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Timothy Mok

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A University of Kentucky pharmacy resident student falls sick from E. coli while at his residency rotation in Maryland.

During his second year of hematology and oncology pharmacy residency at the University of Kentucky, Timothy “Timmy” Mok traveled to Maryland for one of his rotations to learn to practice in a real-world environment. A month into the rotation, he began to feel extreme stomach pain. He went to a hospital in Virginia, where he was diagnosed with a perforated appendix and was told he would need surgery.

Before the surgery could occur, however, doctors discovered an abdominal abscess and said it would need to be treated first. Doctors placed a drain over the site of the abscess and fluid was collected and tested. The culture showed he had an infection caused by extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) positive Escherichia coli, or E. coli, as well as resistant strains of two other bacteria. This particular strain of E. coli is highly resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics, making these infections especially difficult to treat.

Due to the resistant nature of the bacteria, Timmy was placed in isolation in the hospital, and had to stay in Virginia longer than originally planned which was emotionally tough as he had no family in the area. Family members had to take vacation time to stay with him during his ordeal. Timmy was grateful to have visits from new friends he met during his rotation.

After many weeks, he was finally cleared to go home. His discharge was delayed because the resistant nature of the bacteria would require insurance approval of home IV antibiotics. He was not able to return to work until a month after he was hospitalized. This greatly impacted his residency training and added a large financial burden. He is still not sure where he may have been exposed to the resistant bacteria as he has does not have any prior medical conditions; he believes it may have happened while he was working in a hospital. Nevertheless, Timmy is very thankful and feels lucky the infection resolved.

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