The following article was taken with permission from JiuJitsuForums
“Oh gawd” You read the title and your palms started sweating and you instinctively went and washed your gi and disinfected your gym bag. ( Probably a good idea. ) I’ve been out of BJJ for approximately a month and a half now. Why may you ask? Because of a delightful little bacteria called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
I wanted to make a post, share my experience, and maybe prevent a few new cases from arising. Allow me to stress immediately that I am no doctor, or medical professional, I’m not even that intelligent of a guy. Allow me to also stress that no matter how strictly regimented your cleaning is, or how sterile you think your gym is; staph is everywhere. Its in our community, its invaded our hospitals, and its resilient.
Before you go burning your gi in the trashcan, do remember that staph is simply a fact of life. Just like drunk drivers, just like any other exotic disease you can google up. As violent and grotesque as the pictures and other horror stories are on the internet; you must remember that they are not typical. Yes, your leg can rot off of your body if you catch staph and do absolutely zero to combat it. Yes you can do everything in the world to combat it and still manage to accomplish absolutely zero. There is no reason to be ”afraid” of staph; but as the adage goes ”complacency breeds failure”.
Around a month and a half ago, I developed a small pimple sized lump on my calf. I thought nothing of it, and carried on with my life. The very evening that I noticed its arrival my calf began to inflame around the site of infection, and eventually developed into a good quarter sized welt. I remembered back to my days in microbiology and thought ”oh sheezus I have staph”. I immediately checked into the nearest urgent care facility, and was promptly diagnosed with a ”yep thats probably staph”.
A little professional cleaning, and a big bottle of prescription medication and I was on my way. I went to bed with a clear head and thought to myself ”I’ll feel better tomorrow”. I awoke that morning with a 100 degree fever, and a baseball which eventually ballooned into a basketball in my leg. ”Oh s***!” You might think to yourself. Understand that my encounter with MRSA was not typical. Usually ( and I take this strictly from personal account ) MRSA comes, infects an open wound, causes a little swelling, and is treated with a strong regiment of anti-biotic for about 5 days before dissipating and going away. I know of at least 5 people who tested positive for MRSA and were clear of it within a few days.
Let me just go off on a quick tangent here and tell you a little bit about me. My friends in the Marines used to call me ”murphy”. I am not irish, nor do I know anything about myself that resembles anything clover-like. They call my ”murphy” because I am prone to bad luck. Murphy’s law.
So unfortunately for me however, MRSA decided it wanted to be like Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet in Pulp Fiction and turn into one bad mother f—-r. It promptly spread throughout my body by means of my blood. I ended up getting a secondary infection in my neck, and a few pretty serious looks from my doctor.
It was maybe, 5 days after I started treating it that it was at its worse. I absolutely could not stand up, mind you the infection was on my calf. If I stood up the coagulate in my calf would shift and press up against the wound causing excruciating pain.
I thought I was going to die. Why had I come to this point in my life? Because I had made the single largest mistake someone with zero genuine medical training could do. I got on google, and typed in how to treat MRSA. I ended up scaring the living daylights out of myself, and thought I was going to end up like Kevin Randelman with a chunk or two missing out of my body.
I had really put myself into a very distraught place. I was questioning whether or not I was ever going to get up and walk again. Much less if I was ever going to be able to go and get back on the mat. I had to assume that I had managed to pick up this nasty bug from the uncleaned masses that attend my gym. My gut response being simply that I was afraid to ever return at the risk of re-contracting something else. Jiu Jitsu had become my favorite thing in life, and now I was beginning to hate it.
And then my phone rang. My coach, after taking notice of my absence from class for a week called to see if everything was alright. I upped him on where I was currently at and how long the doctors were expecting for me to recover. I told him all about how scared I had become and how I was questioning ever returning to the gym. ( At this point I was maintaining a steady fever of 102, walking with the assistance of crutches, and had already spent some time in the hospital. )
I was clearly very panicked and upset with the entire process. On a personal level, I am a very reclusive person and maintain a very low number of acquaintance’s. After the comeraderie I experienced in the Marines, I’ve had a very difficult time allowing anyone else to get close. My gym is the first place I’ve ever felt genuinely comfortable in a group outside of that.
We’ve all seen it a number of times in our own gyms. The coaching staff going above and beyond what we pay them in our monthly dues. I’m sure we can all say we have true mentors in our professors, and would gladly follow them into any dark alley. He shared his own personal experiences with Staph with me, and explained how he had found himself in much of the same situation. He told me as much as he could about how he beat it. He let me know that everyone at the gym would be hoping for a swift recovery, and waiting for me to get healthy enough to come on back. Up until now I’ve been checked on every few days with some extra encouragement. Without the intervention of my coach, I think this entire thing may have gone a different direction.
I can’t wait to return to the mats and keep putting one foot in-front of the other. Knowing that I have a group of brothers and sisters that want to choke me unconscious has given me a sense of purpose and belonging again. I’ve finally found something to wake up to in the morning and look forward for. I imagine the same could be said for many team environments. I just feel like there is something inherently different about Jiu Jitsu.
The passage of Staph from my body has been excruciatingly slow. It’s been made even more agonizing by all the BJJ books I’ve been reading and clips of tournament champions on youtube. From start to finish it has taken approximately 45 days. It has taken some careful monitoring from my doctor, some late night trips to ER to have them examine things that ”just didn’t feel right”, and a healthy dose of patience. Throughout the duration of my infection I’ve been on two separate anti-biotic’s, a couple different topical tinctures, drank more apple cider vinegar than I’d care to remember, gone through two bottles of tea tree oil, eaten two entire heads of garlic ( straight and raw ), and kept my leg elevated uncomfortably high. Now that I’m at the end of all of it I’d like to think I can look back and use it as a learning experience. Is there a likelihood that I could encounter something potentially dangerous on the mats again, even if I maintain a tight hygiene schedule? Maybe. Is it enough to make me tap out and hang up my Brazilian pajama’s forever? Not in this lifetime.
The following article has been taken by permission and author credits go to Treoptika333