A football player for the New York Giants, Daniel Fells, has contracted the rare bacterial infection MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus)- a super-bug that is resistant to most common sterilization practices as well as many powerful antibiotics (hence the ‘Methicillin Resistant’ portion of the name). After a few very tense weeks, the doctors were confident enough to say that the MRSA infection can be treated without amputation.
Fells, the tight end for the NY Giants, originally only had a sprained ankle that was slow to heal. So Fells was given a shot of cortisone (a hormone naturally produced in the body by the adrenal gland) to speed up the healing and to reduce the inflammation.
Yet about a week later, Fells was rushed to the emergency room after developing a fever of 104 degrees and severe pain in his ankle. At the ER, the hospital doctors gave Fells a dose of powerful antibiotics- to no avail. The infection did not cease to spread nor did the pain. Fells was diagnosed with MRSA.
Next, the doctors began a series of surgeries aimed at disinfecting the ankle and foot- where the bacteria had spread. There was a great deal of concern that the bacteria would spread to the bone, where antibiotics do not work as well, and from there get into the blood stream. If the bacteria were to enter the blood stream, septicemia or blood poisoning would soon follow resulting in organ failure and ultimately death. This was a fate faced by many soldiers prior to World War II when gangrene would kill a man if the infected limb were not immediately amputated.
Even today, the doctors may have to amputate Fells’ foot in order to save his life. After two weeks in the hospital and several successive surgeries, the Giants have announced that amputation is not likely. However, Fells will remain in the hospital for the foreseeable future as he continues to combat the staph infection.
ESPN.com reports that Fells has so far undergone five surgeries, and that doctors were fighting to save his foot.
“In a healthy young athlete, to have an amputation from MRSA is extremely unusual,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Fells is currently in the ICU unit being treated with antibiotic beads packed into his foot as well as antibiotics via an IV. His wife has remained by his side throughout the whole ordeal. Last week, family members from California flew in to New York with Fells’ two young children. Giants coach Tom Coughlin and other team members have also frequently visited Fells.
Unfortunately, Fells professional football career is undoubtedly over at this point, though, that is not the 32-year-old’s main concern at the moment.
It is still not entirely certain how a person contracts MRSA. Researchers believe has many as one in 20 people carry MRSA naturally in their skin. The disease is thought to enter the body through openings in the skin such as cuts or scratches or even microscopic breaks in the skin.
Fells “is in the high-risk population of athletes, where they share towels and benches and have high body contact,” said Stefan Juretschko, director of infectious diseases diagnostics for North Shore-LIJ Health System in Lake Success, N.Y.
Needless to say, the Giants have responded to Fells’ infection with an intense scrub down of all locker rooms, training rooms, and meeting rooms.
Last year, approximately 75,000 people were infected with MRSA. Many of those who contract the disease are elderly and frequently hospitalized.