This common bacterial infection can take your colon
The truth is, Google has a lot of horror stories regarding the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile, better known as C.Diff. And there’s good reason for it. C.diff is a horrible monster inside you. That’s why I want to share my story with everybody in the hopes that I can shed some positive light on this horrible, emotional and physically draining disease.
Imagine your beloved family member go into the hospital for a simple procedure like a hand surgery. Then a few days to weeks later they begin to feel ill, stomach cramps, fever and diarrhea. What could be possibly worse than the pre-stress of having a loved one go into surgery and then get discharged feeling worse than before their hospital procedure?
Maybe now you’re stuck wondering why they feel like they’re on their deathbed, worrying if this is some type of surgery complication, you phone the physician to ask the important questions and he immediately tells you to meet with them for a stool test. And he manages to push down other appointments because you now are his top priority.
“What? A stool test, what does my hand surgery have to do with a stool test?” And that’s when the truth came out. “Well, the antibiotics we administered to prevent an infection may have caused a life-threatening disease in your stomach called “Clostridium difficile.”
Healthcare-acquired infections, whether it’s bacterial, fungal or viral are real and they happen more often than you can imagine. Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center has opened up about the problem in the hopes of informing the public. He said:
“So much death is happening from these infections,” Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center stated. “It’s something that could happen to us or someone we know the next time we go to the hospital.” He continued. “This is not a niche issue and, as Peter stated, it can be a matter of life and death: 648,000 patients got a total of 721,800 infections as a result of their care in 2011, the latest data year provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And every day, more than 200 Americans with these types of infections will die during their hospital stays.”
So, now you can try to imagine how horrified I was when I found out Cipro (antibiotic used for UTI) gave me this life-threatening disease. When my provider told me I tested positive for Clostridium difficile I became broken and scared inside. Little did I know soon I would be mentally, emotionally and financially burdened.
“You tested positive for toxins A and B.”
That was the one sentence changed everything in my life. Clostridium difficile (C.diff) is not limited to being caught during just hospital procedures, no these bacteria are becoming so common that it’s now on the rise in our very own communities. C.diff is everywhere including our backyards, our soil and even the meat you eat.
I was merely getting checked for a possible kidney infection. Made my way to the office, did the little pee test and boom, the doctor prescribed me the antibiotics “Cipro and Amoxicillin.” And because they work by killing bacteria (including the good guys) C.diff was able to take over inside my intestines.
But at that moment in time it was an easy fix to a another potentially life-threatening infection. I didn’t think I was about to start a War with C.diff. After finishing the course of antibiotics I felt great. Got my daily fix at the gym, started working on my writing, went to Sundance Film Festival 2016 and preparing for another soon right after. But one night I got pretty sick, throwing up every morning and even going to the restroom 10-18 times a day.
Generally, most of the time when you get these particular symptoms it’s just a stomach flu or maybe even a stomach upset from something you ate. But for me, it was far more than I thought and from a source I also would have never thought existed because antibiotics are our ‘”heroes,” right? It was in fact the antibiotics I took for my kidney infection in July 2016 to treat my kidney infection. And many people have even caught C.diff after a visit to the dentist.
I never thought that I could be affected by Clostridium difficile and for the next year, my life was never the same again. I was already under the stress of having to watch my mom endure a parotidectomy and that alone can be scary but I felt like my case was worse because I was afraid I would infect the whole family and it would kill us (I do tend to over worry and jump five steps ahead, it’s one of my flaws). My life was faced- with having to fight against an infection that has been compared as ‘second to cancer,’ because it’s so hard to beat and not relapse.
And it decided to awaken a disease I never thought I had (Crohn’s disease). C.diff can actually cause what’s called post-infectious IBS and what my provider refers to PI-IBD. And let me be clear, it didn’t cause me to develop IBD. It just took it out of remission, so now I’m here fighting no only C.diff but Crohn’s disease. Both of these gastrointestinal issues show very similar symptoms making the fight against C.diff harder and riskier due to the fact that my stomach has already taken a beating from the bacterial infection.
Let’s talk about what my positive results for Toxin A and Toxin B mean. According to my provider, the biggest risk during a C.diff infection is the risk for a toxic megacolon. I could potentially lose my colon because these bacteria release toxins that wreak havoc on your intestines. Take a look at what Mayo Clinic explains this all as officially.
C. diff according to MAYO Clinic:
“Clostridium difficile often called C. difficile or C. diff, is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.
Illness from C. difficile most commonly affects older adults in hospitals or in long-term care facilities and typically occurs after use of antibiotic medications. However, studies show increasing rates of C. difficile infection among people traditionally not considered high risk, such as younger and healthy individuals without a history of antibiotic use or exposure to health care facilities.
Each year in the United States, about a half million people get sick from C. difficile, and in recent years, C. difficile infections have become more frequent, severe and difficult to treat.”
What are the symptoms of C.diff?
Frequent, watery diarrhea (3 or more times each day for several days)
Abdominal pain or tenderness
Symptoms of a more severe C. diff. infection include:
Frequent, watery diarrhea (up to 15 times each day)
Severe abdominal pain or tenderness
Loss of appetite
Low-grade fever of up to 101°F in children or 100°F to 102°F in adults
Blood or pus in the stool
The Journal of Clinical Microbiology has openly discussed C.diff and relapses.
“ C.diff causes a lot of relapses and the fighting can go on for years. “
“Recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) occurs in up to 35% of patients. Recurrences can be due to either relapse with the same strain or reinfection with another strain. In this study, multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) was performed on C. difficile isolates from patients with recurrent CDI to distinguish relapse from reinfection. In addition, univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify risk factors associated with relapse. Among patients with a single recurrence, relapse due to the original infecting strain was more prevalent than reinfection and the interval between episodes was shorter than among patients who had reinfection. Among patients with >1 recurrence, equal distributions of relapse and reinfection or a combination of the two episode types were observed. Initial infection with the BI/NAP1/027 epidemic clone was found to be a significant risk factor for relapse. This finding may have important implications for patient therapy. Classification of recurrent CDI episodes by MLVA can be utilized to make informed patient care decisions and to accurately define new CDI cases for infection control and reimbursement purposes.”
Most people can get through this one or two treatments of Vancomycin. But I haven’t been one of those lucky humans. I’ve relapsed four times up-to-date. And the fear of losing my colon, leaving my lovely mom and family behind has eaten me to pieces. What would life be without a colon?
I was panicked, scared, spent a lot of time awake at night because of anxiety, fearing the sun rise because that’s when all the stomach problems start. I never thought I would start planning my days based around my next bowel movements and stomach pain. And with each relapse, my life became even more hellish.
Most people (including me) spend five-hundred dollars or more on just medicine because most insurances, whether you are covered or not, refuse to help with the costs. The medical procedures done, endoscopy, colonoscopy and even the PillCam have brought up piles of bills.
Ahh, so the C.diff even robs your bank.
Over the last one month I’ve been in and out of the instacares for dehydration in order to prevent my organs from failing to stay hydrated. So, far I’ve counted 12 instacare visits and 10 regular visits to my family care provider and 4 with my gastro specialist.
But I’m still fighting and hope that this doesn’t continue to relapse in my life.
How often do relapses occur in C.diff patients?
“One of the most problematic aspects of Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) is the propensity of recurrence in 15% to 35% of patients who initially respond to antimicrobial therapy. In addition, recurrent CDI is difficult to treat and contributes to significant morbidity and mortality and increased health care expenditures.”
It sucks when you become the statistic of not being able to kick C.diff like most other healthy young adults. After relapsing four times, spending hours in the bathroom, isolating from family, bleaching the whole house and ruining all my clothes out of paranoia that the spores were everywhere in the house we live, I made the choice to turn this trial into something where I can inform and help others in the future and currently.
I’m still fighting (March 9, 2017) and it’s been hell. I just had my PillCam procedure because my GI doctor feels that not only do I have C.diff but it also may have caused an IBD flair (Crohn’s disease in the small intestine for me). C.diff does change your life in many ways. After I beat the C.diff I’m going to have to fight to push Crohn’s into remission.
It was just this morning I was called and told “Your provider has found the cause to all your problems next to C.diff and we did the PillCapsule to look for Crohn’s disease. So, it also left behind a pretty nice ‘gift,’ for the rest of my life.
C.diff takes your self-esteem, your money, it affects your relationships and turns you into a person with OCD. You can find me running around the house with a bottle of bleach, shooting at ghost spores because of the fear of reinfection.
This is not my version of a fun first-person shooting game. Trying to shoot ghost spores with bleach is a pain in the butt. (I prefer a good game of Titanfall or Battlefield 4).
The worst part about this disease is that many people do die from it because the majority of those catching C.diff are the elderly. And they do suffer when trying to fight this disease. This shouldn’t be happening to our mothers, fathers, grandma’s or grandpas! Their bodies get tired of fighting already after surgeries and it’s hard when you’re not super young but it is possible to beat it even at an older age. I’ve started to learn that having faith, thinking positive can go along way. So, if you’re currently fighting the C.diff, don’t give up.
There is good news, there are new options to treating a C.diff infection. It’s called a fecal transplant. And it has a 98% cure rate because it populates the gut with healthy bacteria that will crowd out the C.diff.
Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cover the procedure and it’s still ‘investigative,’ costing around $5000. But money is just money, my life, your life, our lives matter. So, if you’re on antibiotics and suddenly sick, get to your provider for a test. C.diff can go undiagnosed for quite a long time causing major medical bills and a long fight. There’s still a light at the end of the tunnel you just have to fight the good fight. Most people see this as getting a second chance at life.
I’m currently still raising money for my treatment, you can check out the GoFundMe and remember that even a simple share can go along way. If you have any questions about C.diff, just leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. It’s time to start spreading the word about this disease and how it can be prevented. The plan is to keep family, friends and fans updated on my progress and continue to help make this world a better place to live.
Trials are our ways of helping others in the world. And I’ll be damned if I let it continue to darken my world. My smiles have been dead for the last year and today I woke feeling like it’s time to shake it off and keep fighting.
“C. diff” – How It Spreads, Symptoms & Prevention