Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm Still Here

This is me. Last time I checked, I was still here. But in 2004, I nearly left---not my choice. In 2004, I almost died of a hospital acquired infection, and the thing that upsets me the most is there is a good chance it all could have been avoided, had the hospital followed appropriate protocol.

Two years before, I had an abdominal surgery that left me with a very unattractive surgical hernia. Vain creature that I am, I decided to have the hernia fixed. It was also discovered I had a large ovarian cyst, so I decided to have my remaining ovary yanked along with said cyst.

So on Easter Monday. 2004, I went into the hospital to be all fixed up. Little did I know that that was the beginning of my nightmare.

After surgery, the first thing I noticed was that I was having incredible night sweats. I attributed this to medical menopause; after all, I just lost an ovary. I was using a hormone patch, but I rationalized I was just getting used to it. Unfortunately, a little "bug" was growing in my body. That little bug has a very long name---methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or as it is better known, MRSA. the nights sweats were just an early symptom of a growing problem, although I did not know that---yet.

After about a week at home, my newly flat belly had begun to swell---and hurt. A lot. My early calls to the doctor were brushed off (some pain and swelling are to be expected, he said). So I took my pain meds, and tried to get through it the best I could.

But the pain pills just didn't cut it. I was soon having pain like I'd never had before; worse than pleurisy, worse than a broken bone---worse than a breech birth. I called my doctor, and was told to go to the emergency room." At last", I thought, "I'll be admitted and they'll fix me." But that didn't happen.

Oh the ER doctor wanted to admit me. But the surgical resident, a Dr. Willek (don't ever go to him---residency at St. Luke's in Kansas City) 86'd it. When I asked why, he stated there was"no medical reason for my pain." He recommended I see a psychiatrist.

I went back three more times; I was even admitted once for a few hours. Each time, Dr. Willek sent me home, saying there was no medical reason, or commenting on my mental health. On Saturday, May 1, 2004, I went back one more time. I had a fever of 104 degrees; my belly was distended and purple, and my incision was oozing. I was finally admitted---partly because the surgical rotation had changed, and Dr. Willek was no longer in the ER.

I went right into surgery; my surgical mesh was removed (which later caused the hernia to come back). The infection had rotted a fist-sized area of my abdomen, and that had to be cut out, leaving a large, gaping wound. I was very, very sick. They moved me to a lovely private room, which I was quite happy about until I realized it was an isolation room. I had some kind of infection. Why hadn't they told me?

I called for a nurse, and asked her "What's wrong with me?" She said she couldn't tell me, but she would get someone who could. An hour later, I was visited by the Infection Control nurse, who informed me I had MRSA, and told me all about it.

I was there for about a week, followed by six weeks isolation in my home, my care delivered by a visiting nurse. For those six weeks, I was on I.V. vancomycin, the one antibiotic that works (most of the time) on MRSA. I did not have sick pay to cover this time, and was forced to beg and borrow to meet expenses. My gas was shut off----I couldn't pay the bill. Thank God it was almost summertime, and I wouldn't use my furnace again until October. I could shower at Cyndi's. I later got some financial help from Catholic Charities, so I could have heat and hot water again.

The following year, 18,650 people in the United States died from MRSA. 2,650 more than the number of people who died from AIDS that year. It is estimated that at least every five years these figures will double.

Most cases of MRSA originate in hospitals, followed closely by nursing homes, prisons, and communal living situations (dorms, group homes, shelters). Incidences of MRSA are on the rise in gyms and school settings. Hospital infections are preventible. Improvements in intravenous catheter use, compliance with presurgical best practices, and just old fashioned hygiene procedures can protect patients from infection. But hospitals have little incentive to improve their infection control procedures. Why?

Most states DO NOT require hospitals to release their rates of infection to the public. A hospital could be riddled with MRSA and potential patients would continue to check in, none the wiser. If infection rates were made public, hospitals would be forced to cut their infection rates, lest they lose patients.
Also, it is very difficult to sue a hospital for an infection aquired there. When a patient signs a surgical release and is briefly told about a "risk of infection", they are never told that "infection"= MRSA, and that it can kill or sifigure them,because of course, many wouldn't sign. Signing that waiver gives awy ones rights---I was even told by an attorney, "if you go to the hospital, you have to expect to get sick." WTF???!!!

What can we do? Push for healthcare reform. Work to make hospitals report infection rates in your state. Spread the word about inept, uncaring doctors. Do not accept it's inevitable that you'll get sick if you go to the hospital.

Here's some links that might help:

No comments: