SHERMAN OAKS (CBSLA.com) — This week’s report of a drug-resistant infection killing two patients, and infecting at least seven more at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, had a Sherman Oaks woman recalling her own bout with a so-called superbug.
“Oh my God,” Alicia Cole, who now works as a patient advocate, told CBS2 health reporter Lisa Sigell. “I was devastated. First of all my heart went out to the families.”
Cole was infected with a drug-resistant, flesh-eating bacteria at another hospital in 2006.
“I know from firsthand experience just because you live doesn’t mean it doesn’t decimate your life,” said Cole, who was working as an actress when she went to the hospital for a routine fibroid removal.
She entered the hospital healthy, and was supposed to leave the next day. Instead, she spiked a fever, and went downhill fast.
After her infection, Cole faced a long recovery.
“I had an open abdomen for three years. I was in medical care, going to wound care for four years,” she said. “It’s eight years later and I’m still in physical therapy. I almost had my leg amputated.”
Cole only found out about infection issues at the hospital after she had her procedure.
“I learned after the fact that my hospital had been cited for infection control deficiencies. There was no way for me to know that,” she said.
Over the past several years, Cole has become a patient safety advocate, working with politicians, even presidents, to prevent hospital infections from devastating others.
Cole said that even when hospitals report infections to health departments, those agencies often don’t tell the public for weeks, months or years.
“There’s this kind of collegial professional courtesy that health departments extend to hospitals and we’ve got to be better about putting the patient first,” she said.
Cole wants real-time reporting to the public of all hospital-acquired infections.
“Live are at stake, and it’s time we need to get real about that,” she said.