There is something scary happening to my baby. My-two week-old, beautiful, healthy, helpless little baby boy is not okay. It is a MRSA infection, and this may be the most scared I had ever been. Changing my newborn son’s diaper, I discovered some red bumps that concerned me. Later that day, they developed into puss filled blisters, and I made a same-day appointment with his pediatrician.
She broke one of the blisters and swabbed for testing, telling me as she poked at my screaming newborn that she thinks it might be MRSA, but she needs the results first to be sure, because it only responds to a few medicines and even fewer that a baby so young could tolerate.
My brain seized up, coming to a full stop on a memory of a news story I had seen recently about a MRSA outbreak in area hospital nurseries and another showing an angry middleaged man in a wheelchair missing a leg and a toddler playing on the floor missing both arms.
“What is mersa?” I asked, or maybe yelled. She told me it was M.R.S.A., an acronym for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus which is bacterial infection that is resistant to the normal medicines given for infections so it’s harder to treat but that it is treatable. Her calm and soft demeanor eased my internal panic some but it was a short reprieve as I went home to drive myself insane with every news articles, commentary and websites about this killer affliction that had struck my child.
Test results showed he did in fact have MRSA and given his age and the fact that he had been nowhere in his short life besides the hospital nursery, and this hospital had other reports of MRSA on boys following circumcision, it was obvious that he had gotten it at the hospital where he was born. The hospital sent us to the doctor in charge of infectious disease control for the entire region and he assured me that my son was going to be fine, that I should continue to breastfeed, make sure the baby completed his medicine and handed me a booklet of information I could read on properly sanitizing my house.
My son cycled through his medication with no problems, being as healthy as can be ever since. I wish that was the happy ending to this story, but the nightmare continued as I developed an infection in my left breast. I had contracted MRSA from my son through the tears in the skin that happen as your newborn learns to breastfeed.
My baby was now at six weeks and with blood and puss mixing with my breast milk I was forced to stop breastfeeding, but my son remained healthy on formula. I, on the other hand, finished my cycle of medicine and cleared up my MRSA infection, only to then be diagnosed with diverticulitis, a painful infection of the intestines and side effect of the strong antibiotics I was prescribed. That required another round of medicine and I thought I was finally done with the MRSA problems and could finally concentrate on my baby and other children, but I was wrong.
Being a fanatic about cleaning and sterilizing like new mommies are, I had doubled my efforts after MRSA first entered my house. Sterilizing everything and everyone past what could be considered practical and still yet my then 2 ½ year old daughter also suffered a MRSA infection weeks after mine that showed up as blisters on her bottom. I felt like there was no humanly possible level of clean that could keep my family safe. But she also responded well to the medication and her infection cleared up.
Over a dozen doctor appointments combined, half a dozen prescriptions and ointments, and all manner of sanitizers and anti-bacterial products have cost me a lot of money and given me a few grey hairs. The hospital never did admit that they had given my son MRSA but they did dismiss my $3,000 labor and delivery bill after one short discussion about why I should not pay for negligent treatment that introduced this deadly infection into my family.
That was over two years ago and my daughter has had one more infection since then but we have otherwise been lucky in my eyes as I again recall the photos and stories that I came across in all my gut-wrenching internet research on MRSA.
After three MRSA infections, obsessive research and consults with doctors, pediatricians and infectious disease experts here are my personal tips on avoiding a MRSA infection.
At the Gym: Cover your cuts, don’t share towels, don’t go barefoot, shower immediately and use sanitizing spray that many franchise gyms now offer or bring your own sanitizing wipes or spray before touching or laying on equipment.
At the Hospital: Wash your hands properly and often. If people, be they visitors or doctors and nurses, come to see you, have them wash their hands properly and not just rely on hand sanitizer that could miss fingertips. Keep a back-up hand sanitizer on your nightstand and ask people not to bring you gifts that may covertly bring bacteria into your room.
At Home: Know the signs of a MRSA infection so you can get treated early. Keep cuts clean and covered, wear gloves and dispose of bandages and anything that may have been contaminated in a place and in such a way that others would be able to touch it. Have your entire household wash their hands properly and often inside and outside the home. Do not share personal items like towels and razors at any time and avoid sharing household items while there is an infection present.