Bobbie's Case History
(updates will be located at the bottom of the page)
I am 58 years old, work as a legal assistant in a district attorney's office in the KC metropolitan area, and have two grown sons.
I had excellent health until I developed C. difficile in March 1993. A month earlier, my gynecologist commented on what great shape I was in "for my age." I decided not to take estrogen because of cancer in my family. I developed C.diff. in March, had it for four years, and now have it again. Until ten years ago, my only health problems were minor allergies and an occasional respiratory infection. I never had stomach problems.
Years earlier, I lost two babies. During my last pregnancy, my OB said I would miscarry, but I didn't. My youngest son has always had health problems and almost died several times. He developed C. diff. from Amoxicillin when he was four and was the youngest and one of the first people treated with oral Vancocin. He developed C. diff. again from ERYC when he was ten.
I had my first sinus infection ten years ago, which was caused by a large cyst in the right maxillary sinus. It was removed, but I had several infections a year, which responded to antibiotics, and once took antibiotics for four months without a problem. In March 1993, I had a respiratory infection, and my allergist prescribed a "new" antibiotic called Vantin. On the sixth day, I developed C. diff. symptoms. I went to a gastroenterologist, and a colonoscopy confirmed it. He prescribed Flagyl and then Vancocin after a reaction to Flagyl. I was hospitalized with pneumonia, sinusitis, a UTI, and C. diff. I was on Cipro, then I.V. ampicillin and prednisone in the hospital, and released on oral Augmentin and prednisone. I recovered from the pneumonia and had endoscopic sinus surgery but still had C. diff.
In September 1999, I went to Mayo where a doctor (a resident) said I had "irritable bowel disease." At that point, I was on Vancocin and asymptotic. He referred me to a GI in KC who thought I still had C.diff. I ground my teeth from stress while asleep and broke two teeth in December 1993. I developed osteomyelitis (bone infection) after an oral surgeon cut a nerve and botched pulling a tooth. Another surgeon put me on penicillin for a month and then I.V. Vancocin (plus oral Vancocin) for six weeks. I had several other teeth pulled, wore braces for a year, and had my teeth rebuilt.
In October l994, I went to the U. of Mich. Med. Center where a specialist in C.diff. enrolled me in a study for C. boulardi, which I took it for two years. It didn't help. I "pulsed" and "tapered" Vancocin, ate yogurt, and took various forms of acidophilus. On two different occasions, I was completely off Vancocin for four weeks but the C. diff reoccurred. The toxin cultures were positive only twice.
In 1995, the GI did a "broth" (endoscopic procedure which inserted good bacteria in the gut), but it didn't work. He did it again in April 1997, and I was FINALLY over C. diff. and so elated and grateful! I heard about a product called Lactobacillus GG (developed by Drs. Gorbach and Golden at Tufts U. and now called Culterelle) and started taking it. (It's sold at Vitamin Research and can be ordered at Osco and Walgreen at a lower price. There's an article about it and other "good bacteria" in the July/August 1999 issue of "Health Magazine.")
In December 1997, I developed asthma from mold spores on clothing stored in a cedar closet that was built incorrectly. The allergist put me on several inhalers including a steroid inhaler. I had another sinus surgery after a CAT scan showed two sinus openings had closed. The surgery showed the openings hadn't closed; my sinuses were filled with fluid. A chest X-ray showed I had osteoporosis, which another specialist said was caused from the C. diff., steroids, and several other factors. She put me on estrogen. I kept thinking, "Well, at least I don't have C. diff. anymore." I had several respiratory infections but refused to take antibiotics and wore a medic alert bracelet that read "C. diff.; no antibiotics." I was determined to never take another antibiotic.
In late May 1999, I developed an infection, which an allergist diagnosed as asthmatic bronchitis. Several days later, I couldn't breathe and went to the hospital ER where a doctor (who looked like he was 12 years old) told me I had pneumonia in both lungs. I said would rather die than take an antibiotic and how long would it take? He said I'd suffer a lot and would take a long time to die, so I gave in, and the attending doctor prescribed a "new" antibiotic called Levaquin. He assured me it couldn't cause C. diff., which I doubted. My GI's nurse suggested taking the antibiotic by IV at home to reduce the risk, but the attending doctor refused and released me on oral Levaquin and prednisone. A culture confirmed strep. pneumonia.
A month later, I developed C. diff. The GI put me on Vancocin, but it didn't work as well, and even the maximum dose only worked briefly. I had an endoscopy (which showed gastritis - probably from the prednisone) and the "broth." Now, the GI thinks I might be resistant to Vancocin. I'm tapering it and taking lots of Imodium; evidently the "broth" didn't work this time.
Before C. diff., I rarely took medicine. Now, I have a divided pillbox plus four inhalers. Different doctors have interpreted my immune function tests differently. I went to an alternative medicine doctor (a MD) recently who wants to do more tests. She said stress dramatically effects the immune system. Who has stress? I work, exercise frequently, am involved in many activities, eat nutritious foods, drink lots of water, wash my hands often, and take vitamins, minerals, and Culturelle. I am active, productive, and scared to death. I believe my inability to recover from C. diff. was due to the numerous antibiotics, stress, and perhaps genetics.
I've learned several things:
1. Never say never.
2. If necessary, question a doctor's diagnosis and/or the medicine he or she prescribes. Doctors and weather forecasters are right approximately 50% of the time. Talk to your pharmacist about medications. Every body is different and can react differently.
3. Two doctors (even in the same field) rarely agree on anything.
4. No one knows much about C. diff. yet. It's a terrifying disease.
5. Try to keep a sense of humor. It can't hurt, might help, and is free.
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