How a pimple turned into a dangerous infection
CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2013 - 12:00am

It started as a simple pimple. Little did Maria, a 30-year-old IT systems expert, know that it would lead to a life-threatening infection that would change her life. The name of the culprit? MRSA (but more scary details on this later)!

Of course, for Maria (or anyone for that matter), getting a pimple was as ordinary as getting goose bumps. But one day, her face got disturbingly swollen and the swelling did not subside even after she took the prescribed antibiotic from her dermatologist. This certainly alarmed Maria who was planning to take a cruise in the US with her family and didn’t want to miss it.

She didn’t miss her ship and her dream cruise. However, in the US, she had her cheek checked at a hospital and the doctors said she merely had an infected pimple. Despite the discomfort, she proceeded with her cruise. But soon, she started to feel intense pain on her swollen cheek and started having fever and chills. The doctors on board the ship gave her antibiotics for the infection, but her condition turned from bad to worse.

She had all the symptoms of a serious MRSA infection. MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus)  is a dangerous flesh-eating bacterium that’s behind difficult-to-treat infections. It’s commonly found in hospitals and medical facilities. Patients with open wounds and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of getting infected with MRSA, which manifests in infected areas. In Maria’s case, it was her cheek. It causes infections on the skin, like sores or boils, and can also result in more serious skin infections and affect the bloodstream and other vital organs. MRSA is resistant to penicillin antibiotics, making it very difficult to treat.

At first, it was only Maria’s cheek that was infected. But during the cruise, the infection spread to her whole body — from her neck down to her legs. At one point, Maria had several big open wounds all over her body. Eventually, the swollen wounds and bone infection obstructed her airways.

Maria took painkillers round the clock and stayed in bed.  When it was confirmed that she was positive for MRSA, doctors gave her vancomycin, an antibiotic to help stop the spread of the bacteria. By then, her hospital bills had shot up to more than US$100,000 (more than P4 million).

Despite her bruising battle with MRSA, Maria was more scared for her family than for herself. She was worried she might infect the members of her family. She spent more than a month literally lying in bed and waiting for her wounds to dry up and heal, and warding off depression with her innate optimism. Thankfully, after three months, the wounds caused by MRSA started to scab and heal.

But even with the MRSA now a thing of the past, Maria had to change her lifestyle. She was not allowed to engage in physical activities so as not to stress the wounds and cause them to bleed  — quite a change for Maria who’s an athletic and outgoing person. She’s not even allowed to perspire and expose herself under the sun because it will irritate her skin.

You may ask: How did Maria get MRSA? According to her doctors, MRSA may have easily entered and infected her body because of her weakened immune system. Quite a health buff, Maria faithfully attended her yoga classes, went to the gym, surfed on weekends, and limited her food intake to lose weight even as her work got more and more stressful and demanding. She confessed that she was obsessed with her work and her physical appearance, and completely took her health for granted.

It’s been eight months since Maria was stricken with this modern-day malady. Today, Maria wears her scars like a badge of courage. For her, they’re reminders of a battle well fought and a second chance at life. She’s thinking of plastic surgery once her wounds have fully healed and the scars have matured, but only because it will restore her neck and facial mobility. 

She’s learned her lessons well and now, she’s ready to face the world again. Now, she knows that more than anything else, health and good daily hygiene habits must take top priority and should never be compromised in exchange for weight loss, a well-toned body or an expensive family cruise.

So nobody has to go through the same nightmare, Maria shares some reminders on how to avoid getting a MRSA infection:

• Maintain a healthy lifestyle and a proper diet.

• Cutting on food and dieting unhealthily will weaken the immune system and make you vulnerable not only to MRSA but to all kinds of sicknesses as well. Do not sacrifice sleep and rest for work or other personal activities, especially activities that require intensive physical capacity.

• For gym-goers, bring your own towels and mats. Sharing of personal belongings is unhygienic and could be a way to transmit bacteria from one person to another.

• No matter how tempting it is to swim on the beach, if you have open wounds, resist the urge as these open wounds could be the entry point of bacteria that can cause serious infections. According to Maria’s doctors, five out of 10 beaches in the US carry MRSA.

• Do not think twice about going to the ER. If you suspect that you have a serious infection or disease, head straight to the hospital or the emergency room.

• Regularly use anti-bacterial soap when taking a bath or washing your hands to constantly eliminate germs and bacteria that you come in contact with throughout the day.

• Wash your clothes with anti-bacterial detergents to lessen the risks of skin infection.

Maria leaves us with these germs of wisdom, “Hygiene plays a big part in our health. It is something basic and simple but often taken for granted. Who would have thought that a physically fit and healthy person like me would have this disease? We should give utmost importance to cleanliness and germ protection as a mere oversight can cause us our lives.”

* * *

This true story was documented by Procter and Gamble (P&G) to educate individuals on the different kinds of germs, the harm that they can cause, and how we can best protect ourselves from them. P&G aims to arm Filipino households with relevant information and trusted products to maintain a healthy, clean, and germ-free environment, and enjoy good health.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with