A mother of two who developed a life-threatening skin infection before her 28th birthday after undergoing a tummy tuck and liposuction was told by her doctor to “get hard.”
Jamie Hilburn, now 39 and from Edmond, Oklahoma, said she got the surgery — which removes fat and excess skin — as a gift to herself to boost her confidence.
But a few days after the procedure, the skin on her left side became sore to the touch and she turned red as if she had been burned by the sun. The hairdresser called her doctor – who was not named, but was just told to “get hard” and that it was part of the recovery.
When the pain got worse – even after a hospital visit to get medicine – her grandmother called the surgeon and said, “Listen buddy, this isn’t a “hardening recovery.” Something’s wrong. She’s in a lot of pain.’
She was then referred to another hospital where they diagnosed her with MRSA and kept her in the ward for ten days. Hilburn – who was forced to file for bankruptcy by the experience – still has a scar on her left side from treatment.
MRSA is a potentially life-threatening infection because the bacteria are resistant to several types of antibiotics. It is estimated that up to half of patients die and 20,000 Americans are killed each year by these super-resistant bacteria.
Jamie Hilburn, now 39 and from Edmond, Oklahoma, spent ten days in the hospital after contracting MRSA following liposuction and a tummy tuck. She is pictured above during the treatment of the infection
Revealing the experience 11 years later, Hilburn says she still has a scar on her left side. She is pictured above with her fiancé and daughter, 7, who she had after the ordeal
Hilburn told The Insider about her experience, saying, “It’s just something you wouldn’t think in a million years would happen through some silly, vain procedure.”
She added: “I wanted to have surgery for obvious reasons – for looks, for insecurities, but I just don’t care anymore.
“It’s made me love what I have, without needing more.”
WHAT IS MRSA?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of bacteria that is resistant to several commonly used antibiotics, making it particularly difficult to treat.
Catching the infection early can help prevent it from spreading and infecting others.
About 30 percent of people carry the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria even in their nose, armpits, groin, or buttocks without realizing it.
This can enter the body’s bloodstream and release toxic toxins that kill up to a fifth of infected patients.
MRSA is usually associated with hospitals.
Current screening methods are not only highly drug resistant, but are also quite inaccurate, allowing the infection to spread as a patient moves both inside and outside hospitals.
Even when the infection is successfully treated, it doubles the average length of a patient’s hospital stay and increases health care costs.
The WHO recently classified MRSA as a high priority on its list for research and development of new drugs.
After her first call to the doctor, Hilburn revealed that she spent the night lying on the armrest of her couch, applying pressure to the red skin, as that was the only way to relieve the pain.
The next day, she went to a nearby hospital where they were diagnosed with cellulitis, a common bacterial infection.
Hilburn says they prescribed her painkillers and sleeping pills before she fired her, and not antibiotics that can kill the bacteria.
Then, when the pain intensified and after another phone call with her doctor, she was referred to a larger hospital in the state for treatment.
There it soon turned out to be a MRSA infection, caused by a Staphylococcus bacterium that could withstand several known antibiotics.
Fortunately, one of the hospital’s “last chance” antibiotics was able to kill the bacteria and cure the infection.
Hospitals have stocks of these antibiotics — not available elsewhere — that are offered to patients only when other commonly used antibiotics have failed. They are withheld to maintain their potency because if the drug is used too often, bacteria can learn to get around them.
After 10 days in the hospital, Hilburn spent another month in home care, where she was hooked up to an IV and had a drainage bag.
It wasn’t clear how she contracted the infection, but the Mayo clinic says it’s possible to get infected during surgery if medics aren’t strict about washing their hands and cleaning tools between patients.
Hilburn said her plastic surgeon reimbursed the procedure and covered her home care after she was diagnosed with MRSA.
But he failed to cover hospital bills totaling $125,000, forcing her to file for bankruptcy. She also refused to cover her insurance because the trip was caused by a cosmetic procedure.
At the time, she was a single mother to her son, who, in her own words, helped her “get through the experience.”
But she has since been engaged and has had a daughter – who is now seven years old – and returned to school to study psychology.
Jamie Hilburn received the tummy tuck and liposuction for her 28th birthday as a gift to herself. But after she contracted a skin infection – eventually diagnosed as MRSA – she was initially told by her doctor to ‘get hard’
Liposuction is a surgical procedure that removes fat from areas of the body — such as the hips, buttocks, arms, or neck — while a tummy tuck removes excess fat and skin from the abdomen to “shape” the area.
Both carry risks, including skin infection, scarring, fluid buildup under the operated skin, and loss of sensation in certain areas.
In rare cases, MRSA infections can occur after the procedures.
About 120,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed in the United States each year, along with about 20,000 deaths, estimates suggest — and the number is rising.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that anyone who becomes infected can develop skin that becomes red, swollen and painful, as well as warm to the touch.
They recommend anyone with these symptoms contact their doctor promptly to get medical treatment.
Infections with the bacteria can be prevented by cleaning wounds, not picking at sores and cleaning the hands regularly, even after touching a bandage or a wound.