MCDONOUGH, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - When Peto and Liz Fallas' now 8-year old son Liam picked up a stomach bug in May of 2018,
they weren't worried, at least at first. It seemed to be going around his class.
"So, you tend to think little kids, school, upset stomach," Peto Fallas remembers.
But when Liam, who'd been taking an antibiotic for a tooth abscess, suddenly got much sicker, they rushed him to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
Tests showed he had contracted Clostridium difficile, or C.diff., a bacterium that can trigger severe diarrhea, and, sometimes, life-threatening complications. And Children's Healthcare Emergency Physician Dr. Lauren Middlebrooks says C.diff typically hits people like Liam, who are either taking or have recently taken antibiotics.
"Antibiotics decrease the good bacteria that live in your gut," Dr. Middlebrooks explains. "We all have good bacteria in our gut, called normal flora, and that is what fights off the bad stuff, such as C-diff. So, when you're taking antibiotics, it wipes that good bacteria out and it makes you at increased risk of having this bacteria infection."
At Children's, Fallas says, the bottom dropped out. Liam's lungs and abdomen swelled with fluid, and the antibiotics doctors did not seem to be helping.
"Basically every few minutes my wife had to carry him to the bathroom, there was nothing but blood coming out of him," Fallas remembers. "So, basically his body was shutting down."
That's when, his father says, he began to realize they could lose Liam.
"I started coming home that evening and I saw his bed, and it was empty, and I thought, 'Maybe he won't come back,'" he says.
Finally, after another 48 hours, Liam began to turn a corner. After 3 weeks, he left the hospital.
So, how can you protect yourself or your family from C.diff?
"One of the things is to take probiotics, or things that replenish the good bacteria in your gut, while you're taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection," Dr. Middlebrooks says.
She also recommends frequent handwashing, with soap and water. Hand sanitizer, she says, won't kill the bacterium. Liam Fallas is now a year out, healthy again.
On Saturday, June 15th he'll be the honored patient at the first ina
ugural Speedway Spin, a cycling fundraiser for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the hospital the Fallas believe helped Liam beat the odds. The event will be held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
For more information or to register, click here.