upon review with her orthopedic surgeon, the diagnosis was changed to a “hip contusion”, with no evidence of a fracture.

She was in the hospital recovering from her fall and receiving physical therapy at the same hospital. She was doing well and fulfilling all of her physical therapy requirements and was given a discharge date of November 30, 2007.

On November 22, 2007 she was rushed to the ER of a Pennsylvania hospital where she was diagnosed with a severe bacterial infection caused by Clostridium Difficile. She had been exhibiting symptoms of this infection for several days prior, which was left untreated. Her symptoms included persistent diarrhea, a high fever and abnormally high white blood cell count. After being diagnosed with this infection it was suggested that she undergo emergency surgery to remove the “infected and diseased” parts of her colon. It was explained to us that it was her only chance of survival. She underwent surgery the next morning. Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful in controlling the spread of the infection, as that it had infected other parts of her body. Sadly, she died from this infection the early morning of November 24, 2007.

Later it was made known to us by her Primary Physician that another patient was hospitalized, diagnosed and died with the same deadly infection at the same hospital. This patient was hospitalized during the same time frame as my mother. The doctor said that my mother was definitely introduced to this “deadly bacteria” during her stay at the hospital and that they planned on doing their own investigation as to the circumstances of my Mother’s death. He said that I could contact him about a month following to hear of the results. I contacted him a month later as planned. During my conversation with him, he told me that the woman that had died prior to my Mom was on the same floor as my Mother, the sixth floor, and that the hospital had changed their infection control practices.

Our family believes that the hospital was negligent in providing adequate infection control practices, considering it just had had a recent death with a deadly contagious bacterial infection. Also, since the same hospital had just experienced a death from this infection, what infection control practices did they put into place to protect the rest of the patients, visitors and staff of the hospital? Also, since the other patient had just died recently from the same thing, the medical personnel should have recognized the symptoms sooner and thus reacted sooner to my Mother’s symptoms, which could have resulted in my Mother’s life being saved. We believe that the hospital is responsible for not controlling the spread of a deadly infection and in not recognizing and treating the symptoms sooner.

Written by Patricia Burns of Albuquerque, NM, daughter of Lucille.

Michael Skolnik of Colorado

Michael Skolnik of Colorado Michael Skolnik… March 1979-June 4, 2004 It is difficult not to feel the sadness that permeates our house, as hard as we try, our beloved child, who made us a family of three, is gone forever. The loss of Michael has left scars that cannot be hidden behind bittersweet smiles. During normal activity, Michael passed out in September 2001. A CT scan showed a slight possibility of a colloid cyst, but whatever the two to three millimeter dot was, it was non-symptomatic. I consulted with a neurosurgeon who said it was urgent to place Michael in ICU for observation. The neurosurgeon did not mince words; Michael needed to have brain surgery within two days. It was to be a three-hour operation and six days in the hospital. The neurosurgeon explained that he had done many of these procedures, and he really didn’t even have to go inside the brain to excise the cyst. He said conclusively that the cyst was there and was blocking the cerebral spinal fluid from flowing. The three hour operation lasted six hours with no cyst ever being found. However, heavy manipulation had been done to Michael’s brain. His “six day hospital stay” became five months in ICU, 22 months in other medical institutions and the last six months of his life at home, in our own “ICU.” Upon further examination of the CT scan, it became evident that the neurosurgeon’s pressure to rush Michael into surgery was unwarranted. This marked the beginning of a 32-month nightmare of brain surgeries, infections, pulmonary embolisms, respiratory arrest, vision impairment, paralysis, psychosis, severe seizure disorder, short-term memory loss, multiple organ failure and near total dependence and disability. Michael could not eat, speak, or move anything but his right hand. Nearly every day during this traumatic time, Michael used his sole limb control to shape his fingers into a gun, and hold them to his temple. Our strapping 6’4’’ EMT and nursing student was now totally helpless and had the cognitive ability of a third grader. Michael’s medical bills amounted to 4.5 million dollars, and the legal bills were just beginning to amass. We listened to the doctor who had claimed to have performed many such surgeries admit - in a legal deposition - that Michael’s procedure had only been his second. Despite all our attempts to research the doctor’s background, this was the first time we’d heard the truth about his level of experience. I remember thinking I had to do something; our son is not coming back, but perhaps now someone else’s loved one won’t be lost. Three years after Michael’s death, we fought for physician profile transparency and disclosure in Colorado. We found out that there were other medical malpractice cases pending and a number of formal complaints to the Board of Medical Examiners regarding this medical predator. At that time, none of this background information was available to the public. We worked to change that. On May 24, 2007 Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed into law The Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act, which became effective January 2, 2008. In 2009, my organization--Colorado Citizens for Accountability—launched PatientsRightToKnow.org, which allows you to find out what physician background reporting is available in your state. Historically, doctors are most trusted by our society. To maintain that trust, we all must advocate not only for insurance reform but for safe quality care. To have access to insurance without quality and safety is to have a bicycle without wheels or possibly a family that loses “their Michael”. Written by Patty Skolnik, Michael's mother and founder of Colorado Citizens for Accountability

David Meyer of California

David Meyer of California

In May of 2006 I was involved in a motorcycle accident and taken to a Sacramento hospital for treatment. I had sustained a fracture to my right ankle. When I left the hospital the wound would not heal. After taking lab tests it was determined that I had a staph infection that required a debridement surgery. (It turned out to be two surgeries). After leaving an area on my ankle big enough to put two golf balls in, I was hooked up to a wound vac and pic line for about 6 weeks. With the pic line I was injected with antibiotics several times a day. About a month later an infected area appeared near the wound. Another test was taken and this time it was pseudomonas (sic). The pic line was reinstalled and I was given another six weeks of antibiotics by pump several times a day. Before this experience I had no health issues, was a vegetarian, had never had a surgery or been in a hospital in my life. I didn't think much of it at the time, but I observed that my hospital care seemed unprofessional to say the least. In retrospect, the student nurses were not washing their hands, cleaning pic line connections properly, wearing gloves and so on. The reason that I know this is that later surgeries and follow up care were done at a different hospital and the difference was night and day. I would like to do something to help other unsuspecting patients from going through the hellish ordeal that I went through.

Barth of California

Barth of California

My father chose to go to the hospital in the middle of the night due to a persistent cough (which he had caught from my mother) and some shortness of breath. The doctors gave him a very high dose of steroids as an injection and then followed by steroid pills in order to help him breathe better. It was determined he did not have heart failure or pneumonia. He was very drug sensitive his whole life and had a bad reaction to the steroids. He became psychotic and combative within 1-2 days. He refused to eat and started a downhill slide. He had every test known to mankind (multiple brain MRI's, x-rays, urine and blood tests: all came out fine). He kept pulling out all his lines so they had him in restraints, etc. After smoldering along in the hospital for 1 month with the doctors just saying we had to wait for the steroids to get out of his system, he contracted MRSA in his bloodstream, not a surprise with all the intervention, multiple IV and urinary catheters, stress, malnutrition, etc. He went into a coma and died a few days later of kidney failure only days after his 79th birthday. Written by Barth's daughter.

June Anne Brunner of Potosi, Wisconsin

June Anne Brunner of Potosi, Wisconsin

In April 2008, my mother, June Anne Brunner, fell and broke her leg. She had surgery in a Wisconsin hospital to support the bone. The surgical wound became infected with MRSA, and had the whole family scared. She took IV antibiotics twice per day for 4-6 weeks. The medicine hurt her stomach and caused additional pain that was so hard for her to bear at age 77. She died shortly thereafter on April 17, 2008.

Written by Mary Brown, June's daughter.

Isabella Neves of Atwater, California

Isabella Neves of Atwater, California

My mother was in Merced Mercy Hospital suffering from cardio-vascular disease. She got MRSA while there and continued to have it until she died. At one point while I visited her, every room had a MRSA sign outside the room on the entire second floor. At no time did the nursing staff tell or ensure visitors to down gloves, masks, etc. it was just a free-for-all. NO MONITORING AT ALL. I was told that the hospital was understaffed in its nursing. one could not tell if people wandering around the coridors, obviously employed by the hospital were nurses, LVNs or janitors.

Written by H. Andrea Neves of Hillsborough, CA, daughter of Isabella.

This staph infection literally changed my life

This staph infection literally changed my life

Written by Pam Pires of San Jose, CA. In July of 2007 I went into a hospital in San Jose, California to have back surgery and I was sent home with a staph infection within the incision site that almost cost me my life. I am so frustrated and angered that all this pain and suffering I've endured and continue to is because of a lack of sterilization within the hospital. I had to have two other back surgeries to remove diseased tissue and have drainage tubes put in my back to help remove the staph infection. I spent a week in critical care and a total of a month in the hospital. I had a picc line inserted in my arm so that I could have home health care and learned to administer 5 IV antibiotic infusions a day to myself....over 7 months later I was still on oral antibiotics! My original neurosurgeon could not and would not admit that I could possibly have a staph infection upon my return to the emergency room with an extremely high fever, shakes, severe pain, and disorientation. He literally put me through a gamit of tests for almost 48 hours. Finally, my infectious disease doctor finally operated and confirmed I definitely had a staph infection "within" the operative site of the back surgery.

I was still not getting better and even sent home to yet return to the ER with a abcess coming out my back and with another MRI confirming that both my L4 & L5 vertebrae were now engulfed with the staph infection and I developed osteomyelitits (bone infection). Again, another debridement surgery and drainage tubes inserted...this time by a new neurosurgeon with wonderful bedside manners and very caring. I wore a back brace to keep the vertebrae from shifting so my body could fuse the vertebrae together to save me from another back surgery. I had to have blood work done every 4-6 weeks and MRIs and CAT scans every 3 months for a year and then every 6 months to make sure my spine was healing and that the staph infection did not flare up. This staph infection literally changed my life. Those that have suffered from one or watched a love one do so can understand how it impacts a person not only physically but mentally, emotionally and financially.

It is disgusting how the hospital offered me the opportunity (they came to my hospital bedside) to have their risk management department review my case and discuss a mediation with them. They stated I was to not discuss this with anyone (legal council etc.) and scheduled a teleconference with me just to slap me in the face! They told me after their investigation that since it is protocol for all surgeons to discuss the benefits as well as the risks of surgery with one risk being a "staph infection" (I was never told about a staph infection!) and I signed the hospital consent form (a form you have to sign in order to receive care), they feel I was informed and therefore it was a "chance" I took! What? A chance? No one should ever have to go into the hospital for help and leave with something that is caused from improper sterilization procedures. The hospitals need to be held responsible for what these infections do to a person. We all need to get vocal, go public, get together and speak about this to everyone so we can make changes now.  

Still in chronic pain years after MRSA infection

Still in chronic pain years after MRSA infection

I ended up with MRSA after a major back surgery. It spread to my incision and my back still has an open wound draining this infection that my surgeons nurse claims is S. Aureus. Surgery date was November 29, 2007, I was released from the hospital on December 4, 2007. By December 8, 2007 the incision was bright red and oozing. I returned to the surgeons office on December 10th to start the draining process. This went on for two day's and a follow up with the docotr on the 13th. doctor said it is lookin better, but still have a open wound and it is January 1, 2008. I believe I got this infection from the dirty hospital conditions and the lack of quality nurse care. Most of the RN's were 23 to 24 years old and had no training on patient care. I am very concerned that there is an epidemic at this hospital and others are subject to the same bacterial infections at this hospital.

Update (September 2009): It has been almost two years post op and I feel worse than I did before the surgery. I have since moved to Montana last February with my job and am still in chronic pain and having to take meds for the pain. The back pain is still lower and mid back from what could have been from the infection, who knows !!! No one would admit it.

My orthopedic surgeon stated that I could have had perm nerve damage from the infection and the surgery. From where the incision was reopened and while I was on the wound VAC that probably kept my muscles and other body parts from healing correctly. I have a real difficult time walking 100 yards or less, I must stop and bend over to relieve the pain which starts up as soon as walk again. Live with the back pain if you can, surgery is not always the answer.

Roland Martin of Texas

I had open heart surgery in 2000 and got MRSA during the operation. Doctors went back in and removed my sternum. I was on Vancomycin for six weeks and was very ill. They went back and did two more surgeries; scraping my rib cage, another round of six weeks on antibiotics and put me on Cipro to treat the infection. The MRSA came back on me in 2007 and 2008 with an abscess on my chest right beside the scar. The infection doctor said that if the abscess burst inside me instead of outwards that it will kill me. I had a huge hole in my chest for two years. MRSA almost killed me but I was a fighter and I had a great infectious disease doctor, but it was a very bad recovery. Several people I know in this area have gotten MSRA and some have died. I was lucky. I cannot work now because I am disabled, and I think a lot is from having this horrible disease. I will have it in my body now for the rest of my life they tell me.

Alicia Cole of Los Angeles, California

Alicia Cole of Los Angeles, California

In August of 2006, I contracted a post-surgical flesh-eating infection. What followed was a barrage of painful tests and powerful drugs. My two-day hospital stay turned into two months, six more surgeries, and three years of painful rehabilitation. The worst part was that I almost lost my leg.  Before I went in to have two fibroids removed, my only experience with the healthcare system was a yearly mammogram and pap-smear. It has taken three years for my wound to completely close.  The skin and scar tissue is so delicate that normal daily activities would cause it to tear, leaving me unable to work. I am still treating with doctors and suffering the lasting effects three years after being infected.  Federal inspectors subsequently found unsterile conditions in my hospital's operating area. They also found that my hospital failed to follow its own infection control procedures.  I was devastated and enraged by my experience.
 
Prior to becoming disabled by the infection, I was a working actress and a 15 year veteran of the Screen Actors Guild. I vowed that if my life was spared, I would dedicate myself to insuring that no other family would have to endure the trauma and burdens created by a preventable hospital Infection. I joined the fight against hospital infections and helped persuade the California legislature to pass a law requiring public reporting of hospital acquired infection rates. If I can help save even one life it will be worth it.

M.N. of Louisiana

M.N. of Louisiana

In May of 2006, I went in to the hospital for a routine abdominal total hysterectomy. I had two previous C-sections, so my physician used the same incision site. After 4 days at home, I noticed a hard lump under the surgery site. I had a low fever, but nothing remarkable, and no pain. On day 7 (post surgery), I returned to the same hospital's E.R.(due to higher fever and abnormal looking lump under wound site) and waited 6 hours for a room. An ultrasound revealed a mass of some type under the incision. On the third day of this stay, and treatment with Vancomycin, another obstetrician (OB) did a needle biopsy which clearly showed puss and infection. I was released that day. Neither I nor my primary OB received any information about these test results. On day 12 (post surgery), I had an appointment with my primary OB. Upon hearing of the tests for the first time, he remained on hold with the hospital until he could get the results. ONLY AT THIS TIME, were we told of my MRSA infection, which was also resistant to Vancomycin. I was immediately admitted to another hospital (of my choice), and at 1am the next morning had an 8" X 4" X 2" section of my abdomen removed due to infection. The wound would remain open to heal from the inside out. After a ten day stay, with I.V. treatment with Zyvox, I was released with a Vacuum pump for 2 1/2 months, and home health. This infection was acquired in the hospital, during the initial surgery, and enclosed in the wound. Had my OB not requested the follow-up test results, and remained on the phone to receive the information, we would have never known in time. Yes, it could have been fatal. As it is, I am perfectly healed, with a very, very large scar. I am lucky, and I know that. I share my story, so that others will be aware. I reported the hospital to the Joint Commission, so that they will be aware. I will not let this go unanswered.

Carrie Simon of West Hartford, Connecticut

Carrie Simon of West Hartford, Connecticut

In January of 2005, I was admitted to a major teaching hospital in the northeast for heart valve replacement and repair surgery. The surgery was successful, yet a few days later I began to show the early symptoms of MRSA. Neither the nursing staff nor the resident physicians recognized the symptoms. Only after about 36 hours of unexplainable deterioration in my condition and near fatal arrhythmia did the hospital staff respond appropriately and address the infectious disease that I had contracted. As a result I needed to undergo 5 additional surgeries, and remained a hospitalized patient for over 2 months. Then, when I got home I had to undergo 6 additional weeks of IV Vancomycin.

I am a veteran of numerous hospital stays and medical encounters; I am an adult survivor of childhood cancer, and a breast cancer survivor as well. I know, that there is a strong possibility that I will need further hospitalizations. Only now I am fearful of the very system that I must rely on to survive. If my family and I were apprised of the potential for hospital borne infections, the 36 hours would not have slipped by without medical intervention that complicated my recovery. If all hospitals begin taking the necessary steps to diminish the potential of such infections, not only would lives be saved, but so would millions of dollars in related medical costs.

Daughter suffers medical error and hospital infections her whole life

Daughter suffers medical error and hospital infections her whole life

Over the course of Meredith’s medical treatment for RDS (respiratory distress syndrome) and BPD (bronco pulmonary dysplasia), she suffered a range of medical errors, medication errors and hospital viruses and infections over ten years. Meredith had a trachea tube inserted the first year of her life and remained on O2 and in a wheelchair with severe CP until the end of her life. She also had a shunt implanted in her brain early in life that caused several problems for her health. According to her mother Debra, “Meredith was a fighter and determined to live! She also LOVED her life here in-spite of her handicaps.” In 2004, Meredith entered the hospital for a shunt repair that led to renal failure. After doctors induced a coma, which compromised her respiratory system, Meredith then contracted MRSA that was treated with antibiotics but her kidneys were so bad at that point, the antibiotics did more harm than good. At age 10, she passed away in her mother’s arms.

Read Meredith’s full story here, written by her mother, Debra Williams.

Alice Buehring of Gold Bar, Washington

Alice Buehring of Gold Bar, Washington

After taking a bad fall in January 1999, I required surgery to replace the humeral head in my right shoulder. Unfortunately, my recovery was painful and mostly unsuccessful. By May 1999, I discovered why. It turned out that I developed a Pseudomonas A infection in the surgical site, which was fast becoming septic. I spent the next week in the hospital on IV antibiotics to treat the infection. I was discharged to continue my IV treatments at home for another six weeks followed by oral antibiotics for another six weeks.

By the end of these treatments, I hoped that the worst was behind me. But my recovery continued to be painful and difficult. For the next six years, I struggled to find relief. I began to work with some natural and alternative health care practitioners who believed my arm was still infected. Most of the time my arm hurt enough to require pain medication and was periodically hot. I would slowly gain range of motion in my arm, only to lose it again. Each year I would return to my surgeon when the pain became unbearable. And each time he would insist that the infection was no longer present and send me home with more pain medication.

In May 2004, my pain became impossible to endure. I returned to my doctor who took another X-ray of my arm and finally determined that the infection was still present. By then, the infection had eaten through my humerus bone and destroyed my rotator cuff. I underwent a second surgery to remove the prosthesis, spent three days in the hospital recuperating and then continued my IV antibiotic treatments at home for another six weeks. Once the infection cleared up, I had a third surgery to insert a new prosthesis and then began physical therapy. Finally, I was infection free.

My hospital infection experience has had a lasting impact. I now have only a 20 percent range of motion in my dominant arm, which has limited my abilities in my daily life and at work and I still haven't gotten my energy back. I am grateful to be alive, that I still have an arm, and that the damage was not more extensive, but angry that an infection I caught in the hospital turned my life upside down for so long. I continue to live my life upside down.

Sandi Sampson of Boaz, Alabama

When I had ankle replacement surgery in December 2003, I looked forward to finally recovering from a broken ankle bone I injured in my backyard.  Unfortunately, I left the hospital not only with a new ankle, but also a staph infection from my surgery.   In the weeks following the operation, I felt tired and always seemed to run a low grade fever, but I didn’t think much of it.  I was diagnosed with the infection after my cast was removed three months after my surgery, and it became clear during physical therapy that the ankle replacement had failed.   Tests revealed that I had Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a difficult to treat infection.  

As a result, the prosthesis was removed and an antibiotic spacer was installed in its place.  I underwent 12 weeks of vancomycin treatments administered through a PIC line at home.  The infection seemed to improve and I had another ankle replacement surgery done.  But the prosthesis never bonded to the bone and I experienced another outbreak of MRSA.   I was put on vancomycin for another month to treat the infection.  In June 2005, I had another surgery to install a concrete spacer in place of my ankle, but again it failed to adhere to my bone.

My doctor has told me that the MRSA, which is in my bone and blood, will never go away.  It becomes dormant after it is treated, but trauma to my body -- like a spider bite I got in November 2005 -- can cause it to re-emerge.  I underwent another surgery in May 2006 to address my ankle problem. I fought to save my life and leg for four years: 37 surgeries. Finally, the only way to save my life was remove my leg. I had that done in February 2007. I not only lost my leg, but I was still left with $78,000 in co-pays (even with my BCBS insurance), and I had to refinance my home to pay the bills. Since my amputation, I have had two cases of staff related pneumonia. Also, I thought (just as so many others) that you get one artificial leg and you are set.  No: I have had three since my leg was removed, and even with BCBS my part is $2,500.  Also, my doctor wanted me to have a movable foot on my artificial leg: it has a computer chip in it, and once you walk it remembers how you walk and makes the stress less on the other leg.  No go; BCBS will not pay for this foot.  I now have problems with my other leg.

We desperately need to make our hospitals publish their instances of staph. We make food and restaurants publish their score: why not hospitals? Do not get me wrong, I walk now with my artificial leg and work every day; but why should I suffer at this time in my life, at 58, with all the bills (not to mention the cost of an artificial leg)? Why aren’t our hospitals held responsible?

Mark Bennett of Maryland

Mark Bennett of Maryland Mark Bennett was a vibrant and independent 88 year-old World War II combat vet when he entered the hospital in February 2004 with a virus. Hospital personnel passed to him at least six different bacteria including fecal bacteria found in his sputum, multi-drug resistant strains throughout his body and a "flesh eating" bacteria that took his leg. His kidneys were destroyed, his trachea collapsed, his heart was damaged and his blood was poisoned. He went undiagnosed for days, was left untreated and received wrong medications. Despite daily visits to the hospital, his family was never informed of his conditions. After four months and having been moved through five different hospitals, Mark Bennett died.

Glenn Cartrette of Castle Hayne, North Carolina

Glenn Cartrette of Castle Hayne, North Carolina

On January 1, 2003 my husband, Glenn Cartrette, had knee surgery. After three weeks he went back to work and found he had a new pain in his hip joint which grew worse during his 17-hour workdays. Glenn had a full hip replacement in October. After the two surgeries, pain began to be a daily part of Glenn's life. Finally the pain was so intense that he no longer could go to rehab. Then problems started with his lungs. The orthopedic surgeon said there was nothing wrong with his surgery but during one of his many hospital admissions Glenn and I were told he had MRSA. He was placed in a private room where visitors were required to wash their hands, put on a gown, gloves and mask before entering the room. He spent weeks in the hospital and continued to take vancomycin for the MRSA after he was released.

After returning home Glenn continued to have pain and difficulty breathing which required visits to the emergency room often. I would beg for help because I could see the stress on him just to breathe. We also consulted with pain management doctors to monitor the pain medications needed in ever increasing doses. Except for about 15 days in a nursing home, Glenn was in the hospital from July, 2005 until January, 2006. His lungs were infected with MRSA and he was in a great deal of pain. He died on January 26, 2006 unaware of what was going on around him. Death was the only escape from the horrible things MRSA had done to him and his body. I spend my days with our grandson that was born two months before his grandfather died. Also, my Dad died 75 days after Glenn. He had been in the hospital and also tested positive for MRSA. It has had a great impact and toll on this family.

I spend my days with our grandson that was born two months before his grandfather died.  Also, my Dad died 75 days after Glenn.  He had been in the hospital and also tested positive for MRSA.  It has had a great impact and toll on this family.I spend my days with our grandson that was born two months before his grandfather died.  Also, my Dad died 75 days after Glenn.  He had been in the hospital and also tested positive for MRSA.  It has had a great impact and toll on this family.

 Stop MRSA- A poem by Teri Cartrette

 My Fight
Who would have ever thought you would pay for this with your life?
It's an infection that seems to be rampant and causing so much strife.
It just seems there was no one willing to say you would not get well.
There were no answers as to why you had to go through hell.
The countless days and months of pain and suffering.
The awful damage to your lungs, which left you smothering.
There were signs posted on the doors all around hospital rooms.
But who knew this staph infection was a sickness that dooms.
The surgery you had was to keep you out of work for six weeks.
Who knew that two years and nine months MRSA would reek?
Watching you suffer daily while continuing to pray.
Reliving the pain should I have asked you to stay?
Fourteen states are required to report to the public these staff infections.
How many people will have to become infected not having any directions?
There are sites about hospital infections that are fighting to take action.
If you know about this infection then we need to battle it with a passion.
There has got to be a drive today to get this under control.
Before it enters your life, which is too much of a toll.
by TeriCartrette © March, 2006

Daughter advocates for ailing father suffering from hospital infections

Daughter advocates for ailing father suffering from hospital infections

Back on July 8th, 2004, my father went into the hospital for what his surgeon said would be an easy valve replacement with the expectation he would be out of the hospital within 7-10 days. My father was 79 and in relatively good shape and a well built man. The first surgery was done, taking a good 9 or more hours. Within 2 hours after coming out of surgery, we were told there was a leak where blood was filling around the heart sack, so they had to go back in and perform another 9 hours of surgery. We found out that apparently there was some calcification which they thought would not be an issue but once they closed my dad up, blood started to seep thru where the calcification was that was not addressed in the initial surgery. Surprisingly, my dad, being a strong man, survived all this surgery though it took a while for him to come around.

 Within a few weeks he seemed to be on his way to recovering well and there was another problem. Apparently he developed an infection in one of the valves so they had to open him yet again to take care of that problem. When we thought things were finally under control, they informed us again that he developed an infection in the sternum and had to go in again. After going in again for the infection that developed in the sternum, they could no longer close his chest because of opening him so many times so they had his chest open, with a vaccum suction in it sucking out any fluids that were building up. He was this way for about 4-5 days. At this time, they had a plastic surgeon come in to see if he could close his chest and he called me to say that he could not close it because my father had become so dehydrated that his skin was thin and opaque and would not close up. I questioned how someone on IV becomes so dehydrated and was told that the fluids he was getting were going to help fight the infection and I asked if that was the case why did didn't just give him more fluids then to make sure he remained hydrated. All they would say to me was that I didn't understand.

 Between all these surgeries, I made numerous complaints to their Patient Advocate unit and even addressed my letter to the head of the hospital. They had a social worker contact me who kept asking what she could do for me and I told her that there was nothing they could do for me but make my dad better.

 Also, in this timeframe in the hospital, after his 3rd surgery, a nurse was taking him for a walk down the hall. My father had a pacemaker which we found out had a connection that was not connected quite right and would flap around. Well, as she took my dad for a walk (she was 9 months pregnant), they made it to the visitor area and when they were heading back to his room he tried to tell her something didn't feel right. Apparently, the pacemaker lost a temporary connection, flapped and my dad passed out. In the process, he ended up hitting his head and arm on furniture in the visitor's room. When I went to see him later that day, he had horrible black and blue marks on his face and arm because of the cumadin he was on. I was very upset and told the hospital staff and they didn't seem too concerned over it. My dad was in ICU for five months and only got out maybe twice for a day or two.

 The remainder of his life was spent in ICU. There were CONSTANT infections which I believe was the cause of his not getting better and eventually becoming nothing but a shell of a person. Some of the incidences that come to mind were: nicking his lungs a few times while trying to drain fluid, damage to his esophagus from pushing tubes constantly down his throat and causing damage, going in and finding the mat under him had diarrhea on it and him having a horrible burning rash. When I asked the nurse about it she told me that because he had only gone "a little" they were not going to change the mat just yet.

 By the time the five months had passed in ICU, my dad was in total kidney failure, skin completely opaque, complete trach, he could no longer speak, tubes were everywhere in him and he withered away, he couldn't eat and couldn't breathe on his own. There were times he had been over-medicated but one of my numerous complaints to the hospital brought up the head of Geriatics who said he felt for his age he had been overmedicated so they decreased what he was on. He developed horrible skin rashes so severe on his legs that the skin was peeling. I NEVER saw them take him out for walks when he was well enough to walk and even he himself told me that. By the time they were done with him, the only thing aware was his mind. He would NEVER be better again and if we kept him alive, he would be living on a respirator, trach, and dialysis, never move, swallow, eat on his own or talk. The destroyed a beautiful human being which the only recourse left was to have his life support turned off and let him go peacefully and with dignity. I've never gone thru such a terrible and heart wretching five months like I did fighting for my dad to no avail. I called numerous attorneys because I felt the hospital was to blame for what happened to my dad. Not one attorney would take the case. The answer from them was......infections happen. Yes, I believe that, but you can never convince me that this many infections happen to one person when they are in ICU all that time. I believe there was serious neglect and my dad and, we, his family paid the price for that. My dad went into the hospital on July 8th 2004 and died November 12th 2004.

Daughter faces lifelong health issues due to the carelessness of her medical providers

Daughter faces lifelong health issues due to the carelessness of her medical providers

My 14-month old daughter (with an ongoing brain condition but in great health) was admitted to a Seattle children’s hospital on 11/10/2005 for implantation of a shunt. An infection occurred as a result of the surgery and she was readmitted on Thanksgiving, 11/24/05. She had subsequent new and overlapping infections. We made dozens of complaints - all of which were validated by hospital management - regarding medical staff failing to follow basic hygiene and infection control procedures. We had someone in the room 24/7 with her monitoring the staff and had to continually correct egregious violations of basic infection control procedure even though she was in a "glove and gown" room. We were viewed as "troublemakers" at the hospital because we were so vocal about her care.

After insisting on the glove and gown environment, which the hospital insisted was unnecessary and unrelated to Hunter’s infections, she got no more infections. I had to override medical opinion a few more times and each time I was correct. I started requiring mandatory pre-surgery meetings of the entire surgical and pre/post teams – something I was told I was not authorized to do and told that no one would show up. Every single doctor and nurse involved attended those meetings. We “graded” nurses A, B, and C based on their diligence and performance and indicated we would only accept “A” nurses on surgery and critical days and only “B” nurses on non-critical days. “C” nurses were banned and I gave all nurses the option of not working with our family if they didn’t want to. Every “A” nurse specifically requested to be on our case.

At one point the hospital tried to retaliate by restricting our access to Hunter after a surgery because we were scrutinizing procedures so closely. They refused to let us see her for 3 hours after her leaving surgery. I filed a child abduction charge with the Seattle Police Department which was accepted and investigated. A complaint was filed with the State health department which was also accepted and investigated. At that point the hospital started changing their attitude, when teams of detectives and investigators descended on them.

Hunter was finally released after nearly two months in the hospital. Over three years later, she still has not started eating again. It’s likely that some peripheral damage was done to her brain during the 8 brain surgeries in which shunts were inserted, removed, and inserted again. In addition to being tube-fed at age 4-1/2, she has chronic gagging and vomiting issues. All of these are related to the part of the brain that governs swallowing, among other things, which was fine until the surgeries and infections occurred.

Hunter already had a rough start to life due to her premature birth (25 weeks) due to a medical error by a nurse -- there mysteriously is no record of the procedure or the nurse being on her case that night. Now she has another layer of lifelong issues due to the carelessness of her medical providers. “First, do no harm” indeed.

For more information about this story, visit http://seattlechildrens.blogspot.com/. Written by Fred Whittlesey.

Health problems persist after healthcare-acquired infections

Health problems persist after healthcare-acquired infections

In June of 2000 I went to a Gastroenterologist because I had an attack of diverticulitis. This doctor’s way of diagnosing was to press down on the area and if the patient showed extreme pain then the patient had the disease. That’s why I had to have a colon resection. I received no antibiotics. Through the first half of 2001 I had to return to an outpatient clinic because of an infection in the wound site. The doctor kept pulling out sutures. In June of 2001 I developed a hernia due to my infection which was never cultured. The hernia was so massive that they had to use my abdominal muscles to anchor mesh. The hernia was operated on in spring of 2003. I still was having major abdominal problems and developed infectious ulcerative colitis. In 2004 I had to get an ileostomy where doctors removed my colon and I now have to wear an ostomy bag. During surgery, two walled off abscesses were found. No cultures were run but I insisted on having antibiotics.The antibiotics were not effective. Three to four months later my gall bladder burst. . I nearly died. When cultures were taken I was diagnosed with MRSA. Throughout the summer I was hospitalized with abscesses again and treated continually with antibiotics. In October of 2006 I had not been feeling well and on a trip an abscess burst. I had to be treated at the wound care clinic. I developed a fistula due to the abscess bursting through my skin. At the wound care clinic I became infected with Pseudomonas in addition to MRSA. I now do my own wound care at home. I will never be cured because the infection is in the mesh which was used to close the abdominal hernia. The mesh cannot be removed because the area it is covering is so large; therefore, more surgery is not an option. I have been told by two surgeons that I probably would not survive. The latest infection that was cultured is Acinetobacter, which is also health care-acquired.

We need to clean up our hospitals. Hospitals should not keep these infections a big secret.

Abdomen surgery to recurring MRSA infections and multiple surgeries

Abdomen surgery to recurring MRSA infections and multiple surgeries

I had what was supposed to be a minor surgery August 13, 2002. I was sick for the next 2 weeks. I had emergency surgery on my abdomen on August 27, 2002. I was in the hospital from August 13 till the third week of September.  When I was released, fluid started leaking thru my staples. I called and was informed to put a bandage on it. I let the Surgeon know that it was more then a bandage could cover.  I kept it covered the best I could. After my staples were removed, the strips put over each spot were gone by the time I arrived home, as so much fluid was leaking.  I went back in and the Surgeon had me lie down and cut about a 2 inch strip and told me how to pack it.  Never explained what he was going to do or why he did it. 

The next day I visited with my second Surgeon and he explained why that had been done and I asked him if he would test for Staph. After he did the test, when he took it out there to be sent off, it was a big joke to the nurse that they had forgotten to do that the day before. I was on antibiotics for 3 weeks.  No follow up tests were done to see if I was infection free.  June 3rd of 2003, I had another Surgery. After being released, my abdomen kept filling with fluid. It was drained 3 different times, and then my Surgeon put a drain bag in, which I had in for 11 days.  Removed the drain bag, and my abdomen filled back up with fluid, in talking to my Surgeon I was informed to ignore it and it would absorb back into my body.  Never was any of the fluid tested to see if there was an infection.  I was made to feel like I was a bother.

My sister commented to her Doctor about my condition. She suggested I contact a Doctor in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Colorado Doctor did some tests and had a drain bag put back in.  I had 2 pockets of fluid in my abdomen. After 4 days of having the bag in, I was not feeling well. I went back to Fort Collins and I was admitted to the hospital. Emergency surgery was done the next night. The fluid in my abdomen had turned septic, the nurse let me know, had I not gone down, I would have lived probably another 2 days.  I left with a pic line and a wound vac attached to my abdomen.

My staph turned into MRSA and I was informed to get my affairs in order.  I had another Surgery; this was to remove two pieces of mesh that had staph in them.  Finally on February 4, 2004, I was informed I was MRSA Free. I have had numerous Surgerys as I have had to have Incisional Hernia Repairs. 

On December 5, 2008, I was informed once again that I had MRSA again.  I had another pic line put back in, every 24 hours I went to the hospital for a treatment.  On December 10, I had another emergency surgery to clean my abdomen out.  Pic line was removed and another one put in.  I had a blood clot. Once again I had a wound vac attached to my abdomen which was removed April 7, 2009. I went back on Zyvox. I was on this for about 2 months, had to go off of this medication as this is the last known drug to treat MRSA . I went on another antibiotic which I was able to come off, July 10, 2009.  

This is a shortened version of my illness, from a Surgery gone terribly wrong.  Half of my stomach was removed, the vagus nerve was removed (tells your stomach to digest the food) and my epiglottis was removed as these were dead from the surgery error during my minor surgery on August 13, 2008.  I will be on medications for the rest of my life and l will be facing more surgeries.

Spinal surgery leads to infection and long-term back pain

I had spinal decompression, laminectomy and 3 level lumbar fusion, performed by 2 neurosurgeons at the largest hospital in my state. I spent 7 days in the hospital, saw neurosurgeons once and was given day to day care by a 2nd yr (out of 7 yrs) resident. Four days after discharge to my home 75 miles away, I started to have a fever and puss discharge from the main incision. I was admitted to the local hospital which did appropriate cultures, finding that I had M.R.S.A, a potentially deadly infection. I was transported by ambulance back to the original hospital where I was operated on again. They found the staph infection was deep in the sites. Surgeons cleaned and debrided tissue and flooded it with antibiotic. They admitted that I had gotten the infection in the operating room during the initial surgery. After another week's hositalization, I was discharged and was cared for by my daughter, son-in-law and visiting nurses and therapists and friends for a month before I was well enough to care for myself. Two years later, I am still dealing with back pain and weakness, due to infection, failed fusion (probably due to infection) and roken hardware. No one at the hospital or state health department will provide statistics concerning this infection. Additionally, I will be on monocycline for life because if the infection were to return the metal could not be removed from my back.

Update: In 2006, I was diagnosed with 3 different autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, fibrosis of the lungs and autoimmune hepatitis A, all of which were caused by the long term use (nearly 5 years) of minocycline. The rheumatologist that I was seeing was the one who realized the cause. The infectious disease doctor, who had told me that I would have to take minocycline for the "rest of my life" told me to stop taking it immediately: that I had been on it longer than any of his patients.  Now, in September, 2009, after treatment with prednisone for 2 years, my autoimmune diseases have largely disappeared, my health pretty much has stabilized, but I still have back pain and am limited in my physical activity.

Surgery leads to life-threatening infections and thirteen more surgeries

Surgery leads to life-threatening infections and thirteen more surgeries

In March of 2001, I contracted four infections during a partial hysterectomy- MRSA, staph, ecoli, and invasive Group A strep. These four infectious bacterias resulted in flesh-eating bacteria (necrotizing fasciitis). I went into septic shock, was resuscitated four times, went into multiple organ failure, and was placed on life support. I spent three days in a coma and nine days in critical care before beginning the recovery and reconstruction process. My husband was told that I would not have survived two more days if they had not readmitted me for what appeared to be a "hematoma" above the incision area that moved and burst my incision open.

Due to the bacteria, I had 50 square inches of my abdomen removed during the debridement procedure. There have been a total of thirteen subsequent reconstruction surgeries to rebuild my body to the best that it will ever be. I endured spinal damage, nerve damage and brain injury in addition to the loss of the abdominal wall. I continue to have my internal organs monitored on a regular basis to determine function abilities. It is a very time consuming and worrisome process.

Proving the hospital to be at fault would have been a very costly and difficult process in the state of South Carolina, especially with tort reform being introduced in our legislature at the time. I am thankful that by the grace of God and the wonderful ability He gave to many doctors, who have and continue to care for me, that I recovered to the best of my ability. Sometimes, when a patient is unable to sue for a medical liability issue, it just would have been nice to hear these two words "I'm sorry".

 

ACL repair surgery leads to MRSA infection and more hospitalization

In July 1995 I had ACL repair surgery. I developed a MRSA infection within two weeks, and spent further time in the hospital being treated for that, undergoing surgery to insert drains in the infected knee, and upon discharge having whirlpool therapy in an effort to halt the infection, as well as antibiotic treatment. In September the same surgeon operated again to remove some of the hardware at the site of the infection, which had begun in the tibia.

In the fall of 1997 I developed cellulitis in the same leg, which was found to be [the same?] MRSA; the button used to affix the tendon repair to my femur had come loose, and had migrated to the inside surface of my knee. At this time I went to a doctor other than the original surgeon. In reading my records, this doctor discovered that at the surgery to remove the tibia hardware in September of '97, the surgeon had noted 'gross pus' at the site. Yet I was never told of this nor did the original surgeon prescribe any course of antibiotics at that time in an effort to eliminate the still-present infection. This second surgeon removed the now-useless hardware and engaged the help of an infectious disease specialist, who then oversaw the remainder of my recovery. I was in isolation for nearly three months, nine days of that in the same hospital, the remainder at home, unable to go out or to have visitors. I self-administered IV antibiotics twice daily via a pic line, and had visiting nurses to change the dressing and check the progress of the healing, which naturally had to occur from the inside out.

To this date there has been no recurrence, though the infectious disease specialist told me he would never be able to say that it will never happen again.

Hospital Acquired Infections Activists

Nancy Oliver

Nancy Oliver

Nancy Oliver became a patient safety activist when her father passed away after suffering from hospital-acquired infections. Her father had successful heart bypass surgery following a mild heart attack. Her family had been told that because he was relatively healthy and his heart had not been severely damaged by the heart attack, her dad had a 98% chance of a good outcome. Despite these assurances, four days after his surgery, he was admitted to the intensive care unit and went into a crisis. He suffered septic shock, and he was critically ill on life support for nearly a month. He was placed on a ventilator, a central line, a feeding tube, and he had many drains and tubes that nearly filled his small hospital room. The family discovered that he had suffered an infection with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in his surgical site that spread to his bloodstream. The surgeon who performed the heart surgery told the family that his infection "was the kind you get in a hospital." Nancy’s dad was eventually released from the hospital in an ambulance and was sent to a rehabilitation center to complete his course of drug therapy and to try to regain his strength. At some point during this time, he developed a debilitating infection with Clostridium difficile (C diff.) Unfortunately, he soon became ill with pneumonia, again went into septic shock, and passed away.

Nancy became a patient safety advocate and works on various committees in Ohio striving to curtail the incidence of hospital-acquired infections. Her efforts include serving with many others who developed hospital-specific quality measures now reported in Ohio, including the incidence of some hospital-acquired infections. She can be reached at knrte@aol.com.

Kathy Day

Kathy Day

John McCleary, my father, was admitted to the hospital on September 26, 2008 with a minor fracture of his ankle. He was in that 25 bed hospital for 12 days for rehabilitation and discharged in good condition on October 5. On October 7, he was unable to get up from bed. Profound weakness and fever held him down. He was readmitted that day. This started his 3 month battle with hospital acquired MRSA pneumonia.

MRSA triggered a series of catastrophic medical events that caused him to become a complete care, bed bound patient overnight. The first event was a heart attack. He was in the hospital for 20 days and the in the nursing home for 9 weeks. He lost his strength, his independence, his hearing because of Vancomycin, his appetite and over 50 lbs, his dignity and ultimately his life. When he died on January 9, 2009, he barely resembled the handsome rugged Irishman we had loved all our lives.

Questions and conversations with his doctors and hospital administrators about why this happened and what they can do to stop it were unsatisfactory. I studied a great deal about healthcare-associated (HA) MRSA and realized that our hospitals are not doing all they can to prevent MRSA or other hospital acquired infections. MRSA colonized and infected patients go into hospitals every day and are undetected because no screening is done. These patients are housed with non infected patients. No special precautions are taken and the infection is carried throughout the hospitals by families, staff and visitors. Two other patients had died of HA MRSA in my father’s small hospital within one month prior to my father’s first admission. I was unable to get any information about the number of infections from the State CDC. I was told MRSA is not a reportable illness. This allows our hospitals to have absolutely no accountability for HA MRSA.

I contacted Jeanine Thomas after I found her webpage for MRSA Survivor’s network. She gave me excellent guidance in writing a proposal for MRSA prevention in the State of Maine. I wrote numerous State Senators and Representatives and was well received with this proposal. Rep. Adam Goode of Bangor, Maine and 9 other representatives and senators sponsored my bill, now known as Maine LD 1038. A much abbreviated form of my proposal was signed into law by Governor John Baldacci in June 2009. We are now mandated to screen those patients who are at high risk for MRSA when admitted to the hospital. Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA) lobbied for my bill. A member of MSNA and I were given seats on the Infection Control Collaborative of the Maine Quality Forum to develop this screening process and to define high risk.

My mother and the rest of my family still feel as though we were blindsided by this horrible event in our lives. Dad was elderly, but he lived at home independently with my mother, his wife of 62 years. He worked so hard to rehabilitate after his ankle fracture. The sudden decline of his health status because of an infection that he got while hospitalized was a shock to him, and to all of my family. He was a fighter, but MRSA won out. When I found out during my research that MRSA is preventable, I became very angry. I channeled this anger, sadness and frustration into studying and writing the proposal for prevention of MRSA in Maine hospitals. My goal is to help save lives. I only wish I had done it before I lost my father.

Dr. Julia Hallisy

Dr. Julia Hallisy

In 1988, Dr. Julia Hallisy received her Doctorate in Dental Surgery from the University of California at San Francisco School of Dentistry. Since then, she has been in continuous private practice in San Francisco, California. Her second child, Katherine Eileen, was diagnosed at five months of age with bilateral retinoblastoma. Dealing with her daughter’s life-threatening diagnosis, the many recurrences of cancer, and the subsequent treatments for the malignant and aggressive tumors marked the beginning an almost 20-year involvement in our healthcare system. The unique combination of her scientific training, her work as a healthcare provider, and guiding a child through a chronic illness has afforded her invaluable insight as an advocate for patients.

Dr. Hallisy is committed to and passionate about the subjects of patient safety, health care reform and medical error reduction. Her personal and professional goals include working diligently to help give patients a voice in healthcare solutions, and she has many years of experience. In 2006, Dr. Hallisy was a recipient of a scholarship from the National Patient Safety Foundation to attend their annual national congress as a consumer advocate. Dr. Hallisy most recently worked with AARP on a patient advocate journal and has lobbied for health care reform in Washington, DC with Consumer’s Union. She has also written a book called The Empowered Patient, a book that enables patients and their loved ones to successfully navigate complex medical delivery systems (http://www.theempoweredpatient.com/)

Dr. Hallisy was born and raised in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband, John Hallisy, and their two sons, Daniel and Kevin. The Hallisy’s ten-year old daughter, Kate, lost her life-long battle with cancer in February 2000.

Ann Marie Robinson

On Halloween night 2004, Ann Marie Robinson of California spent the night in the local hospital. "I came out the next day with Clostridium Difficile, something worse than what sent me there in the first place," she says. Frustrated with the hospital's response to her problems, she wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper last year seeking other people in the same situation. Within 3 days, 46 people had called, and so she created "Infection Connection."

"The original letter to the editor got the attention of Melissa Cabral, from the local TV news channel, who phoned me with some questions," Ann remembers. "I suggested she interview a man whose wife had recently died from 'complications.' Then one of the local papers put an article in their paper about our group." This finally got the attention of hospital administrators, who agreed to come to a meeting. "They came -- not so much to listen, but to try to convince us we had all gotten our infections out in the community and not at their hospital. The 76 angry people were not convinced."

As a result of the hard work of Infection Connection and the thousands of supporting letters from online activists, a hospital infection disclosure bill is now moving forward in California. "We are presently working hard to get SB 739 passed in California requiring hospitals to keep accurate records of their infection rate and make that information available to the public. Thank you Suzanne, Lisa, and everyone else at Consumers Union for all the help and support you are giving to our group."

Jean Rexford

In Connecticut we worked with Jean Rexford of the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety and individual activists who testified at public hearings and citizen activists who wrote their legislators to push for the passage of SB 160, making hospital infection rates public. Ms. Rexford is the Executive Director of both Connecticut Patients Rights (CPR) and the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety. Both groups advocate greater health consumer awareness of the risks inherent in the current health care system. The Connecticut Center for Patient Safety seeks to educate health care consumers and medical professionals about the latest efforts to increase safety measures within health care settings. The Center also acts to represent health consumer interests within other organizations focused on health care issues.

Jeannine Christensen

Jeannine Christensen’s father died five months after contracting multiple hospital infections post surgery: "Though my dad died back on Nov. 12th of 2004, I feel his loss every day and am constantly remembering how he suffered senselessly…I hope that someday the law will pass whereby others will not have to suffer as much as those like me, my dad and our family have."

Susan Zalatan

Susan Zalatan shared her husband Tony’s hospital infection story with the Stop Hospital Infection Campaign and later both became dedicated advocates for a public disclosure law in Colorado. After contracting a staph infection at a Denver-area hospital, Tony spent 54 days in a coma and doctors amputated his left leg, right foot and five fingertips. Although the couple was physically, emotionally and financially impacted by the infection, they made a commitment to advocate for a disclosure law so that other people would be less likely to get a hospital infection. They testified at public hearings and interviewed with local and statewide media. Their story gave legislators the perspective of living with and surviving a hospital infection. The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) and Colorado Public Interest Research Group (COPIRG) were also part of the Colorado coalition.

Helen Haskell

Helen Haskell

Helen Haskell, founder of Mothers Against Medical Error (MAME), was another key advocate for the Stop Hospital Infection Campaign in South Carolina where she worked with a coalition of other activists (individuals with hospital infection experiences) and organizations (John Ruoff, SC Fair Share; Theresa Arnold, SC AARP; and other) to get the hospital infection public disclosure bill passed into law. Helen became a patient safety advocate after her 15 year old son died from a medical error in 2000. She successfully worked for passage of the Lewis Blackman Hospital Safety Act in 2005 in honor of her son. The law requires all doctors wear identification tags, so patients will know if a doctor or medical resident is attending a patient.

Lisa Toolen

Lisa Toolen

Lisa Toolen's son, Jimmy, was an active and healthy 15-year old who had out-patient knee surgery in 2005. They never imagined that it could turn into such a life changing event for her family. But that was before he developed a debilitating infection from his surgery that threatened his life and ultimately may leave him permanently disabled. Since his initial surgery, Lisa’s son has had five more surgeries and is preparing for another one to repair the damage caused by the antibiotic resistant infection that has wreaked havoc on his health. Ms. Toolen attended all the public hearings to support the hospital infection disclosure bill, telling legislators about her son's story and the continuing struggle to save his leg. She also was interviewed by print and television media, which helped to educate the public about hospital-acquired infections.

Marion Costa

Marion Costa

In 2003, 63-year-old Marion Costa was rushed to the hospital for treatment of a life threatening gastrointestinal bleed. She had to be treated for three different infections: MRSA, a blood infection and C-Difficile. She has been a key activist pushing for passage of a hospital infection reporting bill in her home state of New Jersey. The bill was passed by the legislature and is currently on the governor’s desk for signature.