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cartoonbacteria04For almost 5 months now, I have had a staph infection that just won’t go away. It was soon after I landed in Bombay during monsoon that a rash first appeared on my chest, which soon turned into a boil. I didn’t know what a boil was, but I knew from experience in India that infections untreated could go very wrong, and I immediately went to see a doctor. He drained the puss and gave me some antibiotics, and that was that. Then another boil appeared elsewhere. I went back to the doctor – same procedure.

Later I developed another boil in my nostril – an extraordinarily painful infection that made the whole side of my face swell. I went to a different doctor, who prescribed another antibiotic and gave me a prescription for a super “big gun” antibiotic just in case that one didn’t work. Neither worked.

cartoonbacteria01_2At first I didn’t know what I had, but only after the boils started to multiply was it diagnosed as staph.

In India, I can afford to see doctors. In America, the medical system is designed primarily as a major profit-making industry (in cahoots with the pharmaceutical and insurance industries), and only secondarily as a health care system. I’ve worked hard in my life, but haven’t done so for money. Thus, I’m one of those people who completely falls through the cracks.

The point of this entry is not to talk about what I’ve been going through, or how the system is unfair, or whether or not I should get a job with insurance. The point is that in going through this experience, it’s become clear that our current system is a health crisis in the making.

cartoonbacteria03What I have is not highly contagious, but it’s contagious. I know for sure because I passed it onto Lovele~en (sorry, Love). Recently, the news has been full of accounts of MRSA, popularly known as the “superbug”. What’s crazy is that MRSA kills dead 1 out of every 5 people who get it – it kills more people in America each year than AIDS.

Since Loveleen got it and has insurance, she was cultured and ours is not diagnosed as MRSA, but clearly it’s also resistant to every antibiotic we are given. This is very dangerous.

To have people walking around with contagious, deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is not a good thing. It will spread, and effect lots of people. Clearly these bacteria continue to evolve faster than we can develop antibiotics for them, and pose a great danger to society at large.

The best thing to do is to treat it immediately and effectively. But here’s the catch. It’s the people like me who fall through the cracks that present the gravest danger to society.

cartoonbacteria05_2It’s not such a big deal to take someone’s culture, do a lab sample on it, and write them a prescription for what will treat the problem. But when a disproportionate, exorbitant price tag is attached to this simple procedure, then many people will choose to suffer through it, or attempt to find their own cures. Suffering through a broken arm, a rotting tooth, or even cancer, frankly sucks – but people, sadly, do it all the time. The people who fall through the cracks will also suffer through MRSA and other evolving contagions – and they will walk around spreading it to everyone. And that’s when our greed-based system will be bitten in the ass by the karma of its own making. Like it or not, leaving people behind is soon to become a major liability for us all.

There is, of course, a solution.

Images from (in order): macmcrae.com, altham.com, folioplanet.com

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