A nurse once said, “if you’re sick, don’t go to a hospital”. This may seem silly and contradictory but it’s true. If you think about it, there are all sorts of germs crawling around those white rooms and no matter how sanitary a hospital is kept, they can’t all be eradicated. That’s where sick and injured people go for help, and they bring their germs with them!
Hospital-affiliated illness is rampant. The World Health Organization states that illness acquired in a healthcare facility is the most prevalent adverse healthcare event worldwide, with hundreds of millions of people contracting infections every year. As many as ten percent of all hospitalized people will get an infection before they leave. (1)
Worst of all, many of these infections are caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens, meaning they can’t be treated in a straightforward way. In some cases, they can’t be treated at all.
Anne Fritz’ story is therefore not uncommon. Her father was hospitalized to remove polyps found during a routine colonoscopy. This surgery had already been postponed once and doctors feared some of the larger polyps might be cancerous. The surgery went well and he was in good spirits because the polyps were benign (2).
The day after surgery, Anne’s father had a fever and a rapid heart rate. Once these were under control, he was moved to a rehabilitation center to recover. Three days later he was dead.
Anne was horrified and bewildered. The cause of death was listed as heart failure but an autopsy uncovered the real reason: his colon had been perforated during surgery and became infected. He died of sepsis.
Had Anne known the symptoms of sepsis, she may have been able to alert the doctor. Worst yet, if her father’s x-rays had been reviewed, doctors would have noticed the perforations.
The second day after Anne’s father entered the rehab center, his condition took a nosedive. He was weak, listless, confused, and had no appetite.
The next day, he told Anne the doctors were going to “take pictures of my tummy”, which was quite unlike anything her father would ordinarily say. On the third day, Anne received a call that her father was dead.