Oct 7, 2015

A New Approach to Saving Lives

I think we’ve been going about things the wrong way. 

Remember back as a kid in school and they would have us brush our teeth, we’d eat this red candy-like nasty tasting thing and whatever places we missed turned our teeth red?



Why can’t we do this with germs? 
Think about it … flu germs, cold germs, nasty bacteria, anything.  If we could SEE it, we might be able to combat it.
As a Mom, I'd LOVE something like this in my home. I could see where the germs are lurking.  My kids do what my mom used to call, "A lick and a promise" when asked to wipe a cabinet or sweep a floor. If they could actually SEE the germs they missed, maybe they'd be more helpful in wanting to join my crusade.  Or maybe not. Maybe I'm delusional.

As a Mother to several kids with special needs, two of which are immunocompromised, I find it strange how people think nothing of going out in public while quite ill. They almost wear it as a badge of honor, "Look at me out here doing stuff while I'm sick as a dog!" I need to be able to see these germs a mile away. 

As a Professional, I deal in the world of vascular access and general health care concerns. We know that hospital acquired infections are a huge loss of money for a hospital, not to mention complications for the patient including morbidity and mortality.  We also know that simple things like good hand hygiene can drastically help reduce these infections. 

So what if they were VISIBLE? 

4 years ago, one such bug got into my son’s IV and nearly killed him.  Any parent who has seen their 2 year old in septic shock fighting for their life will not take these bugs lightly.  Since then, I’ve been asking questions of how we can make system wide changes for people to do the right thing like wash hands, scrub the hub and increase general education for clinicians as well as the general population.

Today it hit me … make the germs visible! Then we could SEE which clinicians are “Typhoid Mary”, which surfaces are teeming with bacteria and which instruments haven’t been properly cleaned.  We could also visibly see what chemicals kill these germs so we can know the most effective treatments.

It’s estimated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that there were 722,000 hospital acquired infections in 2011 (the latest updated source I could find).  And about 75,000 die from these infections.  Read the following article if you dare.  But you’ve been warned, you will feel the need to scrub after. 

For those who would just rather the down and dirty, it says 1 in 25 are estimated to get a hospital acquired infection each year.  For those of us who are frequent flyers, or who have immunocompromised loved ones, this is particularly scary.  My son has had several in his short 6 years of life. 

For comparison, here are some breast cancer statistics.  http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

Basically it estimates there are just under 300,000 cases of breast cancer per year and about 40,000 deaths.  That’s horrible.  One death is too many.  And I’m thankful lots of attention is being placed on this epidemic. 

What’s shocking to me is that basically NO emphasis is being placed on these hospital acquired infections and the numbers are more than double for getting an infection and almost double the rate of deaths.  But instead of highlighting the infection rates and need for system wide improvement, it’s virtually a “dirty little secret.”  No pink ribbons, no football players going pink, no one talking about it at all. 

Another difference between these hospital acquired infections and breast cancer is that with the breast cancer, there is currently no known cure or preventative.  There IS for these infections.  Which makes each death just that much more painful in my opinion.
The good news is ... there is a group working towards addressing these issues.  AVA and the AVA Foundation (www.http://avainfo.org) are working collaboratively with governmental agencies, medical organizations, schools of nursing, the private sector and patient advocacy groups to help shed awareness of and solutions to the problem. Don't be surprised that you'll be hearing more about these infections in the near future. 
We need your help! 

So back to my idea … anyone know how to make germs visible?  It could save about 75,000 lives each year.  One could be yours or someone you love.






Sep 12, 2015

Take Care of Yourself

I’m so irritated. 

I just browsed yet another article about how Moms need to take better care of ourselves.  Now mind you, it was written by a young, rich celebrity, first time mom.  The baby is still an infant.  I might buy in better once that new baby smell has worn off.  Or if the nanny quits.  But for now, it’s just another reason to feel “Mommy guilt”. 

I’ve heard all the points before.  I actually agree with them.  Like, “If I don’t take care of me, who will take care of the kids?” Good question.

I’ll admit I’m pretty bad about remembering to take care of me.  I’ve actually gone to a restaurant and ordered for everyone else but forgot to order food for me.  (Sadly, this has happened more than once.)  Or I bought special lenses for my 5 year old’s glasses but ordered the cheapest I could find for me.  Last week, one of the kids helped cut some cinnamon bread and they forgot to include a piece for me and I feigned like I didn’t want any anyway (though truthfully I’d been drooling for some the whole time it was baking).  And there are days where it is too exhausting to shower, so I just crash instead. 

So why do these articles cause me to want to run into the closet and inhale a bag of potato chips feeling like I’m failing my kids by not taking care of me?  Because the truth is - sometimes it’s just not possible to take care of everyone on the list. I will be last. Sometimes there’s not enough of me to go around.  I’m OK with that.  Why aren’t others OK with that?

I have a son who is 6.  Manny is quite medically complex and requires someone to monitor him 24/7. He cannot sit, stand, crawl, walk or use his arms independently.  If his nose itches, he has to ask someone to scratch it for him.  If his arms fall from his tray, it’s stuck there until someone picks it back up.  If his neck falls forward, it’s stuck there until someone sets him up. 

He aspirates often. You know that feeling when a piece of food starts to go down the wrong way and you choke and sputter trying to keep it out of your lungs? Manny does not do that.  He is not able to protect that airway so the saliva slides straight down into his lungs. He does it with no signs that it’s happened until a few days later when he gets aspiration pneumonia. This is called Silent Aspiration.  The only way to avoid it is to be ready moment by moment to suction his mouth.  This means eyes have to be right on him at all times. 

Now let’s say I need a shower.  His needs are greater than mine.  He will win every time.  I’m OK with that. 

The “You’ve got to take care of yourself Nazis” as I like to call them say I need some “Me” time.  OK.  Sounds delightful.  Let’s say I want to sit by the pool, have a sip of wine and read a good book.  And say my son who can’t swim falls into the pool.  I’m supposed to just sit there, sip my wine, continue reading and say, “Sorry son. I can’t get you right now.  I’m having some ME time.” 

People would say, “Of course not! That’s an emergency.” 

And there’s the catch. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week.  I live in Emergency mode.  All. The. Time. 

People who don’t live in this world cannot possibly comprehend that. 

I have a friend whose child had a significant surgery.  For almost 3 weeks, they stood vigil over that child. They were exhausted from 24/7 care for 3 weeks.  For those weeks, the mom didn’t really eat much or sleep well and showered when she could.  Then the child recovered.   Life resumed. 

Another friend has a child who was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. Same basic scenario.  Testing, drugs, hospitalizations, terror round the clock for over a year.  Finally the child went into remission and the family started to regain some semblance of normalcy. 

We have been doing this for over 5 years.  With no end in sight.  This is my life.  There is no recovery from Manny’s diagnosis.  In fact, it’s a progressive disease … meaning this is as good as it gets.  We’ve already seen the decline. 

The trick is trying to find a way to LIVE in the middle of this.  Trying to find a way to include myself on the list.  Trying to see if I can eek out any part of energy or time for things that rebuild and rejuvenate me.  And truthfully, most times, if there does happen to be any time or energy in a day, I’ll use it to spend with my other 5 children who have various special needs as well or with my husband. 

And please hear me clearly.  I am NOT complaining.  I love my life.  I chose my life.  I would do this all over again in a heartbeat.  I am fine with not having a lot of “Me” time.  I’m fine that I put myself far down on the list.  If I wanted it another way, I’d do it another way. 

I’m happiest when I’m taking care of other people.  I’ve found a peace in my choices.

So maybe those articles fail to point out one thing … there are mothers like me who choose to put others first and ourselves last.  Maybe by taking care of others we are meeting a need in ourselves.  Maybe, just maybe, we need to realize that “Taking care of ourselves” is a good thing … but it will look very different on each mom.

Here’s a message for my fellow moms.  You’re doing a great job.  Hang in there.  Hold your head high knowing that you are daily making a difference in the life of another human being.  You are doing one of the most important jobs on the planet.  Take care of yourself.  In whatever way that works for you.