STOCKTON — After seven years of dating her love, Tatiana Chiprez was like most brides, focused on the new name she would take.
On June 7, 2017, her last name changed to Vargas. But right after her honeymoon, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus suddenly took her health and her hope for the future.
“I started getting hot flashes and symptoms like I had a cold or a flu,” Chiprez-Vargas said.
DayQuil did nothing. Doctors treated her for strep throat but everything kept getting worse.
The then 26-year-old’s fever spiked to 104 degrees. She started coughing up blood and had severe chest pain because her lungs were full of fluid.
“It feels like you’re under water. You can’t breathe,” Chiprez-Vargas told FOX40. “I had moments I felt like my breathing wasn’t coming back. I would start to hit the walls.”
She was hospitalized for a week and then another before finally being diagnosed with a near-fatal case of MRSA, a bacteria she’d never even heard of before.
As bad as she felt, she was most upset watching the worry on the faces of her loved ones.
She says she still does not know how she contracted MRSA.
“Did it happen while we scuba dived because I rented my equipment? Or did it happen on the airplane? Or did it happen at the airport?” Chiprez-Vargas said.
MRSA is spread through contact with skin or items that have touched the virulent bacteria. Through questionable practices, like the over-prescription of antibiotics for conditions like the flu, bacteria like MRSA can morph and become antimicrobial resistant, reducing the options doctors have for treatment.
Chiprez-Vargas has lent her survival story to a national campaign to fight antimicrobial resistance and its role in MRSA. Now, the woman who could barely breathe can blow kisses and giggle with a baby she thought she might not be able to have.
Despite that success, Chiprez-Vargas is not done with MRSA.
It compromised her lungs so they’re still fragile. Four years later, she still has a chronic cough and is more susceptible to pneumonia. She’s been hospitalized with that at least once a year for the last few years.
If you’d like to become a resistance fighter like Chiprez-Vargas you can share your story at antimicrobialresistancefighters.org.