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MRSA poisons young woman’s arm, whole family’s life

Eva Ferguson cradles her constant companion, a plastic bag full of antibiotic medicine. - Photo by Valentina Petrova
Eva Ferguson cradles her constant companion, a plastic bag full of antibiotic medicine.
— image credit: Photo by Valentina Petrova

It started with the flu. Two of Jim Ferguson’s daughters attend Klahowya Secondary School. That’s where he thinks Lura, 12, and Emma, 17, caught the season’s illness several weeks ago.

Soon, he too was feeling under the weather, but his oldest daughter, Eva, 20, came down with the worst case of the bug and even visited the emergency department at Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale.

“Any time Eva gets sick at all, it is all out of pocket,” Jim said.

Working for a construction company in Seabeck, he has no health coverage himself but had arranged for basic health insurance from the state for his daughters. When Eva turned 19, she lost her eligibility.

Shortly after her flu battle, though, she was bothered again, this time with what she thought might be an infected shaving nick or inflamed lymph node on her armpit.

“It rapidly got worse and from then on it was back and forth from the emergency room and finally the surgery,” Jim said.

Eva went to the Silverdale ER April 2 for that first bothersome abscess on her left underarm. It was drained of the puss and a culture was taken for analysis.

That Tuesday, April 4, she was back in Harrison Silverdale to get her wound cleaned. Two days later, though, another abscess appeared and she was back in the ER once more.

Rushed from Silverdale to the Bremerton campus of Harrison for surgery, Eva learned in the ambulance that the inflammations were due to MRSA.

Eva, who wants to study nursing,

knew little about Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body and is resistant to many antibiotics. It is more commonly known as staph.

Thursday’s surgery removed the infected tissue from Eva’s arm and by Saturday, April 8, she was sent home.

“Here she is with an open wound out in the community,” said Eva’s mother, Meredith Ferguson, last week.

“From what I understand most people would be in isolation for a much greater period than she was,” Meredith said.

“But I don’t have insurance so I was there for three days,” Eva added.

For several days, Eva stayed with her mother in Bremerton, at Meredith’s Kitsap Mental Health-assigned house.

Jim’s truck is the family’s only vehicle but he could not take hours off work in the middle of the day to take Eva to Optimum outpatient clinic in Harrison Bremerton. Eva, taking post-surgery oral painkillers, has to go to Harrison daily to have her intravenous antibiotic medication refilled.

Because MRSA is spread by contact and can be highly contagious for people with weakened immune systems, the antibiotic treatment will be Eva’s companion for two to four weeks and she is not allowed to work or go into Westside Alternative High School for 30 days after surgery.

Meanwhile, Eva found out last week she lost her job at Total Video in Silverdale.

“’You’re not fired for being a bad employee, we just can’t wait that long for you,’” Eva said her boss told her.

But for now she’s not worrying about work. Instead, Eva says, she will be so bored during recovery, she expects to wrap up her last credit, for a U.S. history class, toward her high school diploma by the end of the month.

On Mondays her father picks up her school work and tests from school in Silverdale and Fridays he drops off the completed work.

“I’m getting pulled every-which-way,” Jim said. “It doesn’t leave much time for work. It only takes a little bit to turn over the apple cart.”

Thanks to an understanding boss, he said, Jim was able to juggle a hectic schedule when Eva’s first signs of MRSA showed up. The week of the surgery also was spring break for Eva’s younger sisters, which made things a bit easier on Jim who usually has to pick up Emma, a junior, from color guard practices or take her to her new job at Kitsap Mall Cinema. Seventh-grader Lura also keeps his schedule busy with her little league practices.

“It’s better to keep them busy,” Jim said. “I’d rather have them active but it stretches things thin.”

Staying with her mother in Bremerton has helped Eva get to Harrison every day without her father taking any more time off from work. But that trip took three buses one way. And Eva had to move back to her Seabeck home right after Easter weekend.

Meredith was trained to re-dress the surgery wound in her daughter’s arm and did that every morning and night the first week, but the recovery is slow.

Eva said she filled out charity forms at Harrison to see how much of her medical expenses might be covered, but the family has not received any bills yet. Meredith doesn’t like to venture a guess as to what several ER visits, a surgery, three-day hospital stay and weeks of antibiotic medications might add up to.

The day before her surgery, Eva was in line at Kitsap Credit Union and knew the clerk, Melissa West, a neighbor. She shared her then-strange troubles and later West found out Eva was affected by MRSA.

“These people had no medical insurance and this is going to put them over the edge,” West said.

She opened an account at the credit union to help raise funds for the expenses Eva’s treatment is incurring.

The silver lining is that no one else in the family was infected and Eva is on the road to recovery, albeit a slow one.

“Right now I have a big gaping hole in my arm and I’m just waiting for it grow back from inside out,” Eva said last Tuesday.

“She’s miserable,” Jim said. “It hurts all the way down to my toes to see her like that.”

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