C. diff survivor and advocate shares her story

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Nancy Caralla
Nancy Caralla

Guest Author: Nancy C Caralla
Founding Executive Director,
President of the C Diff Foundation.

My name is Nancy Caralla, and I know all too much about Clostridium difficile (C. diff).  I am a nurse and contracted C. diff while caring for patients suffering from this horrible infection. Now, I am a C. diff survivor. Tragically, our family lost my father from C. diff, too. I know how fighting a C. diff infection can be exhausting on so many levels. It is a physically, mentally, and financially debilitating infection. It has the ability to steal away a loved one, tear away dreams, create added stress on families, diminish financial nest eggs, eliminate employment opportunities, build geographic mobility limitations, and create tears in even the strongest individuals. All aspects of one’s being are involved in fighting a C. diff infection. This is why I have dedicated myself to “Raising C. diff Awareness” worldwide.

The C diff Foundation was brought to fruition in 2012 with a mission to provide education and advocate for C. diff infection prevention, treatment, and environmental safety worldwide. It provides Antibiotic News, Nutrition Support, Government and private Scientific Research and Development Studies, and a CDF Volunteer program. The C diff Foundation hosts a 24-hour hotline to support patients, families, and health care providers through the difficulties of a C. diff infection (1-844-FOR-CDIF).

Our hotline now gets 20-30 calls a day from individuals impacted by this germ. These are some of the most common questions we get asked: 

How do antibiotics cause C. diff?

The antibiotics cause a disruption in the normal intestinal flora which leads to an over growth of Clostridium difficile bacteria in the colon. In November 2012, CDC shared a public announcement regarding antibiotic use: colds and many ear and sinus infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Taking antibiotics to treat a “virus” can make those drugs less-effective when you and your family really need them. Limiting the usage of antibiotics will also help limit new cases of C. diff infections. Always discuss the symptoms and medications with the treating physician. Get smart about antibiotics by looking at CDC’s materials online. 

What can we do to stop C. diff?

We can all fight acquiring a C. diff infection beginning with prevention, and C. diff is a preventable infection.

Hand-washing (aka hand-hygiene) practiced and repeated frequently with correct technique aids removes harmful germs, provides patient safety, and adheres to infection control policies.

Environmental safety: Utilizing EPA registered products with “C. diff kill” claim will aid in eradicating Clostridium difficile Gram-positive, anaerobic spores, found to be capable of surviving outside of the body for long periods of time.

As a healthcare professional, how do I protect myself from C. diff?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): During the care of a patient diagnosed with a C. diff infection, following infection-control policies, healthcare and environmental service professionals are to wear PPE to minimize exposure to serious workplace illnesses (acute care, long-term care, and home care environments). PPE may include items such as gloves, shoe coverings, and gowns.

Communication:  Contacting and alerting other healthcare facilities, prior to transferring a patient, to report an active C. diff infection to implement and follow contact precautions and isolation policies.

C. diff Foundation
C. diff Foundation

We can all fight acquiring a C. diff infection. C. diff is preventable, and together we can stop its spread.

For more information please visit the Foundation’s website: www.cdifffoundation.org.

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

101 comments on “C. diff survivor and advocate shares her story”

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    Hello…I am 22 years old and a survivor of c-diff. My road to recovery has not been great either. Ever since I was a kid, I struggled with IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) everything I ate, always came out minutes later with diarrhea. As I got older I realized I was progressively getting worse and was later diagnosed with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). SIBO is a hard disease to live with because it takes over my entire life. I really cannot eat much of anything at all. I also suffer from an incredibly weak immune system and am constantly taking antibiotics for flu, strep, ear infections.. etc. In April 2020 I began to have uncontrollable diarrhea and shooting pains through my stomach which were unbearable. My situation is rather strange because at first I really did not think anything was wrong since I already suffer from a very weak stomach. After two weeks I finally was able to call my GI who I basically had to force to order me a test. A week later I got the call… I had c diff. I had never felt so low and disgusted with myself. Luckily, after two weeks of Flagyl I felt better. I have been better for about two months now. I have severe anxiety and fear that c diff will return and I will feel the same pain and darkness that I did feel. I am so young and I am always saying no to my friends and family to go out because of my constant problems. The road to recovery post c diff has been so hard for me and I still feel symptoms such as burning after a bowel movement.

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Page last reviewed: November 18, 2016
Page last updated: November 18, 2016