Monday, October 13, 2014

medical precautions

The last few years there have been several studies out about how American hospitals are not the safest places to be when you are sick. Quite a few people come out worse than when they went in to the hospital. While we've not had that happen, we have left a few times with a different problem than the one we went seeking treatment for.

One of those problems, we learned the hard way, is quite common in hospitals and nursing homes. It's a bacterial infection called C-diff. It is often an extended result of antibiotics destroying bacteria in the body, including the good kind of bacteria your intestines need. C-diff is highly contagious, and if your body is missing those good bacteria, well you get it. The craziest part of C-diff is that nurses or doctors transport it from room to room. If a patient has it, anyone visiting is supposed to don a gown and gloves (in extreme cases a mask), and trash those supplies between the curtain and door while scrubbing hands before exiting the room. I can't tell you the number of times I watched a nurse come from a different room into ours without changing gowns, saying "It's okay. I'm still in protective gear."  So because you have germs on you from one room, it's okay to walk out into the hallway, touch charts, and into our room because we have the same germs?

I've thought about those 3 CCIU days in a Raleigh hospital a lot today, as the media keeps talking about the nurse in Dallas who has the Ebola virus. Our media has slammed African nations because of their poor hygiene and religions that have tremendously impacted the spread of the virus there. But for all our education about germs, expensive gear, and proper protocols in hospital facilities, a nurse now has a potentially fatal disease because "she didn't follow procedures".  Simply having great facilities is not enough. Rules must be followed, not broken. And I think that will be the monstrous hurdle that will bring America's health situation to its knees. We are a nation that does not like rules or absolutes. Take off medical gowns here or there? What does it matter as long as they're properly trashed?  And hence we spread germs. Wear protective gloves. But what good are those gloves if they're not removed properly and a bare hand touches the germy glove on the other hand? (Yes, they do actually teach that to CNAs and nurses.)

I don't think we'll find Ebola spreading as rapidly or as severely as it's being seen in Africa, but I do think it will get worse. And despite what crazy people are saying about revoking visas or limiting flights in or out of countries, if it does spread here, it won't be from those situations, but rather from our own shortcomings in health and hygiene.

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