It’s Always Something


A few posts back I wrote about the Ebola scare and how there are many other more dangerous bacteria and germs floating around in public that are never reported by the news.  The hospital I volunteer at now has signs about Ebola posted at all of its entrances.  The first question receptionists now ask patients is if  they visited any of the countries affected by the disease.  That’s all well and good. I know the American public has been freaked out ever since the first person died in the US, so places like my hospital are not taking any chances.

Imagine my surprise a couple of days ago when I got an email from the volunteer office at the hospital. To paraphrase:

A volunteer was hospitalized twice back in August/September. At the time staff didn’t know he/she had active tuberculosis. (Nothing was mentioned about when this person was diagnosed, but they did give the floor where this person stayed and to notify the office if, me the recipient of this email came in contact with this person).

How the hell do I know if I came in contact with this person if I don’t know their name?  Who knows how long he/she was walking around in the public before the diagnosis.

Then I find out another volunteer has tested positive for “latent” TB. I do remember this person telling me she had a weird growth on her lung and was going to have it biopsied.  That conversation was around September. She has not returned to the hospital to volunteer since then.

I looked up the treatment for TB and one of the side effects are serious damage to the liver, something I have no desire to endure… so I make sure to wear my face mask at all times when I am there. The head nurse asked me yesterday if I was wearing a mask because I was scared of Ebola. I wanted to say, “No, I’m protecting myself from TB since the administrators who run this place want to remain ‘tight-lipped’ about who has it.”  Instead, I told her I was around kids who were sneezing.

Next month I go for my annual TB test. They better pray it comes back negative.  This is the same that hospital screwed up my first chemo treatment, overdosing me with that poison, but I forgave them for that, even though staff was tight-lipped (again) about how that happened. I didn’t get an apology either, but I know the reason has to do with liability.  Saying they were sorry is an admission of guilt that could have cost them a pretty penny. I forgive but I never forget.

You may ask, why do I volunteer there, it’s simple. The patients. I feel the need to be there for them, as long as I can, until I piss someone off in administration and get kicked out. I advocate for those patients who can’t do it for themselves. I am their “squeaky wheel” when it comes to new hospital regulations that don’t make sense and may hurt the patient. Sometimes I lose the fight but management always know what I’m thinking. Paid staff may feel the same as me, but they are afraid of losing their jobs. As for me, I don’t get paid so I open my mouth.

This isn’t the first time I was in contact with someone who had a contagious disease. Before I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2010, I worked at an adult daycare for the mentally challenged.  I had no experience dealing with this type of population but I was hired because I passed their background check and I needed a job. Every week we had a new person to “coach” (supervise and play games with), in order for each of us to have a turn with the “difficult” ones (and they had plenty).  It was the worst job I ever had. Everyday someone had a tantrum; picture a grown man throwing around tables. That was a typical day for me.

One day another coach told me to be careful with the female I was watching, she had MRSA. I never heard of that, I found out it is a highly contagious disease. No one in management warned me. Not one. I found out later it’s against HPPA laws. Seriously? I am potentially exposed to a serious disease that I will never get rid of, and the law is more concerned with protecting the medical privacy of the person who has it? By the way, this person’s hobby was spitting on the cement floor and I was expected to clean it up.  After finding out that tidbit of information, I stopped.

Looking back, my immune system was already compromised. I had cancer and didn’t know it yet. Who knows what would have happened if I caught MRSA? I know I didn’t because the hospital (the same one who didn’t know the volunteer had TB) tested me for MRSA before I was admitted. Apparently this bacteria shows up a lot in hospitals. I wish I had opened my mouth to management at the daycare, but I didn’t. I needed the job so did my best to keep my distance from all of the consumers. Who knew what other illnesses they might have had.

Having survived cancer changed all that. Now I speak my mind to anyone and everyone. I’ve written a few letters too.  I can’t stand to see incompetence and lack of accountability, although those two “qualities” seem to be the new norm, whether its hospitals, adult daycare, or our government leaders.

If you are waiting for any of them to do the right thing, forget it. Be proactive. Wear a mask. Speak up, Make a scene if necessary. Tell others. The buck stops with us.

Be Well and Happy!