Born 20th September 1987 - died 23rd March 2004 - victim of MRSA at 16 years
My sweet, sweet Karen it seems only
yesterday that you were born and the joys that your birth brought to me and your
father were immense. Now in this profound sorrow I can almost hardly realise
that you have gone to Heaven. How cruel life was to us our only daughter
entering hospital for an appendicitis operation, during which an ovarian cyst
was discovered, ended up getting infected by MRSA in the ovarian cyst wound
leading to our present heartbreaking reality.
Entering hospital on 28th January 2004 at 10.30 a.m. for observation, you were operated at 6.00p.m. You were recovering quite well and were on you feet, but for a slight fever which I kept telling the nurses and asking them why you were not transferred to another room; but they answered that it was because of the fever but that some patients have a slight fever after operations, so not to worry. But on Sunday when the fever went up they wanted to take blood tests for culturing and even though I told and insisted with tears in my eyes, the senior doctor on duty (as its seems there were no specialist around on Sunday) that you were allergic to Penicillin he prescribed Penicillin – result …on the morrow you were in ITU where you spent 7 long painful weeks to the day of your DEATH. The penicillin gave you severe diarrhoea and how more painful it was for you with that infected open wound; the diarrhoea lasted up to the day of your death. Futile were the sachets prescribed by the bacteriologists and consultants in ITU to replace the fauna in the intestines the damage was done. Apart from that you swelled because of Penicillin, became dehydrated and the rash was so intense that you peeled all over during the following week. All this apart from the 12 inch diameter infection which resulted from the CT Scan taken with an open wound (as the specialist had removed the stitches for the puss to come out and a swab test was taken – later proving positive to MRSA). My dearest I can still hear your cry when you were having the stomach spasms, a side effect of the other antibiotic you were being administered - I had told the doctor to give you a medicine to calm the spasms while doing the scan especially as the stitches had been removed and wound was open and it must have hurt terribly with the movement of the spasms – he said that you were going to be sedated for the scan - and you were not, how cruel they were to you! My angel though in pain you sang hymns with the nurse who tried to calm you down by singing to you – Oh my baby you were so Special! Only little saints act this way! My dearest it was not our fault, we insisted as much as we could but it seems nobody was human enough.
After that you were admitted to the ITU unit – never to come out alive! Lying down there all intubated and pinned with lines, you who could not stand hair pin, had to pass through 7 long weeks lying down, not being able to speak or eat – though it was harder for you, yet you endured this ordeal with great fortitude. As for the treatment, first they said that the wound was to remain open to be dressed so that the puss would come out. Then they decided to operate you, resulting in the stitches bursting after a couple of weeks and you going into shock. We saw that something was wrong (nobody telling us what was happening) you were unconscious with your eyes open staring at the ceiling but they reoperated you only on the morrow; I was desperate that day infact the first anaesthetist who assisted you during the first operation when meeting us in the corridor remarked “She’s was operated again!!” But we still hoped, when you came to, we brought you books and toys to help you forget the pain in your tummy which at times you touched as you were being kept off morphia and other analgesics an attempt was to be made to wean you off the breathing machine - so all the pain you had to go through in vain and at night we were not allowed to stay – at least you would have had the assurance that we were close. We felt so helpless not being able to do anything for you! Special thanks to those nurses and doctors in ITU who treated her with compassion and humanity and not just as a mere bed number; and those nurses in Gynae who had a kind word for during her recovery after the operation.
Words cannot express our grief at having lost you but all the more at having seen you suffer so much for an infection encountered in hospital and the hospital failing to cure you. How unfair! Why were the lines continually changed when you had fever and the fever never stopped – on the last day before you died all your arteries were in spasm they had been perforated so much - why so much pain! Why did they not wean you off the breathing machine soon after entering the ITU giving us the chance to hear your sweet voice again and helping you not to get other infections in your lungs! Why did they perform a tracheotomy, promising that you would get less infections in your lungs! And all those lung suctions and you continually conscious, how awful and painful they must have been! Why did they not let us near you when you first woke finding yourself in a strange environment without us being around to calm you and reassure you - you were only 16, scared and having communication difficulties. Remembering those big beautiful brown eyes of yours looking baffled at us trying to sort what was happening. But who cared? We were also deprived of hugging you for fear of hurting you because of the stitches and the lines; this is still tearing our hearts apart to this very day, you went without a hug! We could only caress your hands and hair and those caresses have to last a life-time.
We did our utmost my precious asking people in authority for permission to be able to stay near you for support. I even phoned the National Commission for Persons with disabilities and asked the person in charge to intervene but he just told me whom to contact and that’s all ignoring that you were in ITU and needed all the support you could get. Oh how weak I was on that day I could barely climb the stairs to go to the office. Why was everybody so insensitive to your young age and your disability – it seems that your sufferings were to be to the utmost. We were always there behind the door in the cold. We slept there during the night in a cold noisy corridor, sometimes also inhaling the fumes from the hospital compressor. Shameful after all that we (two parents crippled with pain at seeing their only child in that state because of the hospital) were going through no one from the hospital administration approached us to support us. A child is dying due to an infection in the hospital, our only child and nothing was done to give make the tragic situation easier for her and us. God only knows how much we tried, we could not tell you this not to upset you, as near you we had to be strong and serene, bottling everything in. Destroying you they destroyed us too.
Several questions come to us now looking back on the situation. Why on Monday morning in the Gynae wards remedies were not more expedient resulting to your deteriorating so quickly? Why prior to this more attention was given to the fever especially as the records in the file showed that you suffered from ‘multiple allergies’ to various drugs? Why were not some samples sent abroad immediately where better labs are available as it seems to the end the bacteria was not identified? Why was nylon thread used (as I was told by a doctor) as you was allergic to nylon and synthetics (suffering from allergies and eczema) – could this have been the cause of the fever as it may have caused inflammation? A thousand questions arise at such a tragic loss! They said that as you were obese you were more prone to difficulties in healing – so does MRSA or 'the plague' (as it is being called) attacks only the overweight or is it due to unclean environment and equipment and other precautions like handwashing and other hygiene? Why the morning following the operation were both wounds during your bath washed too with ordinary tap water and soap – I immediately remarked this to the nurse but she said that this is what is normally done – Could this have cost my daughter’s life?
This beautiful special child was taken from us to a far better place we know – being more innocent than other children due to her disability and having suffered so much with such courage makes her shine Above. She suffered in silence, the silence of an innocent lamb. It’s no wonder that on the 19th St. Joseph’s Day, while her Daddy was with her, she raised her hands to the crucifix hanging in front of her and after a short while she lost consciousness never to regain it and went to Heaven early at daybreak on Tuesday 23rd. At that moment, her aunt thousands of miles away in Australia, saw her in a dream dressed in white, rising in the clouds looking upwards happily and laughing her joyful laugh – go to Heaven Karen my dearest, most precious gift, you certainly deserve it! Though it is very painful for me to go through all this, but what you went through Karen needs to be told for others to learn; and persons going to hospital for operations say a little prayer to Karen she knows what getting MRSA means, she was an innocent victim at 16! Dearest you fought so hard for your life, bravely and without a grumble, you labelled ‘disabled’ were certainly more ‘able’ than most! An example to other youngsters who ought to bear this in mind before throwing their lives away in one way or another which, unfortunately, is getting more frequent. When feeling that nobody understands you remember, for Karen it was a struggle to be express herself and be understood, yet she fought for her life to the very end! Overweight persons who are stared at when passing by and criticised, not to say ridiculed, Karen knew this ordeal too (even in hospital where doctors to know better) – but she was never referred by any doctor for hormonal testing to see the reason for this as we were advised by a doctor in ITU to do had she survived. We are still bewildered and can hardly believe that this has happened – stricken with pain, existing and not living - so let this be an eye-opener to many hoping that no parents have to pass through this horrifying experience.
Beloved daughter our only hope now is to be reunited with you once our time comes which we do not think is too far away as we are heartbroken at our loss! You asked us to go home while still in the Gynae Ward in the morning at the beginning of this terrible tragedy (now I only wish I had done that you would not have been worse off) – your last trip was in a hearse to your funeral mass to the Sanctuary of Saint Therese of Lesieux ‘the Little Flower’ – the Church which you loved so much my little blossom. All we can do now is visit your tombstone – heartshaped, you always loved hearts, obviously you who could give only love and knew no hatred, revenge, conceit… While celebrations are going on for Malta entering the European Union, we cry our eyes out missing you in every small chore around the house, from peeling vegetables, cutting out patterns for sewing, hanging clothes for drying, helping Dad in the garage, etc. – we certainly cannot celebrate, our life has been ruined. Often we wonder had we known influential persons or been rich would things have turned out as they did? Sorry my dear daughter but we are modest people, and perhaps you suffered more than your share because of this. We are sure that now you found the joy you always seeked and never got tired of – you loved having fun so much like all youngsters – bowling, swimming, bumping cars walks by the seaside, etc. How can we go on without you? Each day is an ordeal for us. Now I don’t have you to wipe the tears from my eyes and stretch a smile on my lips with your forefingers when I am upset! Till we meet again my love, pray for us and help us pull through! Mum and Dad.