Prognosis Guarded For HS Wrestler Fighting MRSA

Drug-resistant staph infection can be transmitted through contact sports

By Greg Cergol
|  Wednesday, Feb 9, 2011  |  Updated 7:31 AM EDT
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Student had close contact with several students days before he got sick.

Student had close contact with several students days before he got sick.

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Nicholas Mauriello, Sr. summed up the last week with one word- "hell."

"To sit there and see your kid lying in a hospital bed, it's just been hell," the Hauppauge dad said, fighting back tears.

Nick Mauriello, Jr, 16 remains hospitalized in critical condition, on a ventilator, at Stony Brook University Medical center.

The Hauppauge high school junior was diagnosed last week with MRSA and another related bacterial infection.  The illnesses spread into the teen's bloodstream and infected his liver, kidneys and lungs, leaving the star wrestler fighting for his life.

However, the drum beat of bad news his family has endured over the past week took a turn Tuesday.  Mauriello stood up for the first time since taking ill and remains awake and alert, according to his doctor.

"This particular bacteria is so virulent, it could even take down someone as healthy and strong as Nick," said Dr. Rahul Panesar of Stony Brook's Pediatric Critical Care unit.

It's unclear if Mauriello contracted MRSA while wrestling 18 matches in eight days, said Dr. Panesar.  "The bacteria could come from anywhere," he stressed.

However, MRSA is spread by skin to skin contact, with the bacteria entering the body through a cut or scrape.  As a result, both the gym locker room and classrooms at Hauppauge high school have been disinfected and parents alerted since Mauriello was diagnosed, according to the schools superintendent.

"I think fear is a natural reaction for parents wishing to keep their kids safe; but we have done everything we can to do that" said superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss.

Other high schools with wrestling teams that competed against Hauppauge have also been alerted, according to Sullivan-Kriss, who added that individual wrestling mats are even cleaned after every use.

Mauriello was hoping to wrestle for a state championship this year, according to his dad.  And the fighting spirit that made him a winner on the mats may have helped keep him alive.

"Pound for pound, he's the toughest kid I know," said Mauriello, Sr.

Amazingly, Nick Jr. has even been asking about the possibility of wrestling in a match this weekend- a fact that heartens all those praying for his survival.  A website set up by his parents has received numerous messages of love and support from well-wishers.

For now, his prognosis is guarded, according to Dr. Panesar.  "This is going to be a long road back," said Panesar, who indicated the ventilator could be removed in days if all goes well.

Mauriello's family smiled for the first time in days, his dad said, when the teen flashed a "thumbs up" after being shown a wrestling tropy won by one of his three brothers.

"He's a warrior," Mauriello, Sr. said.

The elder Mauriello then left reporters to return to Nick Jr.'s bedside, where he and loved ones will continue to stand vigil.

Mauriello was ranked fifth in Suffolk County at 125 pounds on Jan. 23.

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