My NHS: From relief to horror after I contracted MRSA on the ward

The infection ate away a skin graft and took hold

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The Independent Online

I should preface this by saying that I have had cancer treatment, infertility treatment, and four ambulance trips to A&E. I sometimes joke that I should have a season ticket for my nearest hospital. And I have had almost unerringly good experiences.

But there is one hospital stay that sticks in the mind. It was with enormous relief that I was admitted to a London hospital for a skin graft after a grisly motorbike crash in Thailand burned a hole in my lower leg.

Oh thank goodness for the dogged professionalism of the NHS. Or so I thought.

A patch of skin was removed from my backside and attached to my leg. I was to lie still for a week for it to “take”. I hunkered down with a pile of books. After five days the consultant, the nurse, the surgeon and a couple of students gathered round my bed to unveil the newly patchworked and repaired leg. They unwound the dressings for the big reveal and then… silence. An awkward silence. From the other end of the bed I asked “what’s wrong?”


What was wrong was that I had contracted MRSA. It had “eaten away” all of the graft and had taken hold. It was a devastating, miserable turn of events. I was whisked into an isolation room and remained there for two weeks.

The only punctuation points in this interminable wait to see if my flesh would fight back were the antibiotic injections every four hours. It was icy cold, every time, and made me cry. It seems – now – like an insignificant detail, but it made me dread that moment.

When I’d recovered the doctors returned. Would I like them to have another go at the skin graft? Could they guarantee that I wouldn’t get another flesh-eating bug? They couldn’t. So I still have the hole in my leg.

Lisa Markwell is editor of The Independent on Sunday