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Community rallies to aid of Meadow Vista man recovering from MRSA

Coping with the effects of the bacteria has been a husband, wife team effort
By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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For the 25 years they have been married, Jean and Peter Von Brockdorf have eaten dinner together every night. And since Peter Von Brockdorf, 71, was diagnosed with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus in January, a bacteria that travels through the bloodstream and is resistant to antibiotics, and has been hospital-bound since May, it hasn't changed for the Meadow Vista couple. "It's important for me to be with him," Jean Von Brockdorf said. "He's not at home with me now." When the couple first met in the '70s, Peter lived in Colorado, where he was working after just receiving his degree in Agricultural Economics. And Jean was living in Meadow Vista, where she grew up with her family. The two met at a park in Steamboat, Colo. while Jean was visiting some college friends and instantly hit it off. "I liked her stories," Peter said. After Jean invited Peter to California to visit Yosemite, the relationship developed. The two would have a long-distance relationship for the next seven years, before Peter moved to California to marry Jean. "There were a lot of phone calls," Jean said. "And a lot of traveling back and forth." Peter's inability to use his legs today is a big transformation from the long days he spent working with Jean on the couple's tree farm in Meadow Vista. The disease he developed after suffering a stroke in January has left him immobile. He now requires 24-hour medical care and spends his days in his bed at Siena Care Center in Auburn or in physical therapy, learning how to stretch his muscles and use his legs again. "It's been very hard," Peter said. "I miss the summers - smelling the green grass - all of the things you take granted." Von Brockdorf said he has no idea how he contracted the disease. Dr. Mark Vaughan, a general practitioner with Auburn Medical Group, said the hospital-based form of the disease has been around for a long time, but a new form of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus, referred to as community-acquired MRSA, has been finding its way into American homes and schools. "It's more contagious," Vaughan said. "It can be passed around by contact - touching a door knob or by something someone who has been infected has touched." Vaughan said the community-acquired form is also harder to treat. "This thing is very aggressive," he said. "It is a virulent form of MRSA." Despite his inability to move around freely, Von Brockdorf said he gets his mind off his disease, which he calls "a nasty bug you don't want to catch," by hanging on to his days spent as a rancher in Montana, and his days on the tree farm with Jean. His care center room is also covered in photos of his family from back east and trips he took with Jean, his dog Christian and drawings and cards given to him by neighbors and friends. "I think of it as a temporary hold," Peter said. "You have the memories of yourself being able to move and do things. It's like learning to walk all over again, except it's a farther fall from six feet than it is two feet." Von Brockdorf said he grew up watching TV shows such as the "Lone Ranger" at his childhood home in New York, a considerable distance from where he was born in Germany. "I wanted to be a cowboy," he said. "And I loved horses. So, I moved to Montana and became a cowboy." Von Brockdorf said he spent two summers on the ranch, milking cows and fixing fences. "It was different than what I had seen on TV because my dad was very authoritarian and on the ranch, I felt free to become who I wanted to become," Von Brockdorf said. "I learned a lot about people and a lot about ranching." Von Brockdorf said he also enjoyed connecting with his neighbors, even though the closest one was more than 20 miles away. "I knew the people 20 miles down the road up there better than my neighbors who live 50 feet away from me now," he said. "People depended on each other and I liked that." Peter Von Brockdorf hopes to be able to use his legs again soon, even though doctors have told him his chances of walking again are slim. Family and friends are planning a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for Von Brockdorf later this month, to help him raise money since his medical coverage ended. Medicare covered Von Brockdorf's hospital stay for 100 days, which expired in July. And Jean will be there to share dinner with her husband. "It's like I've lost my help-mate," Jean Von Brockdorf said. "But we hope to have him home very soon." The Journal's Jenna Nielsen can be reached at jennan@goldcountrymedia.com or comment on this story at auburnjournal.com.
Spaghetti dinner fundraiser
What: To benefit Peter Von Brockdorf
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: The Beda Place, 990 Meadow Vista Road, Meadow Vista
Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 13 and under and are available at Meadow Vista's True Value Hardware, Hensley Chiropractic or by calling Etta at (530) 637-5359.
Donations may also be made mailed to P.O. Box 764, Meadow Vista, CA, 95722 and can be made out to the Meadow Vista Friendly Neighbors.