“Is that your son?” The nurse barked the words out before the parents of the 14-month-old boy could open their mouths. “Is that your son breathing like that?”
It was, and he was barely alive. “Come with me,” the triage nurse at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego said as she grabbed the boy and carried him into the ER.
The year was 2005 — the last day of the year, in fact — and little Bryce Smith, whose skin had the sickly color of a faded bruise, was very ill. By the next morning, he was hooked up to a dozen IV bags and near death.
He had become one of the first people in the United States to come down with a case of pneumonia related to a staph infection known as MRSA. And the doctors at Children’s Hospital were among the first in the world to need to figure out what to do about it — and him.
Medical journalist Maryn McKenna tells the story of Bryce Smith and Carlos Don IV, a Ramona boy who developed the same disease, in the new book “Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA.”
The disease once only struck hospital patients with weakened immune systems. It has spread to the general population, and is now thought to kill 19,000 people in the U.S. each year. (The CDC has more details about MRSA.)