Taking Care of Each Other: The Peggy Lillis Foundation for C Diff Education and Advocacy

Christian Lillis, co-founder and executive director of the Peggy Lillis Foundation (PLF) for C diff Education & Advocacy, says that taking care of each other is often the best way to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

Until his mother was diagnosed with and subsequently died of the bacterial infection, Christian John Lillis had never heard of Closterium difficile.

Lillis and his brother Liam started the Peggy Lillis Foundation (PLF) for C diff Education & Advocacy shortly after their mother’s passing in 2010. “We were really determined that her death not be in vain,” Lillis said.

Lillis is the co-founder and executive director of the PLF, and describes its mission of PLF as threefold: educating the public, empowering advocates, and shaping policy.

Many legislators, like Lillis and the general public, are unfamiliar with C diff. In 2018, the PLF held what Lillis believes to be the first-ever C diff Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, meeting with legislators to educate and advocate for policy addressing C diff.

Prior to founding PLF, Lillis had 20 years of experience in fundraising, advocacy, and nonprofit management, including extensive work with the National LGBTQ Task Force and NYU Langone Medical Center.

Most of us already have C diff in our bodies, but excessive or unnecessary antibiotics can kill off all other bacteria in the gut microbiome, enabling the C diff to flourish with potentially deadly consequences.

Lillis cautioned the public against taking antibiotics without asking their doctor questions to gauge the type of bacteria they have, the necessity of the antibiotic, and whether they have been cultured for it.

We should also stop expecting medications like antibiotics to be the only path to recovery, Lillis pointed out. “It’s unsatisfying to us,” he said, but sometimes taking time to rest and let the body heal on its own really is the best course of action.

Lillis observed that before the outbreak of COVID-19, and with the exception of people at-risk for HIV, the public hard largely forgotten about infectious disease.

When it comes to C diff and other infectious diseases, Lillis said, “It’s not a personal choice, it’s not lifestyle, it’s not genetic predisposition…these are communicable diseases.” He continued, “We have to understand that we have to take care of each other.”