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New York

Peggy Lillis

As told by her son, Liam.

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 at Touro 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-diarrhea 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 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 Chris 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 is fine, my mom is in septic shock. They began fluid and antibiotic therapy. Christian and I called our family to tell them that my mom is 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 4 days ago could ultimately cost my mom her life. Even though the doctor told 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 my and Christian’ friends. Eventually, we all went back to our house to try and sleep, and pray.

At 6:00 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.








Community Acquired

Other Stories

Length: 2 Months


In February 2020 I was prescribed both clindamycin and cefalexin for a breast abscess. Three weeks after I finished my course of antibiotics, in March 2020, I started to have severe, painful abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Each day became worse and worse until I was up through the night and couldn’t be away from the toilet for more than half an hour.

Length: 6 Months


It started with a rash on my back that I suspect started from the barber I was seeing.  Scratching it made it worse. I went to the doctor’s office and was tended to by a PA. It was decided that this infection should be treated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Length: 2 Months


In February 2020 I was prescribed both clindamycin and cefalexin for a breast abscess. Three weeks after I finished my course of antibiotics, in March 2020, I started to have severe, painful abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Each day became worse and worse until I was up through the night and couldn’t be away from the toilet for more than half an hour.

  • Length: 4 months

    Sue G.

    I was pulling vines and weeding in my yard when I felt something on my forehead. An hour later I noticed four small bumps on my eyelid. My forehead was sensitive and swollen. I drove to Urgent Care nearby and a very young nurse practitioner prescr…
  • Melanie

    As a nurse, I had heard of C. diff and treated many patients with it. I never imagined I’d soon become a patient myself. In January of 2023, I was prescribed antibiotics for what I thought was a dental infection. Shortly after, I developed chronic…
  • Length: 2 months

    Kristi M.

    I had a severely infected tooth, but my dentist misdiagnosed my tooth abscess for a more serious facial infection and referred me to the local emergency room. I was given IV Clindamycin, and was sent home with a 10 day prescription for Clindamycin…
  • Suzanne Dee Gorman

    The first time I had C-diff I had spent two months in the hospital waiting to give birth to my daughter during which I had triplets to which I lost two. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl via cesarean section.  A week later, I was still in the …
  • Marlon

    I had C Diff about April 2023, I didn’t know then what it was. It started with a lot of gas, then it continued with diarrhea once a day, then it went to ten times a day. It got so bad that I couldn’t hold any stool as soon as I at I had to use the…
  • Joan Hardin

    There are several strains of C. diff, ranging from the extremely virulent type that killed Peggy Lillis so quickly after she took antibiotics for a dental problem to a milder form that I battled for many months. An overrun of the bug causes diarrh…
  • Length: 6 MONTHS

    Andi L.

    Submitted by her mother, Jennifer Lucas UPDATE: We recently heard from Andi’s mother, Jennifer, who told us that Andi’s most recent treatment was successful and she has been C. diff free from several weeks. Andi, my four-year-old has C-diff …
  • Length: 6 MONTHS

    Chris & Victoria

    In June of 2008, after a grueling first six months of child-rearing, Victoria O’Neal became ill with stomach pains and mild diarrhea. She was prescribed a wide-spectrum antibiotic, which seemed to only make the symptoms worse. After a period of co…
  • Maryann Dillon

    My name is MaryAnn Dillon. I am a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Room at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, where I have worked for about 25 years. I have worked with Helen Biegel, Peggy Lillis’ sister for four years and we have talk…
  • Length: 1 YEAR

    Megan F.

    My name is Megan and I live in Pennsylvania. I am 29, married and have three small children. I have struggled with Clostridium difficile (C. diff) for the past year before receiving a fecal transplant, which has successfully treated the condition …