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Slope savior: Park Slope resident heads to D.C. to spread awareness about deadly infection

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He’s making a C. diff-erence.

A Park Slope man is taking his crusade against a deadly infection that annually kills tens of thousands of Americans to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, where he and more than two dozen other advocates will lobby legislators to pass new laws in the hope of saving lives.

Christian Lillis became a leading figure in the fight to spread awareness of the bacterium known as C. diff after his mother fell ill with the infection following a routine dentist’s visit, and within days perished due to fatal complications caused by the ill-understood germ.

“It was horrific,” said Lillis. “From the time that we took her to the hospital until she was gone was probably 36 hours.”

C. diff — a bacterium that can be ironically activated by anti-biotic — afflicts about a half million people every year, of whom an estimated 29,000 perish 30-days after their initial diagnosis, reaping an annual death toll on par with motor-vehicle collisions, according to the Center for Disease Control.

After Lillis’s mother died in 2009, the Slope resident created the Peggy Lillis Foundation to spread awareness to the little-known, but lethal infection. Now, the Kings County man works with other organizations to host an annual C. diff summit, where experts share potentially life-saving information about the deadly microbes.

The first two summits were hosted in New York City, but the event moved to Washington, D.C., last year, and was followed up by a day of intense lobbying, where approximately two dozen advocates met with nearly 50 lawmakers in both houses, many of whom had never heard of the illness.

“Only three of them had every heard of the disease,” Lillis said.

And this year they’re heading back to ask Congress to approve new programs to spread awareness for the obscure killer, enhance regulations around reporting the illness, and increase funding to study and fight the illness.

“All these advocates have appointments with their Congress members and senators, who will be gong to offices sharing their stories, and things congress can do to make a tangible difference,” said Lillis.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 1:48 pm, April 9, 2019
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