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NBA All-Star, Grant Hill, Talks About His Experience With An MRSA Bacterial Infection

Methacillin resistant staphlococcus aureus (MRSA) is a deadly bacterium that is becoming more and more common inside and outside the hospital setting. No one is immune, not even babies like this one who died from an unknown exposure.

Seven-time NBA All-Star Grant Hill has also experienced the ravages of MRSA. I interviewed him about his near-death experience.

Dr. Val: Tell me about your recent experience with a severe staph infection.

Grant: I got my MRSA infection in 2003, after I had a surgery on my ankle in the hospital. I had never heard of MRSA before and it was a very scary ordeal (at certain points, I didn’t think I was going to make it) and it took me a long time to recover. Dealing with my own infection made me realize just how severe MRSA could be. I want to make sure others do not have to go through what I went through. I got lucky with my infection because the doctors recognized it and we were able to treat it. I will always have scars on my ankle from the infection, so I never really forget what I went through and how lucky I was to survive.

Dr. Val: How common are staph infections among basketball players?

Grant: I don’t know exact statistics regarding basketball players, but the scary thing is, now it’s not just in hospitals. Now you’re finding MRSA infections in community settings like gyms, schools, homes and locker rooms. So there is definitely a need for conversation about this, and also about ways to prevent it.

Dr. Val: As an insider, what kind of behaviors have you observed that might put players at higher risk for contracting MRSA?

Grant: One thing I have learned through all of my injuries is that tomorrow is never really promised. As athletes there are so many ways that we can get injured, we can’t underestimate something like MRSA, especially because there are easy ways to prevent it. It’s important for players to know that MRSA can be spread by sharing athletic equipment, towels and razors. To help stop the spread of MRSA in locker rooms and on sports teams, players need to wash their hands frequently and stick to using their own personal items. They also need to know that when working out, they should keep a towel down between them and shared equipment. When it comes to locker room surfaces, those should be disinfected with a bleach solution. I am very conscious of all these prevention methods in my life, because I realize how important the prevention side of it is.

Dr. Val: Now that you’ve had a staph infection, what precautions do you take to prevent re-infection?

Grant: All those little things my mom used to tell me to do still ring true. I make sure to wash my hands frequently and cover any of my cuts -I keep a whole stash of bandages in my locker. I also keep my towels to myself and disinfect with a bleach solution, that’s really easy to make. It only takes a few minutes out of my day to take these steps, but I know first-hand that it can make a world of difference. You know, I often find myself telling my daughters the same things because as a father, it is important that I keep my family safe and healthy.

Dr. Val: What should athletes know about MRSA and what advice do you have for them?

Grant: Athletes of all ages should be encouraged to hit the court or the field and have a good time while remembering the easy prevention steps. Because I have spent so much time not playing, due to injury, I am having so much fun just playing. Everyone should remember that they can help prevent the spread of MRSA easily, so no one has to waste time on the sidelines.

Dr. Val: What’s the most important thing that you’d like to tell Americans about MRSA?

Grant: Wow, how much time do you have? I really want people to realize that MRSA is a serious infection. As I’ve mentioned, before I got it and I hadn’t even hear about it. My ordeal really opened my eyes to this and that it can affect anyone! The scary truth is that more deaths each year are caused by MRSA than AIDS. But, there are easy things people can do to help reduce the spread of MRSA. This includes: washing your hands frequently, not sharing your personal items like towels and disinfecting with a bleach solution. There is more information and tips about how to prevent getting MRSA, including a playbook of prevention, at stopmrsanow.org.


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Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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