COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The word antibiotic literally translates to “against life” and they are typically prescribed to kill bacteria responsible for infections in the body.
One Missouri family’s terrifying brush with illness on two separate occasions has driven them away from using antibiotics and toward bringing awareness to antibiotic resistance.
“Antibiotic awareness and resistance are so important to me because it almost stole my life and my little girl’s life,” Christina Fuhrman said.
Fuhrman said she had an “antibiotic habit.”
“Any time I was sick I would just go to the doctor and ask for antibiotics or think I needed them as a magic pill to cure me,” she said. “I wasn’t willing to wait for a cold to run its course.”
Fuhrman relied on antibiotics so much that her body developed bacterial clones that were resistant to the drugs. It ultimately led to her catching a superbug right around the time she was getting married.
“I wasn’t able to go dress shopping the way I wanted and I was very thin. I had to order the veil, the earrings, the shoes online just because I wasn’t able to go out and shop because I was too sick,” Fuhrman said.
She was in and out of the hospital for seven months while she was battling the superbug, but that wasn’t the only time her family would come in contact with the illness.
Fuhrman said she was nine months pregnant with her son when her daughter caught the superbug called Clostridioides difficile, more commonly known as C. diff.
C. diff is a bacterium that causes life-threatening diarrhea and inflammation in the colon. The bacterium is most common in people who have recently taken antibiotics. The CDC says there are nearly 224,000 cases of C. diff each year that lead to 12,800 deaths and roughly one in five people who get C. diff get it again.
“It was just a very dark time for our family,” she said.
The Fuhrman’s aren’t the only people affected by antibiotic resistance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 28 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States every year, resulting in more than 35,000 deaths.
“If we don’t use them appropriately there’s going to be serious issues. Antibiotic resistance is one of the main problems now,” said Dr. Hariharan Regunath, an infectious disease physician with University of Missouri Health Care.
Regunath said antibiotic resistance happens when patients unnecessarily use the drugs and give resistant antibodies in the body a chance to multiply.
“When the resistant clones multiply, they get prevalent in the community and that particular antibiotic becomes ineffective,” Regunath said. “So our choices are different and patients get sicker faster because we’re using the wrong drugs.”
Regunath said the best way to keep antibiotic resistance from becoming an even bigger problem, is to let doctors do their jobs.
“Patients should stop insisting their providers prescribe them antibiotics,” he said.
Fuhrman echoed that advice.
“My advice is that sometimes sickness just has to run a course. You have to be patient, you need to rest. It’s ok to take a sick day, it’s ok to be sick. Sometimes things just need time.”