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The MRSA Monster: Join the Fight

MRSA victim Cynthia Torda urges staff to be more vigilant about hygiene.

In 1995, Cynthia Torda had an abdominal hysterectomy. What should have been a routine eight-week recovery stretched into 18 hellish weeks. The incision became infected. Antibiotics failed to help. The wound worsened. Torda endured more surgeries, painful debridement and daily repacking for the 10-inch-deep wound—all thanks to a superbug known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

Torda, a veteran OR nurse, now director of Wilmer sterile processing, developed MRSA at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. But it could have happened at practically any hospital in the nation, because MRSA is on the rise everywhere.

The good news: Hopkins Hospital is one of six sites chosen to receive funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for an aggressive campaign to wipe out the preventable infection. Partnering with the sites on the initiative, called S.T.O.M.P. (stop transmission of MRSA permanently), is the nonprofit Plexus Institute. The campaign kicked off here earlier in the fall with a two-day series of workshops.

To be sure, stringent infection control policies and practices are already in place to combat this tough infection. Resistant to commonly used antibiotics, MRSA lives on the skin and other surfaces and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and by sharing personal items, like towels and razors.

As part of the MRSA campaign, staff will use existing infection control resources. But through a grass-roots, problem-solving approach called positive deviance, they themselves will determine the strategies and behaviors that can improve implementation of solutions that have worked elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Torda hopes her story will help raise awareness of the superbug’s physical and emotional toll. “If you take nothing else away from this except that you could be me,” Torda told the audience at the MRSA workshops, “you’ll be more rigorous about infection control.”

Judy Minkove

For more information on MRSA and how you can prevent its spread, visit


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