Over the past year I have known four people who ended up with secondary (and more) infections from being in the hospital. One person had an injury and his infection was more due to that than anything the hospital did, though they almost discovered it too late. One friend had surgery, went home and then developed an infection and had to go back in. I don’t know how the hospital was implicated in that.
Another friend had had hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago (his second). Subsequently the bone around the replacement crumbled and it turned out he had some sort of bone infection picked up at the time of initial surgery. They replaced the ball joint (and built up the pelvis) with an antibiotic version. Within a week it was pulling out and they had to operate again. It was then supposed to be in for a couple of months but I think it was much longer than that. He had the surgery last summer and is just now getting to 50% weight on the leg. They looked at suing the hospital because of the infection but the convoluted way of healthcare in Canada means they would have to sue the doctor too, even if it wasn’t his fault. What doctor would then touch a patient who has sued another one?
The last friend went in for bladder cancer surgery. They were removing his bladder and making a neo-bladder out of intestine. The surgery went well. The bladder was made and my friend started to heal in that first week, still needing catheterising. Eventually, after about two weeks, they sent him home, in time for Christmas. A day nurse came in to attend him and catheterize him every day. Because my friend was a particularly grumpy person, especially when not feeling well, and 6’7″, he intimidated some people. The day nurse never turned on the light in his dark bedroom and never really checked all of his vitals.
It turned out he was getting and infection, his feet had turned purple and his kidneys were shutting down. They put him back in the hospital just before new years and tried to stabilize. He had a shunt somewhere in his neck, for nutrients or something. He got one infection and then within 48 hours of being in the hospital he got C Deficil, the deadly super bacteria. He then suffered a heart attack and his kidneys shut down completely. Two operations of eight hours each then occurred. They removed his intestines and hooked him up to various machines.
Over the months his kidneys started working again but he lost teeth and bone to a parotid artery infection from one vein. He couldn’t eat because it turns out the kidneys change the way you taste food. Or sometimes he was vomitting. Slowly, he wasted a way to a skeletal frame. His veins would collapse. Sometimes he could eat, sometimes he need a gastrointestinal tube. His kidneys never worked right and another surgery was performed in the summer to put a shunt into his ureter or kidneys. He had bags, he had tubes, he had needles.
He did start to eat again, many foods but he was so weak that his hands would shake and it could take up to an hour to eat a chicken leg. I should mention here that the food was often abysmal and in no way nutritional or conducive toward healing. He wouldn’t eat the broccoli because it was cooked to mush. He was celiac (before they decided/determined that he no longer was) and he’d get two pieces of dried out rice bread, with margarin and one thin slab of processed luncheon meat, along with two hard boiled eggs and no fresh vegetables. CBC has done a good series on hospital food (Sounds Like Canada) as well as an expose on the lack of cleanliness (doctors or nurses not washing their hands).
Eventually, he was too weak to recover. He made the choice when they said, we have to put a gastro tube in or you will die and he refused the tube, choosing his time. But he fought a long battle of 14 months where I watched his spirit slowly drain from him and his body collapse upon itself. He died a week before Christmas last year.
I still hold a great anger for the fact that many deaths are needless and could be prevented if cleanliness and hygiene were adhered to in hospitals. As well, with the Campbell government illegally (as the courts did decide) firing unionized hospital workers and farming out the cleaning to the lowest bidder, we now have hospitals being cleaned by people/companies who may not be up on dealing with biohazardous material. Our provincial government is saving money at the expense of lives.
At the same time this is endemic across the country. It’s a criminal tragedy that people are dying because something as simple as washing hands is not followed and super bugs are thriving. The four people I mentioned above all went to the same hospital, one that is supposedly not on the watch list for infections.