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Patient Stories: Tatiana Chiprez Vargas

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Just weeks after her wedding, Tatiana Chiprez Vargas began feeling ill and was admitted to the hospital. The doctors then found out she had contracted MRSA.

“June 7, 2014 was the best day of my life,” said Tatiana Chiprez Vargas of Stockton, California. “It was our special day, our wedding day. It was the most amazing day ever.”

Just a few weeks later, Chiprez Vargas was lying in a Northern California hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) fighting off a deadly bacterial infection. 

In late-June 2014, Chiprez Vargas, then 25 years old, had just returned from her honeymoon. She and her husband had tied the knot after dating for seven years and were both excited about their future together. 

While at work one day, Chiprez Vargas began feeling ill. As the day went on, she felt more and more tired and finally decided to leave early. After trying over-the-counter cold and flu medicine, her symptoms did not improve and actually began to get worse. Her chest and back began to hurt and she could not lie on her back. 

Not able to handle the pain any longer, Chiprez Vargas went to the ER where she was diagnosed with strep throat, treated with antibiotics and released. She couldn’t keep the medication down and with her health declining further, she went back to the hospital.

Chiprez Vargas was admitted to the ICU with a 103-degree fever, nausea, shortness of breath and chest pain. She began coughing up blood and her lungs began shutting down. Following blood tests and a consultation with several doctors, including an infectious diseases specialist, she was diagnosed with something commonly known as a staph infection. In her case, a difficult to treat an infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). 

MRSA refers to a bacterium commonly found in humans, Staphylococcus aureus, which has mutated so that methicillin, the antibiotic that once could control it, is no longer effective. It can cause a variety of complications, including skin infections, pneumonia, and bloodstream infections. 

In the hospital, Chiprez Vargas was quarantined as doctors worked to treat her. 

She was given an antibiotic that is active against MRSA and she began showing improvement. She was released on the Fourth of July but was readmitted shortly after with the infection still in her lungs. She also had contracted a secondary infection. Following a second round of treatment and testing, she was finally released. 

How Chiprez Vargas contracted MRSA remains a mystery. 

Today, Chiprez Vargas is doing well but has a chronic cough. She doesn’t remember much of her time spent in the hospital, but the ordeal has left a lasting impression. Any sign of a cold makes her feel like MRSA might strike again.

Looking back on her experience, she hopes that her story helps raise awareness around antibiotic resistance.

“A lot of people don’t know what MRSA is until something happens. I think a lot of people still need to know what’s out there.” 

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