You’ve probably heard some horror stories about MRSA infections lately. It’s a superbug that is difficult to treat because it is resistant to most of our antibiotics. This, to me, makes it of particular concern in an SHTF world.
The CDC explains:
MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics. In the general community, MRSA most often causes skin infections. In some cases, it causes pneumonia (lung infection) and other issues. If left untreated, MRSA infections can become severe and cause sepsis – a life-threatening reaction to severe infection in the body. (source)
Back in 2012, The Atlantic reported that MRSA infections had doubled in the previous 5 years. In 2017 there was yet another uptick.
MRSA is bad news and not the easiest thing to treat. First, the wound has to be surgically drained. Then it has to be dressed, then the person has to be on specific. antibiotics for 10 days. Ask me how I know. Really.
A cautionary tale about MRSA
Are you ready for a gross story with
- a moral for the stubborn among us and
- a lesson for those preparing a doomsday medical kit?
Here you go. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
A few weeks ago, I had a business trip to Baltimore. That’s about a 5-hour drive from where I live. I was feeling a bit draggy/lazy so I invited my eldest daughter to come with me so I didn’t have to drive, then go to a meeting, be charming, and attempt to appear smarter than I am.
When we got to our hotel, I noticed what I thought was a mosquito bite on my inner thigh. I idly wondered how it got there since it isn’t shorts weather yet, but I didn’t give it much thought. I had makeup to apply and a meeting to rock. I walked to the nearby restaurant to have dinner with some folks who work with big-name marketing companies. By the time I got home, the “bite” was bigger but not worrisome.
But the next morning, it was totally different – huge, hot to touch, and a dark, scary shade of purple. Thanks to Google, I decided that it was a boil. No big deal. We grabbed some breakfast and headed home.
I started to feel terrible in the car. I was running a fever and felt nauseated. But me being the stubborn individual that I am, I decided that the fever and nausea were probably unrelated to the throbbing wound on my leg. My daughter wanted to take me to an urgent care clinic right away, but I felt I could treat it at home successfully. Because, as I mentioned, I’m stubborn that way.
So stubborn that I spent the next 24 hours applying compresses and using everything but voodoo to draw it to a head so that it drained itself. By Saturday morning, it was rock hard, the size of a golf ball and I had to put on a skirt because pants would have been impossible. My fever had returned and I had chills.
Then, suddenly there was a stabbing pain so sharp that I cried out. I thought it had burst and that relief would be close at hand, but no such luck. The wound began to throb painfully, no matter what I did. I was literally writhing around on the bed. There were red streaks around the wound and the swollen area around the main wound was about 8 inches in circumference. My daughters rushed into the room and insisted on taking me to the emergency room. We compromised on the urgent care clinic.
There, I was scolded and told I should have come in sooner. Because it turns out that it wasn’t a boil.
It was a MRSA infection.
You know. The scary one that can’t always be treated with antibiotics. This was only 2 days from the first symptom, that tiny little “mosquito bite.”
The doctor drained the wound in the office and cut away some of the infected tissue, the most excruciating thing I have ever endured – and I’ve had two 8-pound babies at home, without drugs. Lidocaine is a joke. Seriously. I hate you, Lidocaine, for deceiving me with false promises and broken dreams.
I hobbled out with a large, gaping hole in my leg stuffed with gauze, a handful of prescriptions, and a whole new concern for these types of symptoms. I have absolutely no idea how I got this and the doctor told me that most people don’t know anymore. It’s THAT common. This kind of makes me want to wear a body condom whenever I leave the house now.
Two weeks of bed rest later (walking around irritates the wound because of where it’s located), the photos on my computer have never been more organized. I’ve watched everything of interest that Netflix has to offer. Twice. I’m bored and cranky.
Let this be a cautionary tale: Any time you have a wound that looks infected along with a fever, you should seek medical attention. Please do this sooner than I did and the chunk you have cut out of your leg may be smaller than the chunk I had cut out of my leg.
I was lucky. If I’d waited much longer, I could have ended up with a systemic illness that might have required hospitalization. People get limbs amputated because of MRSA. It can get into your bloodstream or your organs. You can DIE from it. It requires quick action because it can be deadly.
What if this had happened after the SHTF?
Experiences like this really make you think about what a world without medical care and antibiotics would be like.
- Stock up on what medical supplies you can, You can find a fantastic list here with the tools you need to have on hand.
- Learn what antibiotic treats what infection/illness and do your best to acquire what you can. Remember that most drugs just get weaker when they are past their expiration dates, but certain ones can be deadly. Scroll down to #5 for a list of drugs that lose potency quickly after expiration.
- Have some kind of idea how to diagnose medical conditions, since in many semi-apocalyptic situations you won’t have Google at your fingertips. I’m talking about books. Physical print-and-paper books. There’s a list below that you should get your hands on.
- Cross your fingers that your kids won’t be the ones cutting a chunk out of you.
And for the love of all things cute and fluffy, if you are in a situation in which you CAN get medical care and antibiotics for something that is potentially deadly, obviously, do that instead of trying to treat yourself.
Even if you firmly believe in alternative medicine and essential oils, this may require something stronger. One of the people I told about my experience said that she had tried using her essential oil remedies and her infection worsened to the extent that she was hospitalized and nearly died. It’s important to learn about natural remedies, of course – one day antibiotics could be unavailable. But while they ARE available, don’t risk your life.
Some practical things that I learned about MRSA and the treatment of it
Learn from my painful lesson so that you don’t have to have your own painful lesson.
Clean a wound, no matter how small, with an antibacterial product as soon as possible. This is the best way to prevent a MRSA infection. Once the infection is present, dabbing on stuff like triple antibiotic cream will not do anything to help.
- Stock up on Hibiclens. It’s an excellent product for cleaning a wound and for soaking a wound after it has been treated. You can get it on Amazon in 1-gallon jugs, which works out to be way cheaper than the tiny little bottles you can get at your pharmacy.
- Pick up scalpels. I know, the idea of hacking away at a wound is horrifying, but in this situation, it has to be opened up and drained. You can get scalpels at your local feed store that are one-time use. This product has one handle and 10 disposable blades. Having scalpels in your medical kit doesn’t mean that you are intending to perform an appendectomy on your kitchen table – there are practical reasons to have them and it’s better to use the proper tool than hack away with a kitchen knife.
- Have gloves on hand. MRSA is extremely contagious, so be certain that you have disposable medical gloves for treating the infection.
- Have the supplies to properly dress a wound. You’re going to need lots of sterile gauze pads, surgical tape, and rolled gauze. I used rolled gauze to keep the gauze pads on because the skin around the wound was so inflamed that putting tape directly on it threatened another wound. When the doctor drained the wound, she stuffed a strip of sterile gauze into it, leaving a little “tail” sticking out. That’s because a wound of that size heals from the outside in, which could trap bacteria inside and lead to another infection. The gauze strip will probably fall out on its own in a couple of days, but if it doesn’t, you’ll need to pull it out with tweezers. (That’s why you have that little tail.)
- Soak 2-4 times per day. The day after a wound like this is drained, you’ll need to soak 3-4 times per day. Do this until the wound scabs over. Use a localized bath, depending on where the wound is. You don’t want to soak all of yourself in bacteria tea. To soak, add Hibiclens to warm – not hot – water. Try to stay in there for 10-15 minutes each time. Splash the water around the wound to help flush it out.
It took two weeks of sticking pretty close to bed until it was easier to walk without irritating the wound. I slept a lot, took my antibiotics, and let my kids wait on me while I binge-watched Netflix. I was shocked at how exhausted I was from this. Also, I learned I will never be an opioid addict. They sent home hydrocodone after cutting a hunk of flesh out of my leg, and it made me itch indescribably from head to toe. I won’t be taking that again.
Books you need:
- Merck Manual Home Edition
- Merck Manual Physician’s Edition (expensive but worth it)
- Prepper’s Natural Medicine
- Prepping for a Pandemic (check out the section on VRSA)
- Where There Is No Doctor
- The Survival Medicine Handbook