Staph infections have ruined the life of Brook Park man
by Harlan Spector/Plain Dealer Reporter
Saturday November 22, 2008, 7:26 PM
Photo Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer
Roger Chorich has battled staph infections for years, culminating in amputation of both his legs.
BROOK PARK -- Roger Chorich's days are a blur of TV watching and bumping around the house in a wheelchair. He pops painkillers and antidepressants, and obsesses about bill collectors.
He will never know for sure how he got to such a dark place. Wracked with intractable infections since double knee replacements four years ago, he finally had to have his left leg amputated in August 2007. Then last month doctors took the right leg.
How was infectious staph able to burrow deep into his joints and render him a double amputee?
Was the hospital less than sterile?
Who's at fault?
The questions become more searing with time, as he and his wife, Anita, fall further behind on bills. He stares out the windows of their small brick ranch, at the yard he once planted with impatiens and marigolds, waiting for a certified letter announcing foreclosure proceedings.
He's 58 and lives on a $1,600-a-month pension from the U.S. Postal Service. They're in bankruptcy. His medical needs are too great for Anita to take on full-time work. She's always hauling him to the doctor, sliding him into the Ford Taurus with a board placed under his torso.
"We're probably going to lose the house," Chorich said, his voice tight with tension. "I'm just angry with the whole world, I guess. I just don't know where to go."
His long battle with staph has been chronicled twice before in Plain Dealer stories about hospital infections. Antibiotic-resistant staph, the same type that has sidelined a growing roster of pro football players, spread throughout Chorich's body after the knee replacements. He turned to Dr. John Sontich, an orthopedic surgeon at MetroHealth Medical Center, who again and again has cut into Chorich's ravaged knee implants and infected bone.
The final blow to Chorich's right knee was an uncontrollable yeast infection caused by years of antibiotic use. It was his third knee implant on that side, and it harbored resistant staph bacteria as well. Sontich had no choice but to amputate one-third up the femur.
Sontich said he's hoping that without artificial joints to hide in, the staph infections are gone for good.
No more antibiotics.
No more painkillers.
"He's going to be able to walk with crutches or maybe a cane," the doctor said.
Chorich has been down this road before, thinking the staph was gone, only to feel piercing pain return.
"It's like cancer," said Anita, who was treated for breast cancer six years ago. "I'm already afraid it's [staph] going to come back."
Chorich is hoping to eventually walk on prosthetics. The left one is now gathering dust in a corner in the bedroom, while he awaits a prosthetic for the right. He hopes to work again, and chip away at a debt pile of about $150,000. Anita has a temporary job running the kiddie train at Great Northern Mall three days a week. She applied to be an usher or ticket taker at Progressive Field in the spring.
"Maybe I could be doing something inside," Chorich said. "I've never done it. I've been a laborer. If someone would train me, I'd do it."
People have helped out here and there.
Leona Osrin of Beachwood wrote to Chorich and sent a check after reading about his ordeal. She recently sent him another $100.
"To have to live this way is absolutely horrific," Osrin said in an interview. "My few dollars isn't going to change his life, but it shows somebody cares about him."
Anita has hope. She thinks they will be able to renegotiate terms of a $90,000 home equity loan. "I don't worry as much as him. I always hope things are going to get better," she said.
Chorich bristled. "If we don't pay for the house, they're going to come after you," he snapped at her. "We're in trouble."
The combination of pills, depression, immobility and idle time has taken a toll.
She grabbed her packed lunch from the kitchen. "He needs to talk to somebody," she confided as she passed. Then she kissed him goodbye and left for the mall.