Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Saturday, September 19, 2009
    Thank You, I've Been Screened

    Every day after taking the shuttle and checking in at the medical center, we patients and caregivers are given a sticker to wear. What do the stickers say? It's the title of this post. The stickers are distributed to us after we have filled out forms stating that we are not coughing, do not have a runny nose or a fever, and so on. Bottles of hand sanitizer are everywhere.

    No, I am not the Boy in the Plastic Bubble, but I am pretty damn close. I am currently acting as caregiver for a relative who's undergoing outpatient treatment at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She's not in the hospital and I am doing my best to keep her that way. The best way to do that is to observe the many, many precautions on the handouts which the hospital distributes at every possible opportunity. Food hygiene, home hygiene... nuking sponges in the microwave to kill bacteria, avoiding whole grain breads and crackers, scrubbing bananas before you peel them. It never ends. I actually turned this experience to some good use by writing another guest post for the Home Ec 101 website, which you can read here if you are so inclined.

    Spraying Clorox and wiping things down is a lot of work but worth it. It has given me a new appreciation for the marvels of our immune system, for one thing, and I now have some new ideas for my patients who are plagued with MRSA infections. MRSA is a nasty bug and can affect anyone... you don't have to be immunosuppressed to get it. We are washing sheets and towels twice weekly, using a lot of hand sanitizer, using paper towels and napkins (cloth being a bad idea for someone who is immunosuppressed... it can harbor germs) and so forth. Earlier this week my relative's white blood cell count plunged from 10K to 2K, then to 1K, so I am keeping an eye on her. Today it will be lower still but we are hoping that her count will bottom out over the weekend and then start to return.

    In a frenzy of planning for this visit I packed my otoscope/ophthalmoscope kit, a box of rubber gloves, a stethoscope and my portable blood pressure kit. So far none of them has been needed. Her treatment has been relatively uneventful so far and I hope it stays that way. I'll post more updates later.

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