About 440,000 patients each year are killed by preventable medical errors. (That’s more than 10 times the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes.)
One in 25 patients end up with a hospital-acquired infection, like MRSA or sepsis. In 2011 alone, 75,000 people died as a result. Among Medicare patients, hospital-acquired infections affect 1 in 9 patients.
The most common hospital-acquired infections include:
Central line-associated bloodstream infections
Catheter-associated urinary tract infections
Surgical site infections after surgery
Clostridium difficile infections
When I was recovering from emergency bowel surgery last year, within one day of surgery I developed sepsis. Sepsis can be deadly, killing more than 258,000 Americans each year and leaving thousands who survive with life-altering after effects. According to CDC, there are over 1 million cases of sepsis each year, and it is the ninth leading cause of disease-related deaths. Fortunately for me, there was a doctor monitoring me closely who caught the signs immediately and was able to get the infection cleared without any lasting effects or organ damage.
If you don’t have to be in a hospital, it is best to avoid it but there are times when it’s unavoidable. In those situations there are things you can do to improve your outcome:
If you can, choose a hospital with a low infection rate and if possible avoid the months of June, July and August when the most errors occur;
Request the lowest effective dosage of antibiotics possible and ask about taking probiotics to protect your good bacteria;
Since hospital food is notoriously bad nutritionally, if your primary physician can connect with the hospital staff and clear you to continue taking your nutritional supplements, that can be extremely helpful;
Request IV’s, tubes, and catheters to be removed as early as possible, since the longer they stay in, the greater your risk of infection;
Wash your hands thoroughly and often and insist doctors and nurses do as well;
Have a family member or someone with you who can act as your advocate.
Remember you are in charge and you do not have to accept any medication or treatment you don’t want. When I had sepsis the nurse came and told me the doctor had ordered a different antibiotic. I asked which one and she said Levaquin. I told her absolutely not – and no antibiotic in that same class. She told the doctor and he found a different one. He was a bit put out with me the next day asking why I refused it. I told him I knew it could damage tendons and in fact had done so to my dad and I didn’t want anything that would hinder my recovery. If I couldn’t walk and stay active it would’ve hindered my ability to regain my strength. The bottom line is – you are in charge although at times like that you don’t feel like you are.
We have to speak up, ask questions and be proactive, especially if we find ourselves hospitalized.
Have you found ways to protect your health while hospitalized?
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