• LOCATION: Rhode Island
  • AGE: 64
  • LENGTH: A few weeks
  • SOURCE: Long-term Care Facility-acquired

As told by her daughter, Meg.

My name is Meghan Mimnaugh. I am writing this story for my Mom, Gail, aka “Meg’s Mom.” My mom was 64 years young when she died from C. diff colitis on August 5, 2012. I was 27 years old at the time. My mom had long suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bouts of pneumonia since my father passed away of cancer in 2009. Both were long time smokers. She had been hospitalized on three separate occasions over a span of three years, and spent two stints in rehab. After her second stay in rehab, she was permanently placed on oxygen. She hid her health problems from my brother and me as much as she could. She wanted to protect us; she never wanted to “worry” us or cause us to go out of our way.

She was always putting others before herself; that’s what made her special and unique. A particular story that always stands out in my mind that my brother retells goes as follows: I took her to the store one day in the fall, and we walked by a Salvation Army volunteer. She threw in a few bucks, and we went and did her shopping. When I was putting the bags in the car, she returned to the store to purchase a warm sandwich for the man standing in the cold. He didn’t ask, she didn’t offer, she just simply did. That was her–making those she loved (and even complete strangers) happy. She had a wonderful sense of humor, always looked on the bright side, and advised us to always be treated how you want to be treated.

On August 4, 2012 I received a phone call from a nurse at my mom’s nursing home concerning a “stomach bug.” She was to be taken to Rhode Island Hospital that day. It wasn’t “urgent” and I was told that I shouldn’t be alarmed. I still went to the emergency room. She was her usual social self–cracking jokes at the doctors and nursing staff, and never once complaining. I stayed with her, and they eventually decided to admit her as a precaution. I called close family and told them what happened. I made sure she was situated and made my way home that night. The following morning, bright and early, I received a phone call from a surgeon requesting that my brother and I get down to the hospital as soon as we could. They wanted to have a conversation with us about my mom’s condition. When I arrived at the hospital I stopped at the nurse’s station to check in. A nurse informed me that I should wear gloves, a gown, and a mask to go in and see my mom. Wait, what?

Seven hours ago she was fine. Now they are diagnosing her with C. diff. What? I Googled it. I called my aunt and uncle. We met with the doctor and surgeon who explained our options. Surgery, which she was not strong enough for and most certainly wouldn’t survive, or strong doses of antibiotics. My mom was involved in the discussion. She was very much still alert and joking, yet not as lucid as the day before. She refused any mention of surgery and wouldn’t discuss it. She said, “Maybe tomorrow we can talk about it.” So we went with the antibiotics; she would be in the hospital a while for the treatment. She wanted to take a nap…

”Good night Mom…I love you…”

My Uncle and Aunt went to see her. She woke up; she was thirsty, she had errands to do, when was she going home? She so desperately wanted something to drink, but she could only have ice chips right then; later on she could have something to drink and eat. They put in a PICC line to start the treatment. She wanted to take a “short” nap after my aunt and uncle left (but first I snuck in a quick sip of water). She thanked me; she loved me.

She never woke up.

I knew something was wrong. She didn’t look right, her urine bag was empty, yet she was being pumped with fluids. The doctors and nurses came in, and she vaguely opened her eyes. She said that she was tired, and drifted back off to sleep. They told me to go home and eat. I left, showered, and made phone calls. I came back after a half hour and just knew. Her doctor told me to call those closest. There was nothing they could do but make her comfortable. My partner came with our daughter. My brother came. Time stood still. This disease killed her as fast as a bullet.

Then the “Why? How? She was fine!” set in.

I felt guilty. I felt alone. I still feel both of those emotions. I’ve struggled (and still struggle every day) with her death. Guilt, grief, anxiety, and pain. Who can I blame? The doctors, the cleaning staff, the nurses, the hospital, the nursing home, myself? Why didn’t I know this disease? Why couldn’t anyone do something?

I started working in a hospital in July 2014. Even though I wasn’t in direct contact with patients, I still received training. Hand washing; C. diff. Ironic that my training came on the anniversary of her passing. So I’ve researched, read, and tried to make sense of it. I was recently pointed in the direction of this foundation. I wanted to share her story.

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