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columbus represent

Monday, June 25, 2007

I Want to be Empowered

A little over a year ago I saw a documentary on PBS that scared me to the core. It was all about MRSA, basically a super staph infection that is drug resistant. Yikes! The rates of MRSA were frightening, but even more concerning was what was being done to minimize MRSA and its impacts on patients, which, with the exception of the VA and the Pittsburgh hospital systems, is next to nothing.  And its not like the steps to be taken to control it are overwhelming. We are talking handwashing between patients, doing a test of incoming patients and isolating those who tested positive for the bug.  Both the VA and Pgh have had great luck by instituting these small steps in a real systematic way. Great for them, but I'm not a vet, and I don't live in Pittsburgh.  But I also wasn't planning on going into the hospital any time soon so I didn't loose any sleep over it.

Fast forward to today and the fear and sense of helplessness in me is growing.  I spent the last 6 weeks in hospitals and nursing homes, caring for my father who passed away last week. During that time he acquired a staph infection, which I think is what ultimately meant: time's up.  The day after he died, I came down with pneumonia. Bound to happen. 8-12 hours a day in a sick care institution, no pneumonia shot, lots of interactions with fluid from Dad.  Add to that the fact that in the next month or two I will become the patient myself as I go in for brain surgery.  Surgery that will leave my spinal chord fluid draining out of a shunt in my spine for 48 hours. Surgery on someone with not the best immune system to say the least. The good news is that I'm not on steroids or immunosuppresants anymore.
So my question is: what can I do to protect myself?  I have no control over what health care providers do or don't do. I could remind them every time they enter my room to use the hand sanitizer next to the door, which I'm sure they would just love, but outside my room, I can't know what their hygiene is like, and I certainly couldn't control it even if I did know.  So what can I do as a patient? I'm scared silly.
Maybe I wouldn't be so frightened if I wasn't in the midst of a bout of magical thinking brought on by current circumstances. Considering the past 2 months, its no surprise, a quick timeline: 1. I find out about having to have brain surgery 2. my dad goes into the hospital for congestive heart failure 3. my dad was denied care by the insurance company, forcing a fight, and hours upon hours spent dealing with bureaucracies (thank GOODNESS I do what I do for a living, but still it was unbelievable) 4. my father in law has a massive stroke 5. my dad's kidneys fail 6. my dad gets into a nursing home, then goes back to the hospital, then back to the nursing home, then back to the hospital, then into hospice 7. my dad dies 8. I get pneumonia 9. I go to clean out my dad's apartment and discover he was a compulsive hoarder (who knows what kind of bug I might have in my system after cleaning it out) So as you can see, things seem to be going really wrong, and what else but MRSA could fit into this timeline? I shouldn't even ask that question. But still, when you look at the statistics of a newly released report on the problem, I can't help but shudder.
If anyone knows of tips for a gal in my position, feel free. Please.


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