I’ve been a medical transcriptionist for 30+ years, so I had heard of C. diff before. Only one time, many years ago, did I have diarrhea following taking an antibiotic. I remember having to submit a stool sample for testing, which was negative. The beginning of November 2021, I noticed a swelling under the right side of my lower jaw whenever I ate something. After eating, the swelling went down. I went to a local ENT doctor and he said it was an infection of the parotid gland, one of the major salivary glands. The doctor put me on clindamycin, which caused severe diarrhea. About 2 weeks after I finished the course of clindamycin, the swelling under my right lower jaw came back. I called the doctor’s office and told him it returned but to please prescribe a different antibiotic because the clindamycin made me so sick. He prescribed Augmentin which didn’t make me so sick. But that was the 2nd course of antibiotics I had. I don’t like taking antibiotics because they mess things up in my gut. The Augmentin cleared up the parotid gland infection and it has not returned.
So I started the clindamycin 11/02/2021 and the Augmentin 12/3/2021. Roughly 3 weeks after the course of Augmentin, I started noticing my stomach acting up and diarrhea. I tried to treat it with over the counter Imodium, but that did not help. Then I started to notice a sickly sweet smell. I understand now that is the tell tale sign of C. diff. I was unaware of anything though at the time and thought maybe I had a stomach bug. I had diarrhea off and on for about 3 weeks and still tried to self-treat it. I started on a probiotic about that time, lactobacillus plantarum 299v.
By January 24th, I told my good friend that I needed to go to the ER. I was starting my 4th week of this illness. I was getting weak and just felt awful all the time. On top of that, I had a bad case of vertigo. By the time she got off work that evening, I was too weak to make it to my car in the parking lot. I’m also disabled due to osteoarthritis and use a cane to maneuver in my apartment and a walker for outside. I’m not one to go to the doctor, but since the arthritis has gotten worse in the last 2 years, I’ve been to doctors many times. I was in the ER 12 hours under observation. They asked for a stool specimen, and I really didn’t think I could go as I had eaten very little and had no appetite. I went into the bathroom and what I got was a palm-full of mucus with pus that smelled so bad I almost passed out. I know this is gross, but please bear with me.
They gave me IV fluids, did a CT scan, and an ultrasound of my abdomen. The doctor said she would prescribe me 2 antibiotics (I know, I made a face at her). She said take the vancomycin first, as that will kill the C. diff. She also prescribed Cipro. She said to wait on the results of the stool culture and if it wasn’t C. diff that I had to switch to the Cipro as “that would kill everything else” (her words). So I got both filled and started on the vancomycin and by day 3 of the vancomycin, I noticed that awful smell was gone and I started to feel better. Now here is where I got frustrated. Both the doctor and I suspected C. diff., and because I was feeling better and the bad smell was gone, I suspected I was correct in my assumption about having C. diff. But still, I wanted to see my stool culture results to verify I indeed had C. diff. I knew it would take some time for the culture to grow something. I kept checking my online patient portal and saw Microbiology results will be posted Saturday after 9 p.m. That was 6 days after my ER visit. I checked online Saturday after 9 p.m. and microbiology results told me I was positive but did not specify what for. I was starting to really get frustrated. It did list what my specimen was negative for. This is a cut and paste of my online results:
Specimen Type: Stool Culture
Report Status: Final
Collected Date: Jan 25, 2022, 01:25 a.m.
Additional Information: No gram negative enteric flora isolated No Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, Campylobactor, or Vibrio isolated. Mixed gram positive flora
Document Type: Current Report
That is it, no mention of C. diff. I used to work at this same hospital in pathology many years ago and so I made a phone call to the lab and asked for microbiology. I lucked out and got a microbiology lab technician on the phone. I explained my situation, and he looked into my culture results and found where the specimen had been PCR tested for C. diff and that I was positive for C. diff. This really got me thinking. This is a big problem with C. diff. Why did my online record not show positive for C. diff? I made a complaint with the hospital about the way the lab results were handled. My Primary Care Doctor was not aware of what had happened, and they only found out through me even though his office is on the hospital campus. I got a call back from the House Supervisor over the Hospital and ER about my complaint. She said that on her side, my stool specimen culture results show positive for C. diff. I emailed her a copy of the report I got online through the patient portal. She said something about they were in the process of changing over to a different electronic medical records platform and that there could be a glitch that caused me to get a vague report. She emailed me back saying she sees now what I’m talking about and she reassured me I tested positive for C. diff. With C. diff, you’re pretty sick. This is the worst I have felt in a long time. The last thing you need to do is to be playing guessing games. It’s close to 1 week since I finished my course of vancomycin and thank god I was on the right course of antibiotics. I am feeling better, but I really have to watch what I eat. My system is not back to normal. I believe the C. diff is gone, for now, but I’m really worried it may come back. My stomach seems to be really sensitive to what I eat. I’m probably going to be on a bland, BRAT diet for a long time to come, along with pre- and probiotics.