CDiff: The SuperBug Being Defeated By Poop

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Clostridium difficile commonly known as “C. diff,” is a germ usually occurring in people taking antibiotics that can cause diarrhea and death. However there is an experimental treatment raising eyebrows and the hopes of those suffering from the disease.

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Fecal transplants* (yes, fecal) are being used more and more with an astounding success rate to eradicate the very stubborn germ. According to the Mayo Clinic, fecal transplants boast a 90% cure rate.

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While the Mayo Clinic’s fecal transplant program has patients use family as donors, UCLA’s program uses a donor bank on the East Coast in which the fecal matter is carefully screened before being implanted in the patient via colonoscopy.

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With a success rate of over 90% fecal transplants are being recommended by many gastroenterologists across the country, however they are having trouble billing insurance companies and creating nationwide protocol for the procedure. Currently the transplant is being billed as a colonoscopy including a ‘biologic,’ however doctors and administrators are working on a better way to provide the lifesaving procedure to patients across the nation without the hassle of red-tape.

*author Erin Kotecki Vest has undergone three fecal transplants, performed by UCLA doctors in their experimental program after battling CDiff for several months in the summer of 2015. Her 3rd transplant was a success and she is currently CDiff free.

California’s Drought Makes Summer Vacation Dry

California is facing a drought of historic proportions, changing the typical summer vacation for kids state-wide.

With the help of their parents, many children are learning to cope with the state’s changing water restrictions and coming up with their own ways to conserve water.

All I Want is a Garden

Denial, anger, … acceptance? Or is there one between there?

Meh. I’m somewhere between denial and anger as my CDiff has returned despite the over 90% success rate of the transplant I underwent before the 4th of July. We will try another tried a second one, upping my chances to 98%, but that one failed as well. Leaving me in this hospital for 17 days and counting.

17 days of wondering why me.

17 days of worrying.

17 days of continued bad news and frustration and stress.

Here is the thing…all I want to do is plant my tomatoes and veggies. This has been the first summer in 10 years of living in this home I haven’t gotten my garden in on time. While planting now wouldn’t be ideal, it’s also not bad considering our climate has been entirely messed up.

Yes, in this epic, multi-year battle which now includes a fight for my life with a super bug, I just want my garden in place.

My garden in place = normalcy.

My garden in place = hope.

My garden in place simply soothes me and makes me feel as though it’s all going to be ok.

For the first time in all of this I’m honestly not sure how everything is going to turn out. I’ve been sure, over and over again it was going to be ok. But right now there are so many other things going on and so many lives hurting and just so MUCH for the first time in my life, I’m not sure even my superwoman abilities are grand enough to make all of this ok.

So yeah, I sent myself some flowers at the hospital because I deserve them. I remain grateful for family that will show up in 24 hours to help when things go south. But I need to find a solution that doesn’t disrupt everyone’s lives except mine.

I’m still searching.

I don’t know if my garden will be planted. I don’t know if my search will lead to anything I can control. But I am still here. And I guess that will have to do for now.

Final Project Journalism 203

Enjoy my story on the California drought!

Dealing With a Load of Crap

Humiliation is laying in a hospital bed, after 10 days of nothing but towel baths, your hair unwashed and crumpled in a bun, your back sweating against the plastic under the sheets…and opening your eyes to feel yourself covered in shit. Someone else’s shit.

The nurses are kind and wonderful. They clean you up and pad you with towels and an adult diaper, reminding you to not get up and to just ‘let it out’ while laying flat.

Cdiff is no joking matter, as much as I’ve been trying to laugh about all of this. It kills tens of thousands of  Americans per year and after two rounds of failed antibiotics I was beginning to worry I’d be a statistic.

My UCLA gastroenterologist Dr. J. had offered an experimental treatment to rid me of my now 2nd bout with CDiff, one I may or may not be open to because of it’s unusual nature.

Erin, I think we should consider a fecal transplant. We get our frozen specimens from the East Coast, they are screened just like any blood or tissue or organ you would receive, and we place the fecal matter into your intestines and allow the new and good bacteria/flora to combat the disease. 

Yes. I had someone else’s poop placed way up into me. Apparently this isn’t anything new. It dates back several hundreds of years in China. But more importantly it has an over 90% success rate and all signs indicate I’m one of those successes.

This could change everything. My entire immune make up.

I want to have hope and frankly, I have very high hopes.

This could change my life.

I’m scared. I’m tired of getting my hopes up and becoming ill over and over again. But this is different. This is huge.

I should keep myself cautiously optimistic. But instead I have huge hopes.

Have them with me…because it’s all I have right now.

The Most Magical Thing Happened to ME

It wasn’t a dream.

I woke up on Mother’s Day inside of this castle:

Goodbye

I am not kidding. Read the full story over at As Dreamers Do.

IT.REALLY.HAPPENED.

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…in continuing my teary tributes, I must now brag about my daughter, the child who has had her own hashtag since I can remember…

#AllHailHala is no joke.

The hashtag may have started out that way, due to her demanding nature and poise that can be described as nothing short as that of a blue blood…but it and she have become so much more over this decade of her existence.

A decade. An entire decade of our ‘lil Princess Peanut Punk as…well…she knows the rest. And she has lived up to every inch of her name, with several surprises thrown in for good measure.

She would rather watch cat videos than princess videos. In fact, she has never been into that whole princess thing. Animals? Sure. Princesses? Not so much. Personally I think it has something to do with the fluffy dresses. Because I wanted nothing more than a daughter who would wear fluffy, too much tutu type dresses  so, sensing this, she’s in nothing but leggings and t-shirts day in and day out.

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And nothing can ever, ever be pink. Well, that’s not exactly true. She’ll wear pink when matched with black. Throw in some skulls and you’ve got a true #AllHailHala outfit.

That’s the great thing about her…she is her own woman. She knows it would please me greatly to see her try out ballet (again) or ask to be Cinderella for Halloween, but she also knows I’m even more proud when she asks to dye her hair rainbow and when asked what she wants to wear to school in the morning waves her hand as if it’s quite possibly the stupidest question EVER asked and dismisses me with an ‘I don’t care…clothes…’

Peer pressure means nothing to her. School is for socializing with her friends but also for making sure she learns everything required of her so she can move on and see the world. Experience the world. Rule the world.

Sometimes I feel as if we’re all just standing in the way of her war path to greatness and if I would just step aside an inch she’d graduate six years early and immediately begin making a difference in any field she chooses.

Unlike her brother, who knows his specific passion in science, #AllHailHala deems the entire world worthy of her passion and she’ll conquer every business, subject, person, and animal world with strength and confidence.

Currently I am her only fear, and not in a discipline sort of way, but because we have plans and she worries about my health. Like her brother, her compassion and her heart run circles around the universe and I watch her wrestle with her bravery and her deep worry.

When she was just eight-years old she became mesmerized with Morocco at Disney’s EPCOT. She asked if we could visit the real Morocco someday. Of course I said yes. Somewhere between high school graduation and college we’d go- but she needed to learn of the culture. How women are treated. We discussed human rights.

That trip remains planned, but I’m fairly certain she will lead an army to free the oppressed while she shops for a beaded pair of slippers along the way. That’s just her. Fierce. Bold. Yet still glued to my side with snuggles and love after a hospital stay in which she cried on Skype for me to come home.

A decade of her on this earth and she has already committed herself to helping animals (she finds many people just plain stupid and not worth her time) and comforting her brother and any others who may need extra attention, regardless if she is the one worrying.

Only the chosen see the child still inside. The one who will pretend she’s a cat and crawl with the dog and cat throughout the house. I’m thankful she still ‘plays’ as many of her classmates are already talking boyfriends and boy bands.

Not our girl. Music is a passion but her father took her to see Lorde, not One Direction, this past summer. She belts out anything but top 40 in the shower and just doesn’t care what the other girls are doing. She truly doesn’t. Like her brother she has no problem telling her peers if they are being mean, rude, or exclusionary and catches herself should she press her own personality too far and inadvertently leave out anyone.

I feel as though she shouldn’t be so self-aware at 10 but am proud just the same. I know she has so much more to discover about herself and I’m awaiting the tween years to hit, but I have confidence I will underestimate her, as I tend to do, and she will blow me away with her insight and maturity.

I’d never admit this to her outloud, and will deny this sentence when she reads it, but she always seems two steps ahead of me. Always ready with the right answer and with nothing for me to be angry over, she’s what I want to be when I grow up and how I want to act when confronted with a differing view. She’s teaching the teacher how to remain calm yet still defeat the enemy. All while not seeming to give a damn.

It’s a minor inconvenience to her to change the world. She’ll do it with a wave of her hand and a few orders.

There is simply no one else like her on this earth and she’s made sure of it-carving out her own path despite her father and I pushing for this or that.

If this continues, everyone who doesn’t know #AllHailHala will- and they will witness her drive, strength, and humanity.  Her mark on this world will not be a small one, that I can promise.

Happy Birthday baby girl.

 

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It’s that time of year again…where I get all teary eyed and brag about my children endlessly. That’s what you get when both your kids are born in the same month…

 

I’ve always thought he was a wise old soul. Now I’m certain.

My first born turned 12 this past week and I’m still working through the emotions wrapped around just another number yet anything but another year-in-the-life.

12. 12. Never mind where years 1,2, 3, 4-11 went, I want to know how he managed to become, very honestly, one of the most compassionate and amazing humans to walk the earth.

I know, I sound like every Mom. Convinced entirely their child is the greatest and better at everything than any other child ever was.

Except, I know better.

I know my son struggles with many things, not the least of which is a mother with a chronic illness. He struggles with his own illness as well, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Though mild it’s enough where people who don’t spend much time with our family notice and some even dare to poke fun. Something I notice and get my mom claws out immediately over, but something my son brushes off and even questions, as they clearly do not understand his higher intelligence and he feels genuinely sorry for them. No really, this is how these conversations go. He has sympathy that this child or adult hasn’t met anyone like him and doesn’t know enough about the world to have even learned there are people who are different. He wants to educate them and gets simultaneously upset at their upbringing and the world and our culture because some people can be so sheltered, mean, or uneducated.

You would think a tween headed into the teen years would want to just blend in, especially one already dealing with OCD and yes, a higher intelligence than his peers. But, no…not our child.

His hair is currently longer than my own with a bright red streak on one side. When he is mistaken for a girl he asks the person if they have ‘gender’ issues. He’s not being rude, or trying to start anything…he truly wants to know if they have gender issues and why they can’t fathom a male with long hair. He sees the world very clearly and gender does not come into play when it comes to hair length.

This is all entirely logical to him and not even slightly malicious. Far from it. He wants to understand. He wants you to understand and he wants to understand you.

I feel as though this past year he has matured so very much I can’t help but wonder in awe at his accomplishments and just the way he carries himself.

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He wants to go to M.I.T.

While he understands science and physics and has the periodic table of elements in a frame over his bed, he spent much of his school days struggling with math. But he understood completely if he wanted to get into M.I.T. one day, he would need to be good at math.

He wants to do large equations like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory…complete with a big ‘ol white board for his bedroom.

So, in his very own way, he spent much of his first year of middle school melting down and incredibly emotional over what he thought was his inability to grasp whatever math lesson was being taught. And in his very own way once again he decided it just wouldn’t do anymore and flipped that switch off, turning on a new one, bringing home extra credit work and practice in order to understand the math he swore he didn’t understand.

Just as soon as his emotions calmed, the math would be finished in a second flat. He would remark how easy it was and move on to his video game.

I’m not suggesting it’s remarkable my child fulfilled his math duties as a 6th grader, but what I am suggesting is that at the tender age of 11 he realized he had a goal that was another lifetime away and began working towards it full force and this is the kicker…without prodding from his father, without pushing from me.

That is the old soul in him. The one who can see beyond the immediate gratification of a reward for an ‘A’ or the back patting from Mom and Dad.

He’s going to be a scientist. He’s going to retrieve the rovers from Mars. He’s going to cure Lupus. He’s going to do everything he says he will do, because I’ve watched him simply change his mind to make it so.

And while all of those goals are great, nothing makes me more proud than when he is simply Jack.

The kid who still saves half a cupcake if there is a birthday in class because he knows his sister will love the frosting.

The kid who used his own birthday money to buy another fedora for a boy at his birthday party after some kids at school threw the original, used as the goodie bag to hold candy for his guests, over a wall on a walk during P.E. Without me asking. Without me offering. Without it even being an idea in my mind at the time…just said, “Mom, I need to buy him another one…those kids were jerks for doing that and I told them so.”

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Entirely unafraid to stand up to the “athletic” kids as he calls them and entirely determined the world will be fair on his watch.

Another thing I adore about him…his ability to feel so deeply for others to the point of tears while watching the news. No, he doesn’t want me to turn it off. He wants to learn more. Even if it upsets him.

At first I thought maybe he just needed to try and understand why evil exists. He wanted to keep watching so he could have some explanation for his always moving mind.

But then I realized that was only part of why he wanted to keep watching, despite feeling such empathy he was in physical pain and emotional distress. He wanted to keep watching because he needs to know everything about the problem in order to fix the problem.

His brain is constantly coming up with new ideas on how to make planes safer, how to end racism, how to feed the hungry and house the homeless. He is tremendously upset by injustice and disgusted by bigotry.

It could be 1 in the afternoon and we’ve just finished watching a Disney movie and he will suddenly begin a monologue on how he’s almost figured out how to get the cells in my immune system to behave normally but he needs to know more about immunoglobulin so he might look that up tonight in bed, but not until after he finishes a documentary he was watching on string theory and that one video he wants to see that can show him how to level up in the game he’s playing with a glitch this guy found.

At least there was some time in there to be a typical boy. I think.

Yes, I worry that he worries too much. A 12-year old should be climbing trees and riding his bike and squeaking in that prepubescent way, not wondering how he can stop climate change and cure cancer.

But never fear, he is also every inch of a 12-year old boy that you would expect combined with a wise old man. A wise soul filled with so much love it hurts us both at times. He’s even shown he has the heart of a writer and poet…something I wasn’t expecting with his usual scientific mind.

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I’m beyond proud of the man he is becoming and wish I could stop time to let him enjoy his childhood a bit longer. But something tells me that just is not how he wants things to go. He wants to accomplish so many thing and understands he needs to grow and age in order to do these things.

Just that he understands this, astonishes me. But I don’t know why I’m surprised, he’s been showing me this part of himself his entire life. And it’s a life I’m damn proud of.

Happy Birthday Jackson.