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Archive for January, 2007

Surgical Error: Missing towel = Lost kidney

An article popped up in my email a few days ago, and I thought I would share it. A young man in California had undergone surgery for a kidney problem. Afterwards he had a great deal of pain and was not healing properly. They finally discovered that a 1×2 foot surgical towel had been left inside him during the surgery! He lost his kidney because of the towel and has now sued the surgeon.

Here’s a link to the article: http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/money/homepage/article_1554346.php

Steve, the young man cited in the article, contacted me and asked how he can proactively help others. I believe that he recognizes that sometimes, the best you can do after a horrible medical experience, is to help others. It’s very cathartic.

I’ve suggested to Steve that he either participate in, or start up, a surgery mistake / surgical error support group online. I looked around for some for him to participate in, but couldn’t find any.

If you have suffered from mistakes made during surgery, or know of a surgery error support group and would like to touch base with Steve, please send me a quick email: blog@diagknowsis.org I’ll forward your contact info to Steve.

More on MRSA – It just doesn’t stop

I heard this weekend from a woman who read my columns about MRSA. She shared her experience — how she contracted MRSA seven years ago, and a recent experience with surgery. She was frustrated because, for the most recent surgery, she was put on a floor in the hospital that was just for MRSA patients — yet, she felt like they basically ignored MRSA as a potential problem. As an example, she said that she was in the hospital for 24 hours, and in that time, only one person washed her hands, or used the santizing gel when she came into the patient’s room.

As a reminder — MRSA is the superbug — the staph infection, usually acquired in hospitals, that has learned to overcome any antibiotic developed to kill it. It will continue to infect because it can’t be killed. And too often — like 90,000 times in America each year — it’s deadly.

Now — what seems strange about this to me, is this… it was a MRSA floor, meaning, every patient had MRSA. And we already know that MRSA can be spread from any little thing — hands, certainly, or a stethoscope or a TV remote, or the sheets on a bed. Not only can a patient GET MRSA, a patient can TRANSMIT MRSA. So how could any health care worker, in particular, NOT wash his/her hands or use gel — constantly??

Clearly — and I can’t say this strongly enough — we patients have to learn to ask and tell — and insist. If you are in a hospital — regardless of WHY you are there — DO NOT LET ANYONE TOUCH YOU UNLESS THEY HAVE WASHED AND SANITIZED EVERYTHING (hands, objects) FIRST. Period. Then — insist they do so before they leave, too!

If you already have MRSA — you can transmit it, too. People and things can carry MRSA but not even know it — otherwise healthy people, whether they are in the hospital or not, can carry MRSA and have no idea they are doing so. So, to the best of your ability, if you could possibly have MRSA — INSIST OTHERS WASH OR GEL RIGHT AFTER THEY HAVE TOUCHED YOU or anything around you. That’s they only way to make sure someone else doesn’t get it from you.

Scary stuff. I’d hate to think I transmitted a bug that later killed someone, just because I wasn’t watchful and insistent.

More on MRSA – It just doesn’t stop

I heard this weekend from a woman who read my columns about MRSA. She shared her experience — how she contracted MRSA seven years ago, and a recent experience with surgery. She was frustrated because, for the most recent surgery, she was put on a floor in the hospital that was just for MRSA patients — yet, she felt like they basically ignored MRSA as a potential problem. As an example, she said that she was in the hospital for 24 hours, and in that time, only one person washed her hands, or used the santizing gel when she came into the patient’s room.

As a reminder — MRSA is the superbug — the staph infection, usually acquired in hospitals, that has learned to overcome any antibiotic developed to kill it. It will continue to infect because it can’t be killed. And too often — like 90,000 times in America each year — it’s deadly.

Now — what seems strange about this to me, is this… it was a MRSA floor, meaning, every patient had MRSA. And we already know that MRSA can be spread from any little thing — hands, certainly, or a stethoscope or a TV remote, or the sheets on a bed. Not only can a patient GET MRSA, a patient can TRANSMIT MRSA. So how could any health care worker, in particular, NOT wash his/her hands or use gel — constantly??

Clearly — and I can’t say this strongly enough — we patients have to learn to ask and tell — and insist. If you are in a hospital — regardless of WHY you are there — DO NOT LET ANYONE TOUCH YOU UNLESS THEY HAVE WASHED AND SANITIZED EVERYTHING (hands, objects) FIRST. Period. Then — insist they do so before they leave, too!

If you already have MRSA — you can transmit it, too. People and things can carry MRSA but not even know it — otherwise healthy people, whether they are in the hospital or not, can carry MRSA and have no idea they are doing so. So, to the best of your ability, if you could possibly have MRSA — INSIST OTHERS WASH OR GEL RIGHT AFTER THEY HAVE TOUCHED YOU or anything around you. That’s they only way to make sure someone else doesn’t get it from you.

Scary stuff. I’d hate to think I transmitted a bug that later killed someone, just because I wasn’t watchful and insistent.

When Being a Tattle Tale is All for the Good

Yesterday I saw the surgeon who was part of my misdiagnosis story for the first time in 2-1/2 years. He was one of the good guys in the story. He did what he was supposed to do, and did it to his best ability.

But I realized as we were chatting, that he was also responsible for referring me to the bad guys — the doctors who screwed up — the doctors who created the mess of my misdiagnosis. They are the two doctors in the hematology-oncology practice who insisted I begin chemo, despite the fact that all evidence pointed to flawed biopsy results.

So I told him. I shared that part of the story with him. And I made him realize that sending me to those oncologists had almost killed me. At the very least, had I not trusted my intuition and advocated for myself, I would have suffered through chemo because they weren’t willing to listen to me, nor were they willing to look behind the flawed test results.

I made the surgeon understand that his colleagues’ bad medicine was a reflection on him, and if I were him I would think twice before referring patients to them again.

The surgeon was more than a little shocked. He told me he hated to hear that about his collegues, and he left it, very professionally, at that. But I can guarantee you he’s going to think twice before he refers a patient to them again. And that’s exactly how it should be.

This experience is going to find its way into my next column, for sure. It’s an extension of the idea of voting with your feet. When we experience bad medicine, it’s up to us to make sure the doctor knows how we feel — and — we need to let the doctors who make the referrals know about it, too.