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Thursday, December 28, 2006

He'll Be Back Playing Football in the Fall: Surgical error

His mother says about her son Jimmy, "His whole life was in a team uniform," first baseball at age 4 and then football at age 7. And he was good--he'd won his local Punt, Pass and Kick competition as a child. Then at age 15 he had a bicycle accident that required outpatient knee surgery. He was told he'd be back on the football field in the fall. But he developed a staph infection, probably from a dirty surgical instrument or doctor or nurse who didn't wash their hands thoroughly enough.

MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) and other bacteria had invaded his blood, bones and joints. His treatment has involved massive amounts of Vancomycin and other antibiotics, physical therapy and multiple operations. He requires bone grafts from his hip and heel to replace the lost bone damaged by infection. Now Jimmy Toolen can't go to school, and needs a cane, walker or wheelchair to get around. The hospital infection has also damaged his mother and father's health, and has wrecked them financially.

His mother Lisa Toolen has worked hard to support a state law requiring the disclosure of hospital infection rates in South Carolina. Efforts like hers have persuaded 16 states to pass some form of public reporting law. She has told her story to the Consumer Reports organization, which is collecting these stories.

Advice for parents: Tell your story loud and long, here and elsewhere. Join with other victims' families to get laws passed to reduce hospital infection rates.

Read more in articles by Robert Kittle and David Hutchins.