We received word yesterday that a dear family friend died while in the hospital. He was an 81-year-old gentleman who my parents (and therefore I) have known for decades. He was hospitalized a month ago with COPD.
About a week after he arrived in the hospital, his wife called me, very upset, to tell me she had just arrived to visit him — and he had been moved into a new room. She was not allowed to see him unless she donned a paper gown, a mask, and gloves. She told me they had given her a piece of paper “with four letters in the name” that would explain it all to her. She was confused, just didn’t understand, and asked me if I would explain it to her daughter, which, of course, I did.
Those four letters were MRSA, and there is no doubt in my mind that had our friend not acquired that horrible, unkillable infection, he would not have died yesterday.
He is the third friend or relative to acquire MRSA in that same hospital. And the eighth person I know of in the past year who has acquired an infection while being a patient there.
I’m sure his death certificate will say he died of COPD — and maybe he did. At the very least, had he not acquired MRSA, he would have died of the COPD eventually anyway. But I’m sure he would not have died so quickly — and he might have lived for quite awhile longer — had he not contracted MRSA.
The frustrating part is that nothing will happen. There will be no record of his death by MRSA. The hospital will claim they “did everything they could.” And — sadly — there will be someone else or maybe dozens of someone else’s who will acquire an infection today in that hospital. And once again, if someone dies, it will be covered up by another cause of death.
Until hospitals are forced to come clean on their statistics (which will force governing bodies to take notice and take action), until they are forced to put prevention measures in place (which exist now on paper, but not in practice), patients will continue to die from hospital acquired infections.
As patients, the only thing we can do is to advocate for ourselves or loved ones if we end up in a hospital. Insist hospital personnel take measures to prevent the spread of these superbug infections. Hand washing and sanitizing are the most important and easiest on a list of 15 steps that should be followed — print the list and take it with you!
A hospital is the most dangerous place a patient can be. Knowing that, and taking steps to stay safe from infections, might just save your life.
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