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.