In June of 2008, after a grueling first six months of child-rearing, Victoria O’Neal became ill with stomach pains and mild diarrhea. She was prescribed a wide-spectrum antibiotic, which seemed to only make the symptoms worse. After a period of considerable confusion, Victoria was finally diagnosed with Clostridium difficile. By the time she was put on an antibiotic for C. diff, she had lost about 15 pounds, was weak, emotionally drained, and scared.
A week after completing that first round of antibiotics, Victoria had a recurrence of C. diff. This time, her husband Chris joined her (he had recently been on a number of antibiotics after shoulder surgery). For a few weeks they were both desperately ill with C. diff, while trying to care for their infant daughter. C. diff turned what should have been a wonderful time into a horrible trial.
Chris and Victoria were both treated for C. diff, and Victoria never had another recurrence. She did, however, continue to test positive for C. diff for almost a year after her first infection, which caused an immense amount of psychological worry and grief as she constantly worried that her infection would return. Chris, sadly, was doomed to another four recurrences of C. diff over the next seven months. He tried a number of treatments, and was finally cured by a very long, tapered dose of Vancomycin. During this time his work suffered, he lost 25 pounds, and he was not able to be nearly the father and husband he had imagined himself to be. It was the lowest time in his life.
It is rare for couples to have C. diff at the same time. Chris and Victoria got hit with a perfect storm of C. diff that wreaked havoc on their family, work, and personal lives. But from that trial came a promise. Promising to help others like themselves, Chris focused the anxiety and pain of battling C. diff on writing a book that would help patients make it through the potentially deadly illness. Two years after being declared infection-free, he has published a book, “Clostridium difficile: A Patient’s Guide,” with the gastroenterologist who helped him through his C. diff infection as his co-author.
Now, more than two years after the infection, Victoria and Chris have largely returned to normalcy, although they will probably always have some of the psychological and physical scars that C. diff left behind. C. diff is a rough, horrible, elusive disease, but you don’t have to face it alone. Find others online (try www.cdiffsupport.com), share your trial with your friends, and connect to organizations like the Peggy Lillis Foundation.
Find a way, like Victoria and Chris did, to help others who might be suffering through C. diff, and turn your suffering into empowerment. C. diff is a disease, not a way of being. Don’t let it take over your life.