In an incredibly rare and shocking case, a young mother will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair after contracting an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection through a makeup brush.
It’s news so far-fetched it seems surely impossible, but in an incredibly rare Australian medical case highlighting the need for better education around makeup hygiene, a Brisbane mum is facing life in a wheelchair as a result of a seemingly harmless makeup session with a friend.
The woman at the centre of the story is 27-year-old Brisbane mother, Jo Gilchrist, who was diagnosed with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant strain of golden staph bacteria, in February this year, after she was airlifted to hospital with crippling back pain.
Gilchrist told doctors she’d borrowed her best friend’s makeup brush to cover a pimple before falling ill, and that her friend had been suffering from a staph infection at the time, which the women hadn’t considered to be an issue.
My friend did have a staph infection on her face and I was using her brush… I had no idea that could even happen.
“The only thing we can put it down to is the makeup brush… My friend did have a staph infection on her face and I was using her brush just before. I had no idea that could even happen, I used to share with my friends all the time,” Gilchrist told Daily Mail Australia.
But some time later, Gilchrist started experiencing painful symptoms.
“It started as a little ache in my back and I thought it was my bad posture, but it kept getting worse and worse… I was in incredible pain and nothing would work. I honestly thought I was going to die.”
The 27-year-old says alarm bells first rang for her doctors when she started to lose feeling in her legs.
I was in incredible pain and nothing would work. I honestly thought I was going to die.
“They said it would go all the way up my arms and into my chest and when that happened I’d have to be put in an induced coma and learn to breathe again,” Gilchrist told reporters.
When Gilchrist woke from her induced coma, doctors explained they’d discovered she’d contracted MRSA, which could not be treated with regular antibiotics, and would leave her numb from the waist down for the remainder of her life.
“They told me at my bedside that I’d never walk again and I just felt numb and I had tears rolling down my cheeks.”
Gilchrist currently has no feeling below her belly button and consequently can not control her bowel or bladder as a result of the condition.
“I’m fighting this with all I’ve got and I’m starting to learn to walk again. Two weeks ago they said I might be able to walk for an hour or two a day – like grocery shopping, washing up and hanging the washing out… I’m happy with that. I honestly didn’t even expect that.”
They told me at my bedside that I’d never walk again and I just felt numb
Staph is a common bacteria that doesn’t typically cause harm. In fact, most people carry it on the surface of their skin or in their nose without ever having any issues.
As many therapists are already acutely aware, a staph outbreak can occur when the bacteria enters the body through an open wound or popped pustule and is able to multiply and spread. There are many forms of staph infections, and not all are receptive to regular antibiotics, as in Gilchrist’s case.
Gilchrist will need to spend another three months in hospital, where doctors will continue to administer high strength antibiotics to stop the infection from progressing. And in the meantime, the Brisbane mum is trying to stay positive.
“I was so lucky it went to my spine… If it went to my brain I would have died.”
Have your say: Are your clients educated about at-home makeup hygiene?