So this is week nine, but it should have been week 13. Just as I was leaving for the hospital for the surgery a few months ago I got a frantic message to say that it had all been cancelled because I had MRSA. I was unclean. I knew this was a contamination – but little else – I just assumed that I would be put on a course of antibiotics to clear it up. Which, when you consider, was pretty stupid?
MRSA is a bacteria that is resistant to the commonly used antibiotics, and whilst it should stand for Microbes Resistant to Standard Antibiotics, it actually stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. The Staphylococcus Aureus is a common form of bacteria which lives on the skin of about 30% of the population. The most common sites where it can be found are in the armpits, the groin or the nose. The test is of the content of swabs which have been rubbed in each of those locations.
MRSA is a problem if you are going to have an intrusive procedure because there is the two fold risk, firstly of spreading it within the hospital and secondly of the skin surface bacteria being transferred into the wound during an operation.
Before I could have the operation I had to have had three negative (no contamination by MRSA) results from tests. So the MRSA had to be dealt with. And how am I to be rendered clean – why with soap and water and clean bed linen, for a week. First I had to wash using a Hibiscrub. This is an antimicrobial preparation. So you take some mediwipes or a new Jay cloth and make sure you have rubbed every surface and orifice (including under the nails) in the liquid before rinsing off. This includes washing your hair with it at least twice in the week, and then throwing away the mediwipes or Jay cloth you have used.
The second part of the treatment was to apply a powder to the groin and under arms. I am not used to applying any powder – so this involved a learning experience. The powder comes in a small plastic bottle about the size of an eye drop container. Putting the powder into the groin was relatively easy, gravity was on your side, but getting it up under my arms was less straight forward. Pressing the flexible sides of the container produced an asthmatic wheeze. Shaking it produced anything from a dust storm to a winsome puff. In the end I shook the powder onto my hand and then rubbed it onto the areas required for treatment.
The third part was the application of the nasal ointment. This came in a small tube with a chemical carried in paraffin wax. This had to be applied high up into each nostril three times a day, the size of each application being ‘of the size of a match head’. My early attempts were a failure. A lump was pushed into the nostril, and then massaged, in the process of which it all seemed to come out of the nose. I evolved a system that worked. Firstly, I placed the tube in the sink in warm or hot water. This made the wax soft and it was easier to eject a bead of the material – and easier to push the soft wax high up into each nostril. By pinching the base of the two nostrils before massaging, the inside of each nostril was coated.
Then came the final part of this week of treatment – changing towels and bed linen every day. This is an onerous task, remaking the bed every day with clean sheets. It does not endear one to one’s partner, especially as helping is hindered by the very heart problems that required the operation in the first place.
And after the week of treatment it is off to hospital to be checked. The taking of the swabs is not a problem, although the wait for the results is about three days. If it is a fail, and you still have MRSA, then it is a case of redoing the treatment again. I had tests done twice before I went back for the operation and both were negative. I had a further check when I went in the day before the operation and when the results came through that evening they still showed that I was clear.
So the need to eliminate MRSA delayed the operation by 4 weeks – and the most onerous part of that treatment was changing towels and bed linen every day for a week. So this is week 9 and not week 13.
I have never had an empty diary before (cleared because of the anticipated operation and recovery period), so the four weeks was put to good use so that when I eventually went into hospital I was in better shape than I had been in years
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