Published May 12, 2008
A Kansas City-area teenager who tried to pierce his lip with a needle from a first-aid kit ended up with a staph infection that almost killed him.
Zeke Wheeler of Blue Springs is recovering at Children's Mercy Hospital after several surgeries on his knees and hips to remove the drug-resistant infection called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection.
Now the 15-year-old high school freshman faces heart surgery, more hospitalization and a long course of antibiotics.
The boy's father — John Wheeler — said Wednesday that the boy was at home ill with flu and bronchitis on April 8 and tried to pierce his lower lip.
A week later the boy felt feverish and went to an emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a viral infection. Not until he was at Children's Mercy was he found to have MRSA.
Dr. Robyn Livingston, director of Infection Control at Children's Mercy Hospital, told KCTV-5, "If MRSA gets into the blood stream, you're talking about infection on the heart, pneumonia, into the bone that may require surgical intervention."
Every part of Wheeler's body is now affected, Livingston added. He's had six blood transfusions, and three knee and two hip surgeries.
Dr. Joseph Rahimian, an infectious disease specialist at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City, said he treats about 15 cases of MRSA each week.
"It's a bacteria we're seeing more and more frequently in communities and hospitals," Rahimian said. "It could be because of the increased use of antibiotics."
Rahimian said he thinks Wheeler will recover, although the teenager might have some chronic consequences.
"I guess there is a lesson in this," Rahimian said. "If you are getting a piercing, it should be done with someone who knows what they are doing, and it should be done with a clean, sterilized needle with someone who knows where the major vessels are to avoid injecting into an artery or vein."
— The Associated Press contributed to this report