I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Everly Macario about the the tragic death of her young son, Simon Sparrow. Simon was a healthy one and a half year-old baby who came in contact with a deadly form of Methicillin-Resistant Staphlococcus Aureus (MRSA). The bacteria got into his blood stream and ended his life just 2 days later. Everly has become a tireless advocate for MRSA awareness. This is her story:
Dr. Val: Tell me what happened to Simon.
Dr. Macario: Simon was a very healthy, breast-fed baby, born at full term with no history of illness or immune disease. When he was about 15 months old he caught what I thought was a throat infection. He wheezed a bit when he breathed so I took him to the doctor. The doctor reassured me that he seemed to have a mild case of bronchitis, and gave me some albuterol, prednisone and antibiotics.
Simon did well for a few days until he woke up on a Friday morning with a primal terrified shriek (a sound neither my husband or I had heard from Simon before) and a fever. My husband decided to take Simon to the Emergency Room immediately. Once there, the doctors ran the standard battery of tests (e.g., chest X-ray, oxygen-level test) only to speculate that he may be an asthmatic kid.
I could tell something was really wrong given how irritable Simon was… he truly was inconsolable. When my husband came to pick us up, my husband noticed Simon’s lips were blue as we were walking out the ER doors. We went back in and pointed this out to the doctors. They, once again, measured his oxygen level and informed us that he was within normal range. We then went home and gave Simon some albuterol administered via an inhaler. When we did this, Simon’s eyes rolled back into his head in such a way that really alarmed us. But, we said to ourselves, “he’ll be fine, he’s just sick like any other kid his age gets sick, it’s temporary, he’ll be fine….”
That afternoon, Simon vomited the little milk he had had that morning, and lied limply in my arms – something that terrified me as I was used to a more wiggly and restless Simon when he would get ready for a nap. He kept asking for “agua” (water in Spanish) and drank about 4 “sippy” cups of water, only to vomit all of it soon-after. I really panicked when his cheeks and forehead were cold and his lips were turning blue again. His nostrils were also flaring and he was breathing so heavily at this point that his chest was expanding and contracting “in and out” in the shape of a barrel. I called the doctor to have her hear Simon’s labored breathing, at which time she said, “Hang up and call 911.”
As soon as Simon was wheeled in to the ER, doctors hooked him up to everything imaginable (oxygen, nebulizer, IVs for medication and pain relievers). And, I kept hearing, “Your child is very, very sick. Your child is very, very sick.” At this point I became absolutely hysterical – “basket case” would be the technical term. Simon kept looking at me with his chocolately-brown eyes, and long curly eye-lashes, repeating, “Agua, agua, … agua.”I was so completely terrified and felt so utterly helpless that my reaction was to call my parents. I had to leave Simon to call them. As soon as I got off the phone I ran back to where Simon had been, only to learn he had been brought up to the ICU, where he was going to get intubated so that he could breathe more easily.
I was brought into a conference room where one of the pediatric emergency room doctors sat me down and began to tell me that Simon had an infection but the source was yet unknown. Her tone was almost too muted and the pace at which she spoke seemed very slow. From this point on, doctors kept coming in and out of the room with updates – basically, Simon had gone into septic shock and his blood pressure was dropping. One fellow who tried to be encouraging said, “Most kids leave the ICU.” It was this fellow, however, who said later that evening that she “didn’t want to lie, that Simon was going downhill.”
By the time my husband arrived and we were allowed to see Simon, I knew in my soul Simon was dead. Jim and I gathered around the bed on which Simon was lying, along with what seemed like 10 doctors, representing every specialty in medicine. The attending said that they had to get Simon on ECMO (the “heart-lung machine” or “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation”) as this was “his only chance.” I begged the ECMO expert to do what he could to save Simon.
From that point on until Saturday morning, Jim and I desperately and despairingly prayed for Simon to come out of this sepsis state somehow. Doctors came in regularly to update us but we knew the chances were not good when we heard things like, “We’re not sure if your son is going to make it at this point.”
While on ECMO, Simon became incredibly bloated and his skin turned purplish and scab-like.He had solid plasma “tears” coming out of his eyes. He did not look like Simon.
Late morning the next day, Jim and I decided to take Simon off of the ECMO machine, as he was not responding to it at all, and he was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m. Still no precise cause of death.
Two months later, from the autopsy, we learned, as was suspected, that Simon died from “Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus” (MRSA), probably the “community-acquired” kind versus the hospital-based one. Neither my husband nor I had ever heard of it. MRSA is a virulent antibiotic-resistant bacterium. We have since learned that because of the over-prescription of antibiotics and the use of antibiotics in animals that we eat, we have created an environment that causes “weaker” bacteria to die off, allowing stronger competing strains to survive. MRSA is only treatable with vancomycin, that is assuming you know that is what you have contracted.
It seems unfathomable that a healthy, hearty, and beautiful little boy could have breathed in such a bacterium – one that attacked his organs by releasing lethal toxins – and in less than 24 hours was gone. MRSA took my son swiftly and totally.
Please see the next blog post for the rest of the interview with Dr. Macario.
Everly is a spokesperson for STOP MRSA Now.
This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.