By: Christian John Lillis
Our good friend Helen Haskell of Mothers Against Medical Error emailed me about this amazingly powerful new video developed by Quebec-based actor, Stephane Roy, in response to his 59-year-old mother’s death from C. diff in 2004. Roy’s mother died during an outbreak in the Canadian city that saw thousands of Quebecers struck with a highly virulent “Quebec strain”, leading to hundreds of deaths. Nearly 10 years after his mother’s death, Roy believes that Quebec hasn’t done enough to prevent C. diff deaths which exceeded 610 in 2011.
Both Roy’s story and his video resonated greatly with me. Though our mother died from a community-acquired C. diff infection, Peggy and Roy’s mother were close in age, and their deaths drove their sons to action. What also struck me about the video is the frank and angry tone with which Roy levels his charges against the Quebecois government. He notes that the city’s government refuses to speak openly about the disease and ultimately doesn’t care that hundreds of its citizens die each year when preventative measures could be taken.
The events to which Roy compares Quebec’s 10-year C. diff death toll of 4,000+ (the 9/11 terrorist attacks, US troop losses in Afghanistan) are all American. Yet, here in America we do not have a national health insurance system and tracking C. diff deaths is haphazard at best. Still, the data we do have from the Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that the number of Americans lost to C. diff every year dwarfs the already outrageous death toll in Quebec. Estimates of American deaths caused by C. diff range from 14,000 (according to the CDC) to as many as 100,000.
And the vast majority of these deaths, like Peggy’s and like Roy’s mother, are preventable. With more knowledge, more advocacy and better policies and regulations Quebec and the US combined could save tens of thousands of lives each year. That’s why everyone at the Peggy Lillis Memorial Foundation is committed to building a true C. diff awareness movement so that this disease is eventually rare, treatable and survivable. We are glad to have an ally like Stephane Roy in the North.
Please share Action C. difficile’s video either with this blog post or from YouTube to help us and Stephane raise awareness. You can also learn more about his activism by watching the video below or reading this article from CBC News, “C. difficile fight long way from over in Quebec hospitals.”