Archive for the 'Surgery' Category

MRSA: Victimization and Shooting the Messenger

Yesterday’s post, where I told the stories of three (+2) victims of MRSA infections, raised ire, blame and excuses from commentators and emailers alike.

Never mind that they were stories of five people who are infected with MRSA, one of whom has basically been left to die. Never mind that the frustration levels of these patients while trying to get treatment are over the top. Never mind that these people are victims of dirty medicine — the kind where guidelines and controls exist, but are ignored in too many places. The negative comments were aimed at me — it’s easier, after all, to shoot the messenger.

This post has been moved.  Find it by linking to its new location. 

MRSA: Patients Ignored, Left to Die

(Find an update to this post: MRSA, Victimization and Shooting the Messenger)

In the past two days, I have heard three stories, all related to MRSA and other hospital acquired staph infections, and all relating to heinous — even (in my not-so-humble-opinion) criminal acts on the parts of healthcare providers or politicos.

One story came from a colleague who visited a woman in the hospital. The woman contracted an infection after surgery almost a year ago. She is still in the hospital, on life support, not because of the surgery, but because the infection has just consumed her.

This post has been moved. Link here to find it in its new location.

MRSA: Those With Power Aren’t Paying Attention

Two reminders during the past week about MRSA and the real problems facing those who are infected by it — and those who aren’t.

The first was an email from Genevieve who told me about her husband’s experience after knee replacement surgery. Two days after being removed to a rehab center, he began running a fever, and his incision starting turning red — obviously the sign of an infection.

He was transported by ambulance to the hospital where he had the surgery, and the resident on call proceeded to examine his knee — with no gloves on! Genevieve objected — loudly she says — “wait! what if it’s MRSA?”

The doctor turned to her and in a loud voice, exclaimed that MRSA wasn’t the problem everyone thinks it is, and she shouldn’t get so upset! Genevieve, however, insisted he wash his hands and put on gloves before touching her husband again. (you, go, Genevieve!) Fortunately, while there was in infection at the site of the surgery, it was not MRSA.

The second reminder came in the form of an editorial included in Health Leader’s Media by Molly Rowe called MRSA, MRSA Me. She tells about her difficulties this past summer in getting her “spider bites” diagnosed as the MRSA they were, and the ensuing disinterest on the part of her family care doctor when she was later scheduled for knee surgery and they didn’t care about double checking that her infection had, in fact, been healed. You can just imagine what might have happened had the MRSA spread to her surgical site.

Clearly, despite the media attention, despite the 100,000 deaths each year, despite the cost to hospitals of taking care of those who get sick from it — the very people who can make a difference don’t seem to be paying attention! It’s as if they take the concept of transparency (recognizing the problem so they can do something about it) to mean invisibility (if we ignore it, it will go away.)

It’s time those leaders in hospitals, and their staff, became “infected” with whatever impetus is needed to take note and take these infections seriously. Sadly, it will likely require some horrible tragedy — like the loss of a hospital’s CEO or the CEO’s loved one to MRSA — before the people in a position to make a difference will do so.

For now, we patients need to do just what Genevieve did. She proclaimed her dissatisfaction loudly to take care of the present danger. THEN, she got in touch with the hospital’s administration afterwards to complain. She is truly an empowered advocate.

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From the desk of (11/10/07)…

Some miscellany from the week, not requiring blog posts on their own….fromthedeskof.gif

Heard this week from a young man in Central New York State where I live. He’s a young adult cancer survivor and has begun a social network for other young adult cancer survivors, ages 18 to 40: http://yacscny.wordpress.com . If you are a young cancer survivor, log on and see what Daniel is up to….

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Veteran’s Day is coming up — a perfect opportunity to thank a veteran or member of the military service. Regardless of your politics, we owe a debt of gratitude to these fine men and women who have worked so hard to protect our freedom. One of those freedoms is to make our own healthcare decisions — an important one!

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And speaking of Veteran’s Day — my radio show tomorrow features an interview with Dr. Ross Moquin who retired as a commander after 25 years in the Navy. He is a surgeon who treats traumatic brain injury — fascinating conversation about the procedures that were developed while he was in the Navy, and how they are being used to help civilians now, including stroke victims. You can listen right on your computer by linking here.

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announcemt.jpgAn Every Patient’s Advocate milestone this week: hit the 30,000 visitor mark on this blog since January. If you’ve been a regular visitor, I thank you — and hope you feel as if you’ve learned something. If so, will you share by making a comment? I’d love to know what has — or has not — been helpful.

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… and stay tuned for a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT soon! My reach is about to be extended big time — and you, my faithful readers will be among the first to know….

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Hospital Safety, Dirty Doctors, and Accountability

My friend Helen Haskell forwarded two articles of big interest to those of us who wish hospitals were safer places to be sick or hurt.

Putting Staff in Charge of Safety

The first is the cover story from Hospitals and Health Network Magazine called “Can Your Nurses Stop a Surgeon?” It tells the tale of a surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center who, ready to operate on his patient, was told by the nurses and surgical technician that he was not allowed to move forward because he had not yet let them run through their pre-surgical safety check, called a “Time Out.”

The surgeon, furious, reached for the scalpel anyway — and found it had been removed from the instrument tray by the staff. Even more furious he stomped out of the OR and contacted the CEO of the hospital –

…..find the rest of this post at the new blog location¬†

Tom – Another Update

Heard again today from my friend Tom. Previously, I shared the saga of his need for specialized heart surgery, his battle with his health insurance company for permission, and the need for prayers as he finally underwent his surgery in Cleveland.

Good news! Tom’s home, and doing so well that he’s arguing with his neighbor! gotta love it!

He’s working on his happy ending, and for those of you who included Tom in your prayers, please know that they worked.

Tom’s on the road to good health. Thanks to many of you.

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Breast Cancer Misdiagnosis on Today Show: Learnings

My heart goes out Darrie Eason, the woman who appeared on this morning’s Today Show who was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and learned later that they had made a mistake — in fact, she had no cancer at all.

In her case, her biopsy specimen was mixed up with another woman’s — and that woman was told she did not have cancer. Of course, for the woman who does have breast cancer, she has now had a delayed diagnosis, too.

I’ve walked in Darrie’s shoes. I’ve faced a horrible horrible cancer diagnosis, and I’ve faced all those demons about treatment choices and prognoses. Then I learned they were wrong — I didn’t have cancer. I wouldn’t wish that horror on my worst enemy.

I applaud the young woman and her attorney. Instead of filing (what Dr. Nancy Snyderman called) a “blanket of lawsuits,” they have gone back through the process to isolate the lab that made the error, CBL Path(ology) Laboratories. They have sued the lab, and have demanded a review of their processes.

CBL Path says one of their technicians took a shortcut that created the error, and that no systemic problems exist at their lab. Dr. Snyderman explained that the error that took place was a result of “batching” — meaning — instead of reviewing one biopsy specimen for one patient at a time, the tech was processing a number of specimens from a number of patients at the same time. Thus, they got mixed up.

(Pardon my cynicism, but throwing one lab tech under the bus does not fix the problem, nor does it improve the results. In fact, a system problem MUST exist, or the short cut could not and would not have been taken to begin with.)

Have you been diagnosed with cancer? or any other disease that is diagnosed based on lab work? Before you make treatment decisions with your doctor, heed Dr. Snyderman’s excellent advice so you can make sure the same kind of mix up doesn’t happen to you.

The idea always goes back to getting a second opinion. In this case, you need to get a second opinion based on your lab work. But here’s the important part — the second opinion needs to be read from the slides developed from the biopsy and NOT from the paperwork!

Like this: lab #1 creates slides from the specimen, decides what the diagnosis is, and records it on paper.

To get an accurate second opinion, ask lab #2 to read the slides to proffer their second opinion, and not just review the paperwork from lab #1.

Would this have helped me? I’m not sure. I was told two labs had independently confirmed my diagnosis — but — I don’t know whether lab #2 read the slides, or read the paperwork from my biopsy. I didn’t even know to ask the question.

So that’s why I share all this with you…. I hope if you are in a situation where your diagnosis is based on lab work that you will be assertive enough to ask that the slides be reviewed a second time.

It’s something Darrie Eason and I share — the hope that what happened to us will never happen to you.

Thanks for the lesson, Darrie. And bless you for taking your message out to those who may face such difficulty in the future.

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