Superbugs: My First Real Taste of Fear

Pretty as a child’s picture, but not fun at all! ESBL E. coli Image from www.scitechdaily.com

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
~ Frank Herbert, Dune

 

Wondered why I haven’t been blogging this past fortnight?

Last year, in the aftermath of major surgery, I became infected with a UTI (urinary tract infection). You can read more about that here. I had a catheter at the time while my bladder healed from a tear and it seems that this is how I picked up this little bug. A hospital-acquired infection.

No biggie, I thought back then. A simple round of antibiotics and it will be fixed.

Alas, no. This particular infection, ESBL E. coli is a superbug. In other words my little infection was antibiotic-resistant. It was okay, I was assured. There were still antibiotics that would work.

I was given oral antibiotics in hospital and then more when I got home. Apart from being slow to clear the infection, these particular antibiotics also caused me vision loss. Ocular toxicity and crystals forming in the back of my retina mean that even now my vision hasn’t returned to normal, although it is 80% better than what it was in October last year.

After the vision loss I decided to step away from my specialists ( a gynecologist and a urologist) and work with my fabulous local doctor who is also my acupuncturist. Using diet, chinese herbs, IV Vitamin C infusions and acupuncture we finally got my bladder infection sorted, my eyes improved and me feeling really good again.

Hooray. I beat the superbug! I went off on holidays and ran at life full tilt. It felt marvellous.

Until late March when I became infected with Shigella, a nasty gastrointestinal bug that laid me out flat and totalled my already-compromised immune system. (I have late-stage Lyme-disease. It complicates everything.)

My UTI flared up again, and my local doctor took a urine specimen. It was Easter Thursday, and we didn’t expect a result quickly. But we got one on Easter Saturday. It was the same superbug – ESBL E. coli. No worries my doctor said. It’s resistant to quite a few oral antibiotics but there are some it has sensitivity to. We’ll get you on them right away. And he did.

I took a first course and then a second, but I wasn’t noticing much difference. In fact I was beginning to feel worse.

We took a second specimen and discontinued the drugs.

This infection felt different to the one I had in hospital in 2016. Back then I was pissing blood and tissue and was in complete unrelenting misery, needing to pee every ten minutes and then only producing a bloody dribble. This time my urine was cloudy, and my entire lower pelvis ached but although I felt awfully uncomfortable I didn’t feel like I needed to pee constantly. Instead I felt like something was about to burst inside me. Car rides over bumps were agony, and I couldn’t even bend down to trim my toenails because of the pressure it put on my bladder. My back ached, and I couldn’t sit or lie comfortably.

On Friday 28 April, the night before my retreat, my doctor called me at home, quite late. I still had the superbug. It was no longer responsive to any oral antibiotic. He’d consulted an Infectious Diseases expert about what to do next.  I needed to report to hospital early the next morning for IV antibiotics. One big dose should do it and then I’d be able to head to retreat as planned. Important, seeing as I was running it! And just to be safe I’d have a second dose on Monday lunchtime while everyone was on a break.

Getting ready for my IV antibiotics and finding it hard to believe that things had escalated to me needing to go to hospital to be treated.

But I didn’t feel better from my massive IV antibiotic hit. I tried not to panic and focused on other things.

Monday morning my doctor rang me early. I was in my room, getting ready for breakfast before a big day of teaching. My lab work showed that my superbug was now resistant to this IV antibiotic too. I was going to have to be admitted to hospital and try a new antibiotic, very strong, and given in infusions eight hours apart for five days.

My wonderful PA Dana and I madly restructured the course to allow me to be a hospital inpatient from late every afternoon until mid-morning the next day, then duck back to run the retreat in my seven hour window of free time.

We coped okay, but the drugs made me feel even more awful.

Resigning myself to being in hospital in the middle of my retreat

On Tuesday morning just as I was about to head back to my retreat the Duty Doctor came racing into my room. I couldn’t leave. The superbug was now no longer responding to the latest drugs. There was only one real option left. I was to be given a new drug straight away. My own doctor kept talking to the Infectious Diseases specialist, and I was given incredible care by the staff at Byron Central Hospital.

We rolled onto the final option, with the same regime of an IV infusion every eight hours over seven days. Retreat finished midday on Thursday and my husband Ben raced my back to hospital to stay. No more gate passes for me!

I’ve been really ill before. I’ve had some very big scares. But nothing compares to this one.

As Ben drove me back to hospital after my retreat concluded I realised that even after a full week of IV drugs I still wasn’t feeling improvement. I was struck with a sudden thought. There weren’t many things left to throw at this infection. It was a sobering moment. My darling husband. My precious pups. What if there was no more time? If things went downhill there was no time left to finish my memoir or my pirate tales. No time to go to the places I had wanted to travel to. No time to finally be well and just hang out with Ben. Or to go do yum-cha with my sister. Or go listen to my brother’s band in some Tasmanian pub on a Friday night.

Byron Central Hospital – best staff ever!

It took until Sunday night before my symptoms went from escalating to turning the corner. By that stage I was also taking a drop of Frankincense essential oil on my tongue every ten minutes. When my symptoms began to remit I took it back to half-hourly, and then to hourly. I’m not ashamed to say that I also called on God, my Ancestors, my Guides and on the healing energy that my students and friends were sending me.

Somehow, things finally went in my favour.

I’m home now. And I’m feeling wrecked from the enormous stress and quantity of drugs I’ve had to subject my poor body to. On doctor’s orders I’m on two months of rest to build my immune system back up. My next retreat has been postponed until September. We’ll give you more details on that soon.

 

Right now every bladder twinge, every burning sensation or cramp makes me wonder if we killed it. Or if this damned bug still lurks inside me, waiting for me to drop my guard. Something still doesn’t feel right. I’m trying not to worry about it. But of course, I am.

During the day I’m fine. But at night my dreams are all nightmares where the infection was never completely cleared and when it flares up again there are no more drugs and I die.

Suddenly, all that talk about antibiotic-resistant bacteria being the major threat of the future just got personal and very, very real.

 

So, apart from looking after yourselves, what can you do to make sure you don’t end up where I have? Eat well. Rest enough. Get some sunshine and some exercise. Only take antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor, and take them exactly as directed. Wash your hands well after going to the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. It’s simple basic hygiene but it helps enormously to stop the spread of infection. Probiotics and fermented food help too, by keeping your gut health strong. Ladies, when using the bathroom wipe from front to back to stop bacteria from your bowel potentially ending up in your urethra and bladder. If you’re immuno-compromised don’t take risks. Be extra vigilant with your hygiene and don’t be afraid to wear a mask and to use gloves or hand sanitiser.

And whatever you do, don’t get Lyme disease. Especially in Australia.  But that’s a whole other story…

The beautiful waterlillies some of my students brought me during my hospital stay.

39 thoughts on “Superbugs: My First Real Taste of Fear

  1. Sending healing thoughts of Love and Light to you Nicole. You are deeply loved around the world by voices you may never hear and by faces you may never see, but our hearts are ONE with you.

  2. I hope all the healing powers of the universe come to you Nicole. Life is rough for some of us.I hope you feel better soon.
    Love,
    Jo-Ann

  3. It’s hard to take in that someone with your spiritual insight has to suffer so much. I pray that many healing angels are at your side and help you recover completely. Sending love to you x x

  4. Oh Nicole… what a horrendous time your having!
    Sending you so much love and healing and fingers crossed that the bug is definately gone…. i wish i lived closer to be able to help out! … you are so strong and a real inspiration 💖💖💖

  5. Dear dear Nicole – I am sorry for the pain, the discomfort and most of all the fear that you have experienced as a result of this bug. It sounds like you have had the best of care – I am wishing you peace and improvement. We will hold your hand across the wires. xoxoxo

  6. Hi Nicole…..how awful. I cannot believe that one person has had to go through so much and you have had to go through. You really seem to have the right attitude which should help enormously but enough is enough already.
    I know what a so called normal bladder infection is like and believe me I have had my fair share but compared to what you have suffered, mine are not even worth a mention. I know that dreaded feeling when you think you have another one again.
    I am praying for you and hopefully you will get rid of the bug FOREVER !!
    Big Hugs….Rita

  7. Oh no, dearest Nicole, what an utter nightmare!!! Wishing you strength and healing times and a bugless bladder!!! Thinking of you and sending you much love. Take care of yourself and take all the time you need to get well!! Much love, Jem ❤️😘❤️

  8. Sending love. Thanks for sharing your journey with us Nicole, good to hear you’ve turned the corner. Rest well and stay merciful towards yourself.

  9. Omg, Nicole I’m so very sorry. How bloody miserable you must have felt. And how serious your infection has been. And yes, Lyme always complicates everything. Sending love, light and prayers your way.

  10. Thinking of you Nicole, sending love and healing. I told my friend who is a naturopath about your battle with Lyme’s
    And she told me about a medical medium who is being guided about illnesses like yours and the treatments for them.
    His name is Anthony William
    Medical medium.
    Might be worth googling.
    To your health and happiness Nicole ❤

  11. Oh my ! This sounds very very dreadful….please rest well Nicole….we want you back soon with your amazing blogs & strong spirit…sending you love,light & healing energy….take care !!

  12. Sending you love and light and healing. Thinking of you every day. You are amazing. Going through all this – and still sending advice and love to us all. Please take care of you. The amazing Ben is in our thoughts too. Sending hugs to you from Sydney xoxoxoxo

  13. Bloody hell NIc that’s huge! Love and light on your path to better health and fun. I had one of those staff infections last year. Found it by accident when I went to hospital with chest pains. I had no symptoms. My doctor hit it with some guns – by injection daily for 5 days and hit the target. But hell Nic you don’t do things by halves darling. Let’s just get you well and do the living at full speed and not by halves either. Love to you and Ben Robyn xx0x0x0x0x0x0

  14. Dearest Nicole,
    Your silence over the last couple of days did leave some worrying queries in our minds. Pray that your every effort to conquer those bugs actually succeeds or has already been successful. Stay strong dear friend,and know that we all look upto you as a beacon of strength and renewed hope. The very same traits that will help you walk over suc moments of trial. Get well soon dear.
    Keeping you safe in our prayers,lots of hug and love

  15. I missed you lots Nicole . I thought you were on your retreat and always I was wishing to be with you . Poor you , sooooooo scary look after yourself . Thinking of you across the pond
    😔😔
    Cherryx

  16. What a tough path you’ve been walking … I wish you peaceful days and fearless nights, I wish you a thousand precious moments with your nearest and dearest and most of all I wish you the serenity and strength to overcome the challenges life is throwing your way. love and light D

  17. I can’t believe how much you have been through. You are so strong though and can get through anything. Thinking of you and sending you lot of love Nicole. Rita xxx

  18. Dear Nicole, you have helped so many people with their lives, including me. This bug infection is so very unjust but I know if anyone can beat it, you can. Sending you love and much healing energy and light.

  19. Phew but you are so brave …. beyond brave actually. Thank you for sharing your learnings and thoughts , I know I learn from you with every blog post. sending lots and lots of hugs and love from South Africa

  20. You are like the Ever Ready battery! You just keep getting up and going and going! Your spirit is a wonderful example to others who are going through rough times. So cuddle with your adorable dogs and your adoring husband, spend time in nature and in the sun and soon you will be better.

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  23. oh my gosh i have only seen this now, & I’m gobsmacked that the universe could be serving you up yet another health mission to get through! Huge hugs & love & care & all the healy vibes to dear You Nicole xxx <3 My little issues do seem much more insignificant now.

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  29. Oh Nicole! I recently spent 18 days in hospital with mycoplasma pneumonia (which wasn’t diagnosed for many days). I love what you say and do and how you do much more than cope – you are so generous. Thank you for your wisdom xxx

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