This article is about my family’s experience with antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is everybody’s responsibility
In 1932 my grandfather’s first wife died of tuberculosis. It wasn’t until 1948 that the first penicillin came to Sweden. I remember my grandmother telling me how grateful she was for this, as she had often suffered from abscesses in her throat. Getting the penicillin cured her.
In 2011, I found out I was expecting twins. Twenty-five weeks into my pregnancy, I woke up during the night. My water had broken and I was immediately admitted to the hospital. I was bedridden and was given intra-venous antibiotics for several days.
After being bedridden for three weeks, I went into labour and gave birth to Kirsty and Freya, two healthy girls, despite being born 12 weeks premature and weighing only 970 and 945 grams. A day after the delivery I was sent home, but the girls stayed to be cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Four days after the delivery, we got a phone call during the night, telling us that Kirsty was seriously ill. A few hours later Freya also got seriously ill. The doctors didn’t know what the problem was. They did a number of tests and I remember asking them, “How long will it take before we get the answer?” “Five days,” they said. I remember thinking, “It will be too late.”
Kirsty and Freya were fighting for their lives. Kirsty took a turn for the worse and was put on a life support machine. At only eight days old, she was taken off life support. Lying on my chest, she took her last breath while I held her tiny hand and softy sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
I wish we could turn back the clock and be more responsible with antibiotic use.
The girls had been infected with ESBL-producing Klebsiella Pneumoniae, a multi-drug resistant intestinal bacteria which is typically transmitted patient-to-patient through healthcare workers. Studies have suggested that the widespread use of antibiotics is a major risk factor in the emergence of ESBL-producing K. pneumoiae.
And so the story of my family comes full circle. The miracle drug that might have saved my grandfather’s first wife, that did save my grandmother and countless others around the world, may be the very thing that ultimately took my daughter’s life. I wish we could turn back the clock and be more responsible with antibiotic use. Maybe then my story would have a happier ending.
The misuse of antibiotics for decades has put the world and our society in a life threatening situation. The WHO reports: “An increasing number of governments around the world are devoting efforts to a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine. A post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”
The Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy
WHO (World Health Organization)
Nature.com: The Journal of Perinatology