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Patient Stories: Brock Wade

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An active, sports-driven 9-year-old boy survives a terrifying invasive infection and pneumonia caused by MRSA.

“If we don’t operate right now, she’ll be dead in four hours.” That’s the last thing I remember hearing from the doctor before I underwent emergency surgery in 2005 because of a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection I contracted after back surgery. I was lucky to survive. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine MRSA would re-enter my life four years later; this time it almost took the life of my oldest son.

Brock has always been a very sports-driven child. He plays football, baseball, and basketball. He’s full of life and loves to be active. That’s why it was so easy to overlook what seemed like a simple sports injury, without ever thinking it was the first sign of an infection that would nearly take his life.

In early August 2009, Brock, then 9 years old, went to camp and was riding a scooter when he had an accident. It did not seem like anything serious at the time, just some cuts and scrapes—road rash—on his leg. The staff at camp cleaned him up and sent him home.

Brock continued to be active, unaffected by the cuts on his leg. But one day, he started complaining of pain in his left arm. Having played football a few days before, we all just assumed he injured his arm then or maybe pulled a muscle when he was tackled. We just wrote it off as another one of the many “boys will be boys” injuries Brock had experienced being such an active kid.

However, that night he started complaining more about the pain in his arm. He could barely move it and slept only an hour that night. The next morning, he seemed fine and went out with his stepdad. Soon, though, my husband called saying Brock had passed out four times in 30 minutes, and they were now heading to the hospital.

The doctors initially told us he had just pulled a muscle, and then they said it was the flu, but I knew that couldn’t be right. His condition kept getting worse. We next went to Brock’s pediatrician, who took an X-ray of his chest. The X-ray showed Brock’s liver was enlarged, and there was an early concern he might have leukemia. It was during this round of tests that we found out Brock had an MRSA infection and was in septic shock.

Brock was immediately put on five different antibiotics, and an MRI was performed on his arm. The MRI revealed the MRSA had attacked the bones in his shoulder, causing an infection known as osteomyelitis. We were again rushed to another hospital, where the doctors told me the MRSA was so advanced that fluid was filling up in Brock’s heart and lungs.

At this point, I felt that I might not be taking Brock home ever again. Everything the doctors said to me seemed to be preparing me for the worst. Brock underwent five invasive surgeries, on his shoulder and in his chest to remove the fluid putting pressure on his lungs, heart, and other vital organs. He managed to recover for about two days and then crashed again. More surgeries followed.

Finally, after a month in the hospital and against all odds, Brock recovered and was well enough to come home. He left the hospital with what looked like a shark bite missing from his arm, and he weighed nearly 30 pounds less than when this terrifying ordeal began.

MRSA has changed our family’s life forever. Brock still gets scared anytime he has a little cut or a scrape. As a family, we don’t take things for granted anymore. If our kids want to do something, and there’s any possible way we can do it, we do it together. MRSA took over our lives, and I pray that no other child or mother has to go through what we went through.

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