‘Superbug’ infection scary for woman, family

Her 7-year-old son, Julian, held up a sign reading “This is a hug.”

He couldn’t get near his mother, Lindsay Williams, because she had Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly called MRSA, a dreaded “superbug” on her chin, in her eye and inside her mouth.

Her family was terrified when Lindsay got the diagnosis. Her parents, Tom and Jackie Williams of Lynnwood, are my best friends.

“At first, I was bewildered,” Tom said. “Then once I found out what the superbug was, I was scared to death.”

A couple weeks ago, Lindsay, 26, had a boil on her neck. A big boil. After getting a scratch on her chin, she said, she probably fiddled with the boil, touched her scratch, flicked mascara off her eye — just the normal things we do to our faces.

When skin under her eye bubbled and the side of her face swelled, she went to the emergency room.

The diagnosis was “chin abscess, MRSA.”

Her mother, Jackie, didn’t know about the superbug.

“When I first saw her face swollen, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, she’s got flesh-eating disease,’ ” Jackie Williams said. “That night the news came on about MRSA, then I got to work the next morning and everyone was talking about superbug.”

Her fear eased slightly when she did research and found out that a 17-year-old who died in Virginia of the drug-resistant strain of staph bacteria, featured on news reports, received no medical treatment.

Dr. Greg Schroedl, an emergency room physician at Northwest Hospital, said he sees MRSA almost every day.

“It’s very common,” Schroedl said. “The public is just becoming more aware of it.”

He reviewed Lindsay’s records and said she might have been exposed to bacteria that can create an area of infection. In such cases, the infected area is lanced and drained.

“In the majority of times, that is adequate treatment,” the doctor said. “Occasionally, bacteria gets into the bloodstream and goes to different parts of the body.”

That can lead to serious infections and death.

During procedures at Northwest to lance and drain her chin and eye infections, Lindsay got dizzy, as if she were having a panic attack, she said.

When the infection progressed, she had more lancing and draining. Yuck. There was talk of admitting her to the hospital to administer an antibiotic that would be the last line of defense against the bacteria.

The horrific news hit hard. Where could she have gotten infected? Lindsay said it could have come from playing in a public poker game.

That’s one possible explanation, Schroedl said. Everyone touches the same cards and chips.

Being on the front line, the physician said he sees people almost every day who picked up the organism in public places. As a precaution, he recommended that when people use a weight room or a bench in a shower room, for instance, they sit on a clean towel if not fully clothed.

“Do good hand cleansing,” the doctor said. “Being a little cautious about what you expose yourself to will make a lot of sense.”

Antibiotics made Lindsay weak and miserable at her Shoreline home. She spent days on the couch with no energy. I’m glad to report she is on the mend and went back to her job Wednesday, with a bandage over the scar on her chin. Her eye looks great.

Her son is happy he can hug his mom. Tom Williams is sleeping again at night, something he had trouble doing when his daughter faced the infection.

“I was concerned about my dad,” Lindsay said. “He said ‘I love you’ more in one phone call than he said in five years.”

We enjoyed a group card game Saturday night and it was kind of hilarious, what with everyone washing their hands every ten minutes and sharing a bottle of hand sanitizer.

We all felt relief that Lindsay was going to be fine, and with a little common sense, the superbug wasn’t so scary.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: oharran@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3451.

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