Woman catches paralyzing infection from sharing a makeup brush

Apr 7, 2015 at 5:27 p.m. ET

Sometimes it just takes one moment of careless behavior to change your entire life. Jo Gilchrist, a young mother of 27, contracted a rare staph infection by sharing her friend's makeup brush to cover a pimple. The infection quickly spread to her spine, and ultimately left her paralyzed from the waist down for life. I'm sure everyone will now think twice before borrowing anything that touched another person's body.

The makeup-lending friend had a staph infection on her face, which can be highly contagious. Gilchrist knew about the infection, and yet still chose to use the brush, even though she claims she has a weak immune system.

After a few days, Gilchrist started to get pains in her back. "It started as a little ache in my back and I thought it was my bad posture, but it kept getting worse and worse," she told Daily Mail Australia. Eventually the pain got so bad, she equated it to "worse than childbirth."

At first, the doctors didn't know exactly what was wrong, but then Gilchrist started to lose feeling in her legs. She was airlifted to a hospital in Brisbane where they performed emergency surgery on her.

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Turns out she had contracted community-associated MRSA, which is an antibiotic-resistant form of golden staph. The doctors told her the infection had attacked her spine, rendering her wheelchair-bound, likely for the rest of her life. All from the seemingly harmless act of swapping makeup with a friend.

More: Ancient recipe kills dangerous superbug known as MRSA

However, there is a silver lining to this story. Gilchrist refused to take her doctors' word at face value, and has been working arduously toward walking again. "I'm fighting this with all I've got and I'm starting to learn to walk again. Two weeks ago they said I might be able to walk for an hour or two a day — like grocery shopping, washing up and hanging the washing out," she said to Daily Mail Australia. I'd say that's a pretty significant step up from being told you'll never walk again.

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The fight is far from over, though. The doctors are still trying to rid the infection from her body, and expect she'll need to stay in the hospital another three months. But Gilchrist continues to be optimistic. "I was so lucky it went to my spine... if it went to my brain I would have died and if it went to my limbs they would have been amputated." That's perhaps the most positive outlook one could have given their present circumstances.

Gilchrist is learning how to live life, and keep up with her 2-year-old son, all from a wheelchair. It's not easy, but she looks at it like a second chance, rather than a roadblock.

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