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I remember sitting at work in early March and noticing increasing pain in the lower right molar area of my mouth. “Let’s face it,” I thought. “You haven’t been taking care of yourself since you had the twins.” Yes, they were three, but here I was 49, working full-time and caring for three year olds again. By the time they went to bed at night, I was spent, and so when choices had to be made, I came last. I wasn’t brushing or flossing like I should, I wasn’t eating or sleeping like I should. Heck, I was lucky to shave my legs and get a shower. I hadn’t had my nails done in three years either; I just couldn’t keep up. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the price I would pay for ignoring my own health and that it would all start with a trip to the dentist.

We were new to the area, and so when my tooth pain became unrelenting I called around to all the area dentists to see who was available to take me over a lunch break. I finally got one and I remember the hygienist lectured me about taking better care of my teeth. However, after a series of x-rays, the dentist could not determine the cause of the radiating pain I was experiencing. He prescribed some amoxicillin and told me to follow-up within a week if I hadn’t gotten better or if the pain increased. Within two days, the pain was unbearable, so I made an appointment with my dentist in Chicago and made the 36-mile trek in hopes that she would be able to diagnose the issue. She did one x-ray of the area I complained of and told me I had an abscess. She attempted the root canal right then, but despite copious amounts of anesthetic nothing could dull the excruciating pain. She didn’t want me to undergo any more torture so she handed me a prescription for clindamycin and referred me to a periodontist. Little did I know that the prescription to clindamycin was going to start of cycle of disease that would be unrelenting.

About five days after finishing the clindamycin, I remember getting diarrhea. Each day, the diarrhea increased until some mornings I was taking in excess of ten trips to the bathroom before I could shower and dress for work. I knew something was wrong. As the days progressed, the frequency of bathroom trips was compounded by severe stomach cramps—like getting your period on a daily basis. I called my gastroenterologist who sent me to the local hospital for some tests. Two days later I got the call that I was positive for C. diff. I remember pouring over the internet and reading personal stories as well as medical journal articles to learn as much as I could. I read in a CDC article the following quote, “Approximately 29,000 patients died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis of C. difficile. Of those, about 15,000 deaths were estimated to be directly attributable to C. difficile infections, making C. difficile a very important cause of infectious disease death in the United States” (source).

My doctor prescribed Flagyl, and by the time I had finished the medication, I thought I was better. However, about five days after I had completed my meds it was back (and worse than before). I called my doctor again. It was a Friday and I remember thinking that I knew the C. diff was back and that I wasn’t waiting till Monday for my results. So, on Saturday morning I showed up at the emergency room and told them what was happening and to check my test results. The emergency room doctor promptly checked me into the hospital where I was given intravenous Flagyl and oral vancomycin. I stayed in the hospital three days and was released on a six-week taper of the oral vancomycin. However, one week after the taper was completed, I was sick again! I called both my primary care provider and my gastro who both oversaw my care, and once again was told to go on a six-week taper of vancomycin.

I remember thinking to myself that this couldn’t be right. Wasn’t it Einstein that said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? I told the pharmacist when I went to pick up my meds that I needed to find a new doctor that I had to find a specialist. She looked at me blankly and said, “Well, this happens all the time. People get this back a lot; it doesn’t mean your doctor is doing something wrong!” I couldn’t believe her response. I thought, “Why is it so ingrained in our culture not to question doctors? Not to do research?” I looked at her and said, “I am not saying he is doing anything wrong, what I am saying is that I need someone smarter than him, someone more knowledgeable, because what he is doing is not all that can be done.” She continued her look of dismay and I promptly left thinking, “What is wrong with people?” Something needs to change. People need to be made aware that they need to take charge of their own healthcare. Are you people just willing to suffer and die because one person tells you that’s your fate? This is the information age. At no other time was reputable research and information at our fingertips. All we had to do was seek it out. I decided to make an appointment with the University of Chicago Gastroenterology group.

I brought all of my test results to my appointment and within the first 30 minutes, the doctor said, I am going to schedule you for a fecal transplant. I remember thinking. “How funny, the HBO series VICE just did a program on the same thing.” Despite how disgusting it sounded, I thought, “I am willing to try this because I want to get better. I am not willing to just settle for living a life of recurrent infection if there might possibly be a way to stop it.” So, this Friday, I am scheduled for this procedure. Stay tuned.









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