Anyone who has ever experienced a staph infection or witnessed someone close contract it would probably shudder at its mention. In short, it’s the Voldemort of infections, and for most people it really is “the-one-who-must-not-be-named”. Jason, however, stood up to this skin rash of a bully and declared loudly that there is nothing wrong with talking about it. Like all Harry Potter fans know, “fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself”. Luckily for Jason, he spoke up before they had to cut off his whole foot…
Nature of the beast
To destroy something, you must first understand it. So let’s get personal with this nasty piece of work.
Jason says to “imagine an aggressive, unrelenting infection on your skin, like athlete’s foot on steroids.”
Staph is short for Staphylococcus aureus, AKA “golden staph”. This name is quite apt, considering it really is like the king of infections. This is largely because it does carry the possibility of death. Mostly, however, it causes boils, abscesses, school sores and some nasty-looking skin infections complete with pus.
If you don’t treat it properly, it can lead to infection of more than just the skin, getting into the bone, lungs, heart, bone marrow or even the membranes lining your brain.
“I was incredibly lucky,” Jason says.
“I left my infection for so long, thinking it was very bad tinea. I thought the athlete’s foot cream I bought was just working really slowly. By the time I realised something was really wrong, the doctor told me I may have been just days away from losing my foot.”
|Image courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library. Taken by MJ Arduino (ID# 11157).|
Staph enters the skin through small open wounds or little cuts, and is transferred by people who have the bacteria on their skin or sometimes in their nose. In fact, around three out of every ten healthy people carry the bacteria in their noses.
Jason was unlucky enough to have a small open wound on his foot, either from stepping on something sharp or possibly even a mild case of tinea from using hostel showers while travelling through Europe.
As all backpackers will know, when you’re touring through rough hostels and cheap hotels in foreign lands, hygiene takes a backseat. Unfortunately, with unhygienic situations comes the potential to contract infections.
“I’ve travelled a lot through some crazy places in incredibly impoverished conditions, so tinea can become quite common. That’s why, when I started to get a rash on my foot, I thought a little cream would just clear it right up,” Jason says.
“I left it for a couple of days, hoping it would just go away. By the time I got some cream, it was biblical. It had stopped itching and was so painful and raw I could hardly walk on it.
“It didn’t spread very far, just localised on my toes and the ball of my foot.
“I applied the cream for two days, until one morning, the pain was unbearable.”
Stranger in a strange land
“Being in a foreign country, I didn’t even know how to book a doctor’s appointment,” Jason says.
“So I just walked in and luckily the staff spoke English. I got an appointment, paying up front, and then showed the doctor my plague-afflicted foot.
“The doctor literally gasped … I knew something was wrong.”
There certainly was a problem. In broken English and a lot of confusion, the doctor explained to Jason that he had contracted staph and needed antibiotics immediately. To Jason’s shock and terror, the doctor explained that if medication wasn’t sought as soon as possible, the infection could get into the bone itself and it would have to be removed.
“I was in shock,” Jason says.
“All that from what was probably just a dirty shower.”
Football … without a foot?
Jason says it was at this time he decided he would never take infections or ill-health lightly again. He says it doesn’t take long for something to spiral out of control.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘How will I play footy without a foot?!’
“Young guys, especially, need to swallow their pride and see a doctor if they feel something is not right, or smells worse than it should.”
The doctor prescribed the antibiotics and Jason took them as fast as he could. The infection cleared up within two days, but he says the memory will stay with him forever.
“So will the scars. The infection was so deep, it left deep pockets of damaged skin.
“Now, if a mate tells me about a health problem they’re too embarrassed to talk to a doctor about, I virtually force them to go.”
Beating a bully
Jason got through his experience, though not without some scars and a little wounded pride. He says he wants people to know that athlete’s foot or any infection (in any “cracks or crevices”) is nothing to be embarrassed about. Infections are like bullies. They make you feel bad and powerless sometimes.
“The only way to beat a bully is to confront the situation.”
Jason says it’s best to do it before it’s too late.
For more information about staph, see Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA, Staph Infection).
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