The killer lurking at every hospital

MarkedwardsA car changed lanes directly into Rob as he was riding his prized Harley-Davidson one evening. He barely survived. It took over 3 years for his wounds to heal, and he isn’t expected to ever make a full recovery.

But his injuries should have healed in half the time it actually took. Yes, the accident was serious, but he was closer to death after entering the hospital than when the car initially split his hip open and caused so much damage that he had to have multiple organs removed.

What was more damaging than the full impact of a car striking his body?

The hospital…

The hospital almost killed him.

Confused? ‘Hospital’ is a word that has been conditioned in our society to be associated with health, wellness, and recovery. The truth is, according to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, more people die from infections contracted in hospitals every year than from car accidents.

Even if you add the number of deaths caused by AIDS and breast cancer to auto accident fatalities, the number of hospital-infection deaths is still higher.

Like the comedian Jon Stewart sarcastically said, “[it’s] like saying the ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ sign is keeping urine out of your Happy Meal.” Meaning the high rate of hospital infections can be somewhat blamed on the staff’s poor hygiene practices. There are regulations and guidelines for hospitals and their worker’s sanitation and sterility, but it essentially is each person’s choice to follow them correctly. And when a person can cut corners, they generally will.

Improper hand washing between patients can be the most common catalyst of a patient getting an infection. Germs can also travel patient to patient on an object, like a doctor’s stethoscope, pen, or watch. Cell phones of patients and workers alike have also been shown to test positive for this bacteria about 30% of the time.

Patients who undergo surgery are especially at risk of getting an infection. The chance you’ll get infected goes up the longer you stay in the hospital.

One of the most common hospital-contracted killers is the staph infection MRSA. It typically manifests as a skin infection, but in the hospital setting, where fresh surgical wounds are plentiful, it can infect the bloodstream as well. That’s where it gets super deadly…

Rob was one of the 4.1 million Americans who contracted MRSA this year, according to the Center for Disease Control’s annual study. Remember, he was admitted to the hospital for broken bones and internal damage because of his motorcycle accident. He had to have surgery to close a huge gash on his leg, and it became infected.

That was the beginning of his MRSA. He underwent surgery to have the infection removed and guess what the surgeon found in his knee – a surgical sponge. A thoughtless nurse had left it inside his leg during the previous surgery. A surgery that had happened 4 months prior.

No wonder he got an infection!

Because of this nurse’s terrible mistake Rob was now a surgery regular. The MRSA had spread from his knee to his leg and then to his back. He had 27 surgeries done over 3 years to try and cut out the staph infection, but it kept returning.

MRSA is notoriously hard to cure because of its natural resistance to a large group of antibiotics. Add to that how contagious it is (it can be acquired from simple skin to skin contact) and you can see how a staph infection can overrun a hospital if it’s not contained properly.

How can a hospital, a place designed with the one goal to make people healthy, screw up in such a large way? How can we trust these doctors with our lives when they can inadvertently cause you to die?

Take matters into your own hands. Prevention is your best friend when it comes to not dying from MRSA or contracting any hospital infection.

The easiest thing to do is to ask that any of the hospital staff wash their hands before treating you. Don’t even consider it to be a bothersome request, your health is much more important than feeling like an inconvenience.

The same rule goes for any visitors you may have. Contrary to popular perception, a hospital is an enclosed box full of a combination of all kinds of germs and disease. Explain that to anyone who objects and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to wash their hands for you. Keep a pump-action anti-bacterial gel at your bedside.

The University of Iowa did a study that showed that 20% of privacy curtains in the tested hospitals were contaminated with the MRSA virus. Oddly, curtains that were only a week old had a higher rate of contamination. It’s best just to avoid touching them is possible. Remember though, if you have to touch the curtain, immediately wash your hands. Thoroughly!

Since surgery is so risky in terms of developing an infection, do the research and find a surgeon that has a low infection rate. They should have these kind of statistics available about all their procedures, and it is worth your life to take the time to ask around.

If you know that you’re going to stay at a hospital in advance, you can take even more measures to stay healthy. Stop smoking and cut out sugar to strengthen your immune system. Feast on blueberries and spinach to boost your zinc intake, and get plenty of vitamin C from raw food. I also like raw kombucha tea for the gut (where over 70% of the immune system lives).

The result of Rob’s long and deadly dance with MRSA was devastating. The aftermath has him confined to a wheelchair and he has to go to an infection specialist weekly to make sure his MRSA infection is gone for good.

Treat any hospital stay like it were dangerous. You want to end up leaving through the front door with a smile instead of in a body bag.

My thanks to “Rob” for sharing his experiences with us through our confidential reporting program.

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