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MRSA Sepsis or Heart attack?

On the second day of my fathers hospital stay for hospital acquired MRSA pneumonia he slipped into shock.  This was a quiet but quick decline in his condition.  If I had not been in the hospital room with him that day, his nurse would have attributed his “drowsiness” to just being tired.  He had gone through a lot of diagnostics that morning, including a lung scan.

My mother and I arrived to visit shortly after noontime.  Dad was barely conscious.  I spoke to him several times and he just was not coming around.  I expressed my concern to his nurse, who was right there in the room.  “Oh, he is just all worn out” was her response.  She was a good nurse but she was missing a very serious event that was just starting to occur.  I asked her nicely to check his vital signs.  Dad’s blood pressure had dropped dangerously low.   It was just a matter of seconds before she had a team in his room and they began their work.  He was given a fluid challenge and drugs to get his blood pressure back up.  My mother and I sat there the entire time  shocked and puzzled about this frightening turn of events.  I kept asking the doctor what was going on.  He called this a heart attack.  I repeatedly asked why he had the fever then.  Blood cultures were drawn, but they were negative.

There is no way for me to know if he had a heart attack that day or if his body was reacting to the lethal serious bacteria in his system called MRSA.   When I look back, I suspect that the doctor knew, without a doubt, that my father was suffering the syndrome of sepsis.   This occurs commonly in patients who are suffering from a serious bacterial infection.  Blood cultures will not necessarily show the bacteria.   My father had never in his life had a heart attack.  If he did have heart damage after this scary and unexplained event, I believe it was due to the sepsis and the stress that the infection caused his old body.

Sepsis is a very serious and often times deadly event that occurs when patients contract MRSA.  It comes on quickly after the invasion of the microorganisms and treatment to reverse the sudden drop in blood pressure must be quick and effective.  In Dad’s case, after the second worst event of his newly diagnosed illness(death being the absolute worst), he did recover in the short run, but the disease killed him in the long run.

Dad was transferred from his regular bed into an ICU bed that day.  He was catheterized and MRSA infected his bladder.  About 5 days later, and after I requested a sputum culture, he was finally diagnosed with MRSA pneumonia.

The day of this suspected sepsis shock, Dad’s doctors approached my mother and me about “comfort care”.  This means that they wanted to take away all of his life sustaining medications and just give him what he needed for comfort.  This was a blow to us considering this was the very same day he had this frightening event.  I thought comfort care was offered to terminal cancer or other dying  patients.  At this point, we had no idea that MRSA was my father’s terminal diagnosis.

  Although Dad was ill enough that my mother called the priest for last rights, he was still alert and conscious.  I told the doctors they needed to ask Dad what he wanted for himself.  They did. Dad was a tough Irishman.  He was not about to give up the fight of his life at that point.  And, that was his choice to do so.

He suffered for 19 more days in that hospital.  Then he was deemed “well enough” to go to the nursing home.  He suffered for 9 more weeks.   He fought the good battle, but MRSA won.  He never lost his desire to get better and go home and he never succumbed to the doctors wishes to put him in hospice or to put him on “comfort care”.  I loved that about my father.  He let people know what he wanted and didn’t want and after he told them there was no question left in their minds about his desires.

Dad will be gone a full year tomorrow.  His suffering and death left me with this burning desire  and ambition to stop MRSA infections.  Nobody should go through what he went through because of something they caught in the hospital. 

Maine Hospitals now screen all high risk patients for MRSA.  This is just as it should be.  We need to protect our loved ones and ourselves from this devastating infection.

  1. Traci Hord
    January 18th, 2010 at 20:55 | #1

    My Mom has been in the hospital since 1/11/10. They have diagnosed her with MRSA in the blood…and we are just devasted. She has diabetes, had a broken hip and femur in Nov. and back surgery in Oct. of 2009. They are still trying to find the source of the infection but are having no luck. She is only 67 and the doctors say she can beat this…but that the antibotic is really not working (doxycycline) based on last blood culture. We feel so helpless and feel like we are just watching her die. Today was better b/c she got 2 pints of blood yesterday…but how long will this good feeling last…
    Any advice and words of wisdom would be so very appreciated. Your Dad looks like he was such a great person and I can tell you really loved him by your passion for helping others with MRSA. I am very sorry you are having to celebrate a 1 year anniversay of his loss…

  2. Kathy
    January 19th, 2010 at 09:51 | #2

    My heart goes out to you Traci. MRSA is a brutal and horrible infection, no matter what part of the body it effects. It can lie dormant after exposure for quite some time. My suspicion is that your mother contracted MRSA either in the hospital where she had surgery or in her rehab facility. I am assuming she went to rehab, but of course she may have rehabilitated at home.
    My suggestion to you is to consult an Infectious disease doctor right away or have her doctor do so. If there isn’t one in your mother’s hospital, then insist on a phone consult right away. I never did this and I regret it. I assumed that the very kind docs who cared for my father knew all the ins and outs of MRSA, but they did not.
    If your hospital does not meet your mother’s needs, you might consider transferring her. She has comorbities, meaning she has diabetes and infection. Both can exacerbate the other, so it is imperative that she has specialists caring for her serious illness.
    I know your pain and I hope you will write again. I do care and I want to know about your Moms progress. Stay strong for her and demand the best for her. You and the rest of your family are her best advocates.

  3. Traci Hord
    January 20th, 2010 at 20:14 | #3

    Thank you so much for the guidence and support. This thing is a nightmare and I believe it will just be a vicious circle. She did have inpatient rehab after her surgery so you might be right on it as to where she acquired it. We did move her to a hospital where an infectious disease dr. was located. I “think” he is doing a good job, but it concerned me when I asked him if she could get re-infected since it was in her blood and he said no. That is not what I have researched…maybe I am in left field…but once you get it…you have it…and you are more prone to get it again. Is that right? Anyway, I really appreciate you sharing your story with folks like me. Any direction we can have to take charge of her care is appreciated!

  4. Kathy
    January 22nd, 2010 at 16:32 | #4

    As you know, I am not a doctor, but I have studied MRSA extensively. From my research it is apparent that once you have MRSA reoccurances are common. I am not saying this to discourage you. Your mother may recover and not have future problems with it and that is what I hope for you. Please do not get discouraged. Stay strong for her and encourage her. Family is often times the best medicine.

  5. Traci Hord
    January 25th, 2010 at 21:06 | #5

    I agree with you and no worries as to the discouragement…I too am making this my passion with the hopes of saving her. They moved her to a rehab facility today which we believe was not in her best interest. Her pain is great and we…who also are not doctors…believe the MRSA may have settled into her bones. I really appreciate your website and guidence to all of out there with this challenge Kathy…your Dad would be very proud. Thank you friend…

  6. March 25th, 2010 at 17:21 | #6


  7. Kathy
    March 31st, 2010 at 09:38 | #7

    Please accept my condolences about your Dad. It is devastating to lose your beloved parent, but doubly so when it is because of a preventable infection.
    I am so sorry for your loss. Please extend my condonlences to your entire family.
    Kathy Day

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  13. Deb
    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:47 | #13

    Hi – I am new to this blog. My very best friend in the whole wide world has been diagnosed with MRSA for the second time. She is diabetic and has lost one leg due to MRSA in the bone. She is undergoing tests this morning to see if the MRSA has invaded the heart. Do you have any information or know where I can seek information regarding the prognosis if MRSA has attacked the heart? I am fearful for her but I have to try to find some answers so that we can offer her the best treatment possible.


  14. Kathy
    December 27th, 2011 at 09:01 | #14

    Hello Deb. I am so sorry to hear about your friend. MRSA is a dreaded diagnosis and with good reason. It takes specialized and targeted treatment. My best suggestion for your friend is that an expert Infections Diseases doctor be engaged or consulted for treatment. Getting the correct antibioitics in a timely manner and for a long enough period of time is very important. My best wishes to you and your friend. Kathy

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