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Pieter is 54 years old and a philanthropy advisor. Thirteen years ago, Pieter became infected with multi-resistant bacteria after undergoing surgery in a foreign hospital. Those bacteria caused wound infections with permanent damage to his right knee.

In August 2010, Pieter was involved in a serious car accident when he was on a business trip to the Middle East. Because he was sitting exactly where the car collided head-on with another vehicle, he was seriously injured. Pieter was admitted to a hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma and operated on his right upper leg, hand and various open wounds. In this hospital he became infected with a multi-resistant bacteria known as Klebsiella pneumoniae.  

Poor hygiene

Klebsiella pneumoniae is a bacterium that is often found in hospitals and can be fatal, especially for people in vulnerable health. The infection was probably the result of poor hygiene in the hospital. “My family told me that the blood of the previous patient could still be seen on the wall of the Intensive Care Unit. I also remember that an employee came to clean my room every day with a mop that was grey with dirt and that was also used for other rooms and the hallway.”

Two months of isolation

Once in the Netherlands, it becomes clear what the impact of the bacterial infection had been. Because Pieter had 33 broken bones, he often had to undergo surgery. What made his treatment extra complex was that the resistant bacteria caused inflammation around his right knee, which prevented his surgical wounds from healing. The bacteria were able to settle well due to the titanium plates and pins, that were placed to hold his bones together. “It was quite a puzzle for the healthcare workers. For example, I had to be nursed in isolation for four months and, in addition to the regular operations, six operations were performed to combat the inflammation in my knee. The doctors were concerned that the bacteria would also cause inflammation in other places in my body and the possibility that I would lose my leg was very real.”

Big impact

Apart from the physical complaints, this period was also mentally difficult. “I have always been quite level-headed about it, but with great uncertainty the bacteria were an additional risk factor.” The emotional impact was huge for Pieter and his family. “During the first few days after the accident there was a fairly good chance that I would die. Our children were still very young then. It was very confusing and sad for them that I was away from home for five months and that there was a lot of uncertainty about my health.” A nice experience for Pieter was the care he received in the Netherlands. “The doctors and other healthcare workers in the hospital and rehabilitation center did a good job and it was clear that they were very interested in my case. Because my doctor wanted me to tell my story to his first-year medical students, I even lay in my hospital bed at the front of the lecture hall of the AMC.”


It has now been 13 years, but the consequences of the bacterial infection are still visible. Pieter’s right knee remains vulnerable and occasionally feels painful. Pieter’s beloved sports such as skiing, running and skating are no longer possible and he avoids other risky activities. Nevertheless, Pieter is positive. “After what happened to me, I’m glad I can still walk.”

This story was created with permission from SGF The Netherlands.