The Rise of Pediatric C. diff
In a recent article in Parents magazine, there is a chilling story of a mother's fight to save her 22-month old daughter from a relapsing C. diff infection. This brave account serves as a much-needed window into the epidemic sweeping our country.
A year and a half ago I wouldn't have given much thought to the article, I had never heard of C. diff and would have considered it as far off a threat as smallpox or Ebola. But that is not the case, C. diff is not only present in hospitals but is also spreading in our communities. Community-acquired C. diff infections are on the rise (1), and according to the CDC 17,000 of the 453,000 reported C. diff infections occur in children. Another worrying trend is the rate of relapsing C. diff infections; which have grown by almost 200% from 2001 to 2012 (2).
So why did Parents Magazine make me cry and post the article on Instagram? Because, I've been there, fighting for half a year to save my daughter's life from an unseen tormenter that kept returning despite our doctor's best efforts.
At first, at the beginning of my family's battle, I thought we were alone. But once I started talking about C. diff the floodgates opened, and I learned that it was affecting people all around me. My friends and neighbors have battled this horrific disease for months, even years with some losing their lives. I found that a neighbor’s daughter who we knew from school had spent a month in the children's hospital battling C. diff, only to have it re-appear a couple of weeks after returning home. I leaned on her mother for support and guidance texting her late into the night when I couldn't see an end to the siege.
Almost a year later I stood and watched my daughter, now 4, playing with her fellow pint-sized C. diff survivor at the park that separates our homes. They laughed and ran after each other in the California sunshine, with no idea that they both had fought a vicious disease that nearly took their lives. And while I was profoundly grateful that our girls were healthy and happy; I was also angry. Angry that our daughters had lost so much precious time, and that hardly anyone seems to be talking about it.
C. diff IS scary. C. diff IS expensive (costing the US an estimated 5 Billion Dollars per year(2)). C. diff IS gross and dehumanizing. But we can't pretend that it is something that only lurks in hospitals and nursing homes; C. diff is a real threat that is affecting even the youngest people in our communities. So, let's talk about C. diff, we need to talk about it for the sake of our children.