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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

Fight C. Difficile – 7th Annual Peggy Lillis Foundation Gala

Credit: Centers for Disease Con trol and Prevention

Lovely and graceful, isn’t it? This is an image of a single Clostridium difficile bacterium. But it’s a pathological killer, definitely not something you want to take over your large intestine.

Have you ever even heard of it? And are you aware that antibiotics (taken as a prescribed drug or consumed in factory farmed meats) can kill off the good probiotic bacteria in your gut and make you very ill with a C. diff  infection – even kill you?

Source: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

The Peggy Lillis Foundation was started by Peggy’s two sons, Christian and Liam, after their 56 year old mother died in April of 2010 from a C. diff infection six days after getting a root canal. Her dentist had prescribed the broad spectrum antibiotic Clindamycin to treat an abscess. She developed diarrhea and assumed she’d gotten a stomach virus. Several days later, when the ‘ stomach virus’ symptoms had intensified to the point that the diarrhea was much worse and she was pale, dizzy, and unable to keep any food down, she spoke to her doctor by phone. He apparently wasn’t aware of the symptoms of C. diff and prescribed a prescription strength anti-diarrheal medicine – without ever asking if she’d recently taken any antibiotics.

By the time her sons realized how sick she was and took her to a hospital, she was in septic shock. The ER docs eventually correctly identified her massive infection as C. diff caused by the Clindamycin and made much worse by the anti-diarrheal.

The doctors did everything they could to save her, including removing her colon, where a C. diff  infection grows – but nothing worked. She eventually went into cardiac arrest and died.

The Cause of Death listed on her death certificate didn’t even mention C. diff.

Neither Peggy nor her sons had ever heard of C. diff before. And maybe her dentist and doctor hadn’t either. At least they both acted as if they were unaware that antibiotics could lead to virulent, pathogenic C. diff bacteria opportunistically taking over the colon by killing off most of the probiotic bacteria in there, giving the pathogenic C. diff bacteria a chance to proliferate wildly until they killed their host.

Source: SlideShare

So that their mother’s sudden horrific death not be totally in vain, Christian and Liam Lillis started a foundation in her honor a few months later. Its mission is:

To build a nationwide Clostridium difficile awareness movement by educating the public, empowering advocates, and shaping policy.

Now in its seventh year, the highly respected Peggy Lillis Foundation has become a leading actor in the fight against  C. diff. It has also become a key resource for patients, families, providers, policymakers, and advocates.

The Foundation’s 7th Annual Fight C. Diff Gala was held yesterday evening, 21 October 2016. It was a chance for people working toward the PLF’s goals in various ways to come together to give and receive support and encouragement. The food was good too!

At the gala, the PLF honored people and organizations who are making a difference in the fight against C. diff by furthering its goals of LEADERSHIP, INNOVATION, AND ADVOCACY. A LEADERSHIP AWARD was presented to the Mount Sinai Health System (New York City):

“Over the past 18 months, the Mount Sinai Health System has demonstrated that true leadership at every level of hospital and clinical operations can have an enormous and lifesaving impact in reducing C. diff infections. Since 2014, Mount Sinai has reduced its hospital-acquired C. diff infections by more than 40%. This reduction not only saved the health system money, but it also prevented a great deal of harm.” An INNOVATORS AWARD was presented to the CDIFFerently Care Team of Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System):

“The CDIFFerently Care Team of Northwell Healthy’s innovative approach to assembling and mobilizing a multidisciplinary team on the 6 Monti unit reduced C. diff infections by 50% in a single year. The team is now working to spread its successful innovation to other parts of Northwell Health.” An ADVOCATE AWARD was present to NY State Senator Martin J. Golden (R, District 22): NY State Senator Martin J. Golden

“Senator Martin J. Golden was our mother Peggy’s representative. Senator Golden has long been an advocate for the public school system that Peggy loved as well as a fervent champion for our state’s senior citizens. As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, Senator Golden was credited by nationally recognized advocacy groups for championing the rights of senior citizens through the Assisted Living Law of 2004. Under his leadership, a number of significant bills affecting older Americans have been enacted, including a new Elderlaw, the Senior Bill of Rights: Long Term Care Reform, internet posting of retail prescription drug prices, and a single EPIC/Medicare prescription drug card.”

See A Q&A with Sen. Marty Golden, 2016 Advocates Award Honoree to learn more about Senator Golden’s work. Another ADVOCATE AWARD was presented to NY State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D, District 36, retired):

NY State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (Retired)

“Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s career, first as a pediatric nurse, then as a successful executive, and most recently, serving 16 years as the state senator from New York’s 36th district, exemplifies public service. She is also a C. diff survivor, having battled the disease following knee surgery. Senator Hassell-Thompson retired from the senate in July to serve as Special Advisor for Policy and Community Affairs, for New York State Housing and Community Renewal.” See A Q&A with Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, 2016 Advocates Award Honoree to learn more about her work in public service and her own battle with C. diff. THE MAGNITUDE OF THE C. DIFF INFECTION PROBLEM: A FEW STATISTICS (PLF, 2016)

  • In September 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated CDIs as an urgent public health threat requiring “aggressive action”

  • 475,000 Americans incur a CDI each year averaging one new infection every minute

  • 250,000 require hospitalization

  • 29,000 die annually

  • 17,000 cases of CDI in children

  • In 2011, CDIs killed more Americans than drunk driving or HIV/AIDS.

The numbers of C. diff infections and deaths have been rising sharply each year since 2011. THE PEGGY LILLIS FOUNDATION Visit the Peggy Lillis Foundation website to learn more about its work, read personal stories by people who have successfully battled C. diff and some who have lost loved ones to it, and find out what is being done about this epidemic and how you can help – and why you should even care about any of this. Peggy Lillis with Her Kindergarten Class

MY C. DIFF STORY Like Peggy Lillis, I became ill with a C. diff infection in April 2010. I’d never heard of it before either. Unlike Peggy, it didn’t kill me. If you’re interested, you can read the story of how I won my battle with it: “Successful holistic treatment of Clostridium difficile gut infection: case study.”  (Hardin, 2011)

Source: SlideShare

From the program booklet for yesterday evening’s PLF’s 2016 gala:

“77% of Americans have never heard of C. diff. As we learned with the tragic death of our mother, it is impossible to prevent a disease you don’t know exists.” REFERENCES Hardin, J.R. (2011).  Successful holistic treatment of Clostridium difficile gut infection: case study. Oriental Medicine Journal, 19:4, 24-37. See:

Peggy Lillis Foundation. (2016). See:

Lillis, C,  (10/17/2016). PLF Blog: A Q&A with Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, 2016 Advocates Award Honoree. See:

Tiffany. (10/1/2016). PLF Blog: A Q&A with Sen. Marty Golden, 2016 Advocates Award Honoree. See: © Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021

Excellent coverage of this disease that too few know about. Since becoming aware of c. diff through knowing you and others affected by it, I am more alert to is symptoms. A client recently related concern for an elderly friend with diarrhea not getting better who was then

diagnosed with c. diff and is slowly recovering. That a relatively rural medical system figured it out is encouraging news.


In reply to Sonnische.


Thanks. That is indeed encouraging news.

Joan Hardin


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