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HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – One of Hauppauge High School’s elite wrestlers, 16-year-old Nicholas Mauriello, has been nearly unstoppable on the mat this year and a key member of the team. On Tuesday, however, he was fighting for his life in a Suffolk County hospital room, battling two bacterial infections.
Mauriello was fighting both a potentially-deadly MRSA infection, and a secondary Lemierre’s infection.
In a twist of fate, the MRSA infection settled in Mauriello’s neck and caused “Lemierre’s Syndrome.” The infection traveled through his blood and attacked his lungs and other vital organs
While it’s still unclear exactly how Mauriello contracted MRSA, he reportedly first complained of neck pain after a January 22 match. His condition quickly deteriorated as he developed breathing problems and difficulty moving.
Tuesday evening, Mauriello’s family said the teen had regained consciousness and even spoke a few words.
“His heart rate was going through the roof, he was laying in bed breathing at a ridiculous rate,”Nick Mauriello, Sr., the boy’s father said earlier Tuesday.
WCBS 880 Reporter Sophia Hall spoke with Nicholas Mauriello’s dad.
Dr. Rahul Panesar, who is treating Mauriello said while “it’s very unique and very strange that this MRSA caused Lemierre’s,” it’s not unprecedented. “There have been case reports of this bacteria doing this,” he said.
1010 WINS Reporter Carol D’Auria with Mauriello’s doctor on his condition.
The wrestler’s mother is keeping a round-the-clock vigil at his hospital bedside. His father is visiting as he can, while still taking care of the family’s three other boys.
Tuesday morning brought another day of classes at the school, and a barrage of well wishes for the star athlete.
“He’s a great wrestler, and I’m actually friends with him,” said student Joe Loiacono. I just hope he gets better and stick for the best.”
WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs with student reaction.
“I just feel bad for the kid and hope that he’s getting better,” one parent said.
According to the team’s website, Mauriello is ranked fifth in New York State at the 125 lbs. weight class. With a record of 35 wins and just two losses, he delivered for his team this season.
“This particular form that spreads from skin-to-skin contact actually is more aggressive because it learned to mutate over time,” Dr. Brian McDonough said. “The bacteria doesn’t respond to our normal antibiotics so it’s far more aggressive and it can really get a foothold in someone really quick.”
Doctors said Mauriello’s secondary infection, Lemierre’s, manifested as a septic clot in his jugular vein and was likely caused by the MRSA.
The star grappler, who now has a CaringBridge.org support page raising awareness to his condition, was in critical condition at Stony Brook University Medical Center.
Mauriello was reportedly on day three of a cocktail of antibiotics. He needs five straight days of negative cultures in order to be declared clear of the infection.
Hauppauge Schools Superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss said her staff routinely takes steps to sanitize student and athletic areas within the school and reinforce good personal hygiene among athletes but, she noted, she can’t always control what students are exposed to outside of her facilities.
“We have no idea whether or not this is contracted when you’re out shopping,” she said. “And I want to say I know all school districts struggle with this. And we all do our very best.”
School officials sent home a letter notifying parents about the case of MRSA. It also included tips for hygiene, such as washing hands, keeping cuts and scrapes covered, and avoiding contact with open wounds.