This story is about my mother Mary. She was a healthy dialysis patient. (Sepsis and Invasive Devices) She didn’t want to get an infection so she agreed to have a graft put under her skin which was safer than having a dialysis catheter. She always was careful to follow the doctor’s advice. One night after dialysis, she got up from bed to go to the bathroom. And got dizzy and fell and broke her ankle in many places. When she got to the emergency room, she was found to be septic and that was what caused her to fall. Not only that, but it was VRE- an antimicrobial resistant organism. My siblings and I were very worried: Would her ankle be alright? Would she get over the sepsis? How did the VRE get in her bloodstream? (Sepsis and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)/Antibiotic Resistance)
She went to surgery and ended up with many pins in her bones. She had a positive attitude even though she couldn’t walk. She took the antibiotics for her sepsis and appeared to improve. Then all of a sudden, she developed diarrhea. We soon learned it was C. diff. (Sepsis and C. Difficile (C. diff)) The combination of the antibiotics, which were necessary to treat the VRE, and exposure to the C. diff organism in the healthcare environment caused the infection. Again we were very worried.
But she got better and left the hospital to live with my sister since she couldn’t live alone with a fractured ankle. The diarrhea finally stopped and we were so relieved! But the relief didn’t last for long.
My mother soon developed confusion and a fever and had to return to the emergency room. The doctors told us that the reason the diarrhea had stopped was because she had toxic megacolon- a life-threatening complication of C. diff. The wall of the colon was so filled with infection from the C. diff and became so enlarged that no diarrhea was coming out. But soon a hole developed right through the colon- a perforation. (Sepsis and Perforated Bowel) The contents of the colon spilled right out into the abdominal cavity and caused septic shock. (Sepsis and Septic Shock) She needed surgery to repair the colon but was too sick. The doctors had nothing to offer us. We didn’t know what to do so we finally decided on hospice.
It didn’t take long, less than a day, for my mother to pass. As I was leaving the hospice I noticed on the television that it was Mother’s Day. She had raised 9 children, was a teacher, and then a small business owner for 20 years. She was tough, but not tough enough to survive these infections.
Every Mother’s Day I’m reminded of my mother and how the healthcare system had failed her. I am now an Infection Preventionist, as is one of my sisters. Our job and our mission is to prevent infections. Our belief is that compliance with hand hygiene and environmental cleaning would have prevented the infections that took our mother.
Source: Mary, Her daughter