Not only did Mark Hanson become a paraplegic at age 22, the nightmare continued when he caught a superbug in hospital afterwards.
The now 27-year-old is trying to get on with his life but keeps having to go on stronger antibiotics and fears he might die.
"It does feel like death is imminent," says Mr Hanson, who is working as a radiology clerk and studying to be an occupational therapist.
"Feeling sick so often and having a superbug is hindering my ability to push forward in my life."
Superbugs are the invaders hospitals fear the most, lethal killers that slip in undetected and lurk in even the cleanest of wards.
Hospitals don't always know where a superbug came from, or how to defend against it. Even the rates of infection for different superbugs have been somewhat of a mystery.
That is until now.
For the first time, Victorian hospitals aim to fight superbugs by decoding their DNA to identify their type and map how they spread.
A process known as genomic sequencing will be used to track the bugs on patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Children's Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Austin Hospital and Monash Hospital.
Mr Hanson, who caught a vicious E. coli variant known as superbug ESBL E. coli from a catheter at a Melbourne hospital, has had bladder infections two or three times a year for the past five years.
"My temperature went up. I had uncontrollable shakes," he says. "I was terrified."
The new detection work will mean hospitals can better prevent cases such as Mr Hanson's and hopefully stop outbreaks, his doctor, Norelle Sherry, says.
"We're tracking these superbugs in real time across multiple hospitals so we can identify what they are, how they are being transmitted and what we can do to prevent this," she said.
Around 2000 Victorians patients will have access to the superbug tests over four years due to $25 million in funding from the Victorian government.
"Victoria is leading the world when it comes to genomic sequencing, and its application in the fight against superbugs is yet another revolutionary step forward," Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.
"It has the power to identify potential superbug outbreaks before they become a real threat to the most vulnerable of patients."
Genomic sequencing has other applications that will be trialled in Victorian hospitals, including:
- Studying bone marrow failure to offer a quicker and more accurate diagnosis.
- Better and earlier diagnosis of complex neurological diseases such as early onset dementia and Parkinson's disease.
- A more accurate diagnosis of genetic kidney diseases.
- Diagnosing the causes of multiple abnormalities in babies who die early or in utero.