Skip to nav Skip to content

Patient Stories: Peggy Lillis

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email

A mom from Brooklyn dies from complications of a condition brought on by antibiotic use.

On Tuesday, April 13, my mom had a root canal, and the dentist prescribed the antibiotic clindamycin to treat an abscess. The next day, she felt fine. On Thursday, mom came home from work and said she didn’t feel well. Thinking she caught a bug from one of her students, she still went to her class that night.

The following day, though, my mom stayed home from work, which is something she almost never did. She ended up in bed all weekend with what she thought was a stomach virus. On Saturday, she spoke to her doctor by phone. He prescribed, by phone, a prescription strength anti-diarrheal medicine and told her she should see a GI doctor on Monday. She began taking the medication later that day. We came to find out later that an anti-diarrheal medicine is one of the worst things you can take when you have Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.

That Saturday, my fiancée Melissa’s grandfather suddenly passed away, and my mom told me to go take care of Melissa. We continued to check in on my mom – as did my brother, Christian, by phone – bringing her soup, tea, and other liquids. She still had difficulty keeping anything down and seemed to be getting worse. Worried that she had been sick for several days, on Monday, Christian spoke to mom; they agreed that he would take her to the doctor the next day.

On Tuesday, April 20th, my brother came over to take my mom to her doctor’s appointment. But she was very pale, somewhat weak and dizzy. Worried about dehydration, we decided that she should be taken to the hospital instead, and we called 911. The medics arrived to take her to the hospital and discovered that, despite her still being up walking and talking, her blood pressure was dangerously low. This is the first sign that something was seriously wrong.

Christian called me at the wake and told me to come to the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, the emergency room physicians had determined that my mom had a massive infection, later determined to be caused by Clostridium difficile, which was brought on by antibiotic use. Despite being lucid, and telling us she was fine, my mom was in septic shock. They began fluid and antibiotic therapy. Christian and I called our family to tell them that my mom was really sick. Because she was in shock, the doctors said she was unable to make her own medical decisions. So we decided that Christian would, with me and our Aunt Helen, who is a nurse.

The doctors started a central line for fluids and antibiotics, performed additional blood tests, scheduled my mom for a CT scan and performed a colonoscopy to determine if she had an obstruction. She was sedated and intubated to make sure her airway wasn’t compromised during the procedures. The doctors continue treating my mom with IV antibiotics and other drugs, and told us that if she didn’t respond by morning they would do surgery to remove her colon “in an attempt to save her life.” It was at this point that we realized that what we initially thought was the flu only four days ago could ultimately cost my mom her life. Even though the doctor told us to go home and get some rest, that he would call us if surgery was necessary, we stayed as long as we could, surrounded by mom’s brothers, sisters, cousins and close friends. Even some of Christian and my friends. Eventually, we all went back to our house to try and sleep, and pray.

At six o’clock the next morning, the doctor called Christian and told us to get to the hospital. My mom had not improved overnight and surgery was necessary. The doctor told us that she was so ill he was afraid she wouldn’t survive surgery, but that she would very likely die from sepsis without it. We consented to the surgery, which my mom survived.

From late morning until the afternoon, it seemed that she was improving. But around 4 pm, her vital signs started to deteriorate. The doctors put her on 100% oxygen and provided additional drugs to support her blood pressure. She continued to decline throughout the afternoon.

At 7:20 pm, the ICU doctor informed us that my mom had passed. She had gone into cardiac arrest. They had tried to revive her several times to no avail.

This website uses cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Cookies facilitate the functioning of this site including a member login and personalized experience. Cookies are also used to generate analytics to improve this site as well as enable social media functionality.