In March, I was diagnosed with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Better known as MRSA.
The potentially serious staph infection manifested in a tiny, insignificant pimple above my left knee. I immediately suspected MRSA.
Why? Just a month earlier, my young grandson had a tiny little pimple on his right inner thigh that his pediatrician identified as MRSA. It was a diagnosis that, for a short time, turned my world upside down.
Like many people today, when you want to learn more about something, you "Google" it. And I did. For hours I read website after website about MRSA, MRSA and children and so forth. I also googled MRSA images. Big mistake. I was terrified. Although these days MRSA can be treated fairly easily, without proper treatment it is potentially life-threatening.
MRSA is mostly spread through skin-to-skin contact, but it can live on inanimate objects, too, I learned. I took extra care not to touch my grandson's wound when bathing him or changing the dressing. I wore disposable gloves. I changed him on disposable pads. I covered the wound with sterile bandages and made sure he wore long pants to cover the bandage.
And, very importantly, I washed my hands and used a hand sanitizer dozens of times throughout the two weeks it took the pimple to heal.
I washed his sheets every morning. I cleaned all his toys with sterile wipes each night after he went to bed. I worked from home for two weeks to care for him. I did not allow him to be around other family members. He eventually was cleared by the doctor to be free of MRSA.
So when my "pimple" appeared, I wasn't surprised. It's not unusual for MRSA to spread to other family members within a household, despite the extra care one takes to prevent it from happening. Still, my infectious disease physician, Dr. Mark Anderson, told me he's not certain that I contracted it from my grandson. He says I could have been exposed at the store, at work, basically anywhere. He says 40 percent of the population carries around a colony of staph bacteria on their skin, and that's why the medical profession preaches about the importance of washing your hands.
The day after I noticed the pimple on my leg, I stopped at a doc-in-the-box on my way to work. The physician's assistant immediately suspected MRSA. She lanced it, cultured it and sent it to a lab. I went home instead of the office. One week later, it was confirmed. It was MRSA.
Because MRSA is such a highly contagious infection, my editor and I decided it was probably best I work from home until there was no longer any drainage from the wound. I work in close proximity with my fellow journalists, and we didn't want to take the chance of it spreading. So for the next week, I worked from home.
It was a lot easier taking care of myself than a toddler. I didn't have to disinfect toys every night or wipe down every place I touched because I was constantly washing my hands. I made sure the infected area was properly bandaged and covered.
The hardest part of having MRSA was the isolation. I quarantined myself because I didn't want to spread it. And, to be honest, nobody wanted to be around me, either. I get that.
I was thrilled when Anderson gave me the thumbs up to go back to work, socialize and be around my family again. He told me he sees MRSA nearly 10 times a week in healthy people like myself. It also occurs across all social and income levels and age groups, he says.
And though I'm healed, it's not to say I won't get MRSA again. That's the part that's not easy to live with. Every time I see a little pimple on me, my husband or my grandchildren, I immediately suspect MRSA. If it comes back, it's not something that will go away without treatment.
Meanwhile, I'm washing my hands a lot more these days and I'm paying attention. MRSA is always on my mind.
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396.