Two-Time Cancer Survivor Fights Off Deadly MRSA Infection

In April 2003, while the budding and blossoming of new life surrounded the springtime air, Sally would soon be left fighting for her life. Sally, a two-time cancer survivor, was sent to the hospital to undergo reconstructive surgery on her breasts. After a few hard years of treatment for breast cancer, Sally was fortunate to have won the battle against cancer and hoped to put her struggles behind her.

The surgery was a success, but as with any surgical procedure, nothing could have prepared Sally for the pain she was about to endure. Numerous stitches held Sally’s incisions together. She was told not to move without assistance from medical personnel. One nurse entered Sally’s room to turn her and make her more comfortable, but this required further medical staff. While Sally was waiting for the medical staff to arrive, she took the initiative to attempt to turn over on her own. This caused several stitches to detach from the incision, which slowed down the healing process.

Sally subsequently developed severe, swollen blotches on her body. Such manifestations caused her more pain than the actual incisions from the procedure. Her incisions soon became infected as well, although Sally’s doctor neglected to disclose the type of infection she had acquired. According to Sally, the doctor assumed the infection was MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a superbug that does not get better with first-line antibiotic treatments, thus considered “resistant.”

Sally’s healing process continued to progress slowly, as it took her doctor nearly two months to diagnose her healthcare-associated infection. During her time in the hospital, Sally unfortunately had many negative experiences. She demanded the doctor release her from the hospital, as she was left fearing for her life due to the neglect she had experienced by some of the hospital personnel. She stated that several members of the nursing staff were horrific, leaving her waiting for her pain medication to help relieve the pain caused by the infection she had acquired while in the hospital. While Sally understands that medical personnel are very busy and have a lot of responsibilities to manage in their work, the lengthy amount of time she was forced to wait in her eyes was unacceptable.

Sally’s daughter was called to her bedside one night at 2 AM, because Sally was experiencing such severe and unbearable pain. Her daughter worked with hospital staff as an advocate for Sally, finally getting her the help and medication she needed. Sally was fortunate to have survived this terrifying experience with MRSA, but it has had lasting emotional effects on her.

It has been almost ten years since Sally’s initial surgery, and she is still dealing with the impact this healthcare-associated infection has had on her life. While it is important to recognize that most medical personnel are compassionate and caring individuals, it is a difficult thing to deal with for those of us who have witnessed otherwise. Sally is grateful for the nurses and other staff members who were gracious and caring towards her during her hospital stay, but hopes to help others avoid the adverse events she experienced by sharing her story with others. Sally’s experiences while in the hospital demonstrate the importance of having a family member present as an advocate. Her story is also a reminder that we need to be proactive in healthcare, in order to prevent infection before it becomes an issue.

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