Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dr. Semmelweiss, they had me in stitches

I was wrestling with a rust-stubborn pocket knife today and ended up slicing a deep gash into the fleshy tip of my right middle finger.

The blood was spurting so I hightailed it to the nearest emergency medical care facility and was treated well, though not quickly (it was an unusually busy Sunday morning - the man in the next cubicle was hurt when, as he said, "I stepped off the curb and my prosthesis went one way, and my leg went the other.")

I needed five stitches, but the frightening thing was the lack of hand sanitation. I just made a video on the topic for a major medical facility in Connecticut, and I'm aware of the nightmares caused by antibiotic resistant staph infections. So I asked each of the three medical care staff who were about to lay fingers on my open wound if they had washed their hands before coming into the room. Each admitted they hadn't and proceeded to lather on some hand sterilizer.

This, of course, is horrifying and absurd in the 21st century, when hand sanitation was discovered to be the most effective means of staunching the spread of infection more than 150 years ago in Vienna.

Most hospitals insist that medical staff wash hands between patients. Many hospitals have horrible hand sanitation records. Many don't even monitor hand sanitation.

Do yourself a favor, and don't be shy, ask the doctor, "Did you wash your hands?"

My mouse-pad finger is throbbing as I write this, but I think it's important to know where your doctor's hands have been before they're placed on you.

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