For many, MRSA is just another acronym to be ignored – another hyped and over-emphasised illness for the media to play on but for those suffering with the illness, those four letters mean everything. A number of years ago, MRSA went through a period of huge mass media attention, which created a level of panic that reverberated in hospitals nationwide. Since then, it has dissolved back into obscurity despite the number of sufferers ever increasing.
The disease itself is something anyone could catch or develop in their lives. It is an infection – ordinarily common on the skin – that has developed immunity to regular antibiotics and has, therefore, become more dangerous. So as to avoid shock tactics, I must remind you that death from MRSA is not common, however, in nations like the UK and the USA, MRSA is a bigger killer than AIDS and influenza (even before the recent developments in the cure for AIDS). Despite this, it is not death that I believe we should focus on; the affects MRSA has on those that suffer every day are much more common.
After the period of media attention in the 00s, MRSA is something that has become taboo in many areas of the medical profession, for fear of panic and health and safety complications. This ignorance from doctors is what has caused MRSA to become such a vital issue. In February, I was diagnosed with MRSA after five months of suffering with symptoms that eventually caused me to become incapacitated. Eleven different doctors and five nurses in two towns all knew of my condition but refused to accept the reality. Ultimately, the fear of the media finding out about an MRSA patient in their surgery was more important than the patient itself. As the infection was ignored, it was allowed to spread around my body until I eventually suffered from kidney failure. I’ve been in and out of hospital ever since. Sadly, I am not an isolated case. Stories of doctors ignoring MRSA are absolutely everywhere, both here and across the Atlantic, and still there is nowhere near enough campaigning for the cause.
The effects of MRSA damage their victim not only physically but also psychologically. Sufferers of MRSA often have to go through periods of complete isolation which invoke both fear and anger. From those I have been in contact with, the main emotion is that of injustice; something with which I also agree. In many cases, it is possible to pin point another (often a medical professional) who would have caused the sufferer to catch the disease. For this reason, the psychological effects of MRSA contain a lot more angst than many other illnesses. It is a fact that over 60% of sufferers of MRSA will go on to suffer from depression sparked by contracting MRSA itself.
Like with every illness, there are silver linings – no matter how small. Personally, I have witnessed and been involved in research into MRSA’s physical and psychological effects with my local university hospital. This is something which inevitably will improve the awareness of MRSA in medical institutions, if well publicised. However, MRSA awareness is still at an all-time low. There is not enough funding and support for the cause to allow for awareness to be improved, let alone to make awareness common. During my stay in hospital and still today, the MRSA Survivors Network (http://www.mrsasurvivors.org/) aided both myself and my doctors in my fight against the disease. Sufferers need more networks like this and to do so, we need more awareness. As awareness goes up, the suffering and anger of the patients should go down.