Sunday 11 November, 2007 – 13:04
What follows is what I e-mailed (my address details removed here, though) to a newspaper editor today. I edited it later and sent it to the Sydney Morning Herald. Not that it’ll do any good, since I’ve come to realise.
11th November 2007
Easier to e-mail than go to all the extra trouble of trying to address and post a letter.
In today’s paper, it was mentioned that the government refused to put people at risk by entrusting them to even minor hazards such as faulty busses. A following artcle has a doctor complain that obese people should not be penalised for being overweight (my response: it is their fault, just save money and eat less).
In January I was admitted to hospital after collapsing with Legionnaires Disease. It wasn’t my fault, but I am still paying for it. According to witnesses, I actually died while being examined, and required a team to spend six hours resuscitating me and hooking me up to life support. The media was sufficiently interested to run with a number of words about me, and about Legionnaires (apparently each year there are about 70 cases nationwide, of which about a dozen patients die: I don’t know if I will confound the statisticians by both being one who died but also a survivor, but I am not really worried).
About two weeks after admission, I was still in a coma, but recovering. I was moved to a different room in intensive care. A few days later the room was turned into a makeshift infection-control area, because the hospital had given me MRSA (actually MRS-B. but that really is a semantic quibble). I don’t know if I died (a moot point since I was hooked up to life support and no one would have noticed), but my witnesses said my body appeared to start decomposing). Funnily, that event never gained any media coverage. Recently, I found figures from undeveloped countries such as the UK and the US that indicate over 10,000 Australians would contract MRSA this year, and around 1000 at least would die from its complications.
For those eventually cured of MRSA (another moot point: a recent overnight stay at another hospital had the admitting doctor worried I might spread the disease to his hospital, a most unwelcome development, even though I was "officially" cured).
About four weeks after admission to hospital, I sorta regained consciousness. The initial attempts at physio failed due to me becoming (as later diagnosed) an incurable cripple. It is funny that while a doctor will come to the defence of an obese patient, whenever I mention "MRSA" all ears are closed. In fact, I can’t even get treatment for related conditions (such as kidney failure, or osteoarthritis) even if I don’t mention MRSA!
While a hundred times more Australians will die this year from MRSA than from Legionnaires, it doesn’t seem to get much media attention (except in the UK, where newspapers regularly publish updates of which hospitals are the most dangerous to patients). Perhaps it is because the incidence of hospital-transmitted MRSA can be reduced to approximately zero by the expensive and time-consuming process that involves medical staff washing their hands!
Am I facing a conspiracy of silence because no one wants to admit to the existence of MRSA, let alone shoulder and responsibility? Why would a transport minister trumpet loudly his insistence that no one would have their lives put at risk by a faulty bus, but no government minister says a word about a tens of thousands of Australians risking their lives annually by risking infection to a fatal disease? Why does a doctor come to the support of the obese (I am obese now, thanks to not being able to get sufficient exercise to combat the overeating I was forced to engage in after losing half my body weight in hospital), a preventable occurrence, but does not condemn his fellow medical staff for not preventing the spread of a serious disease by not washing their hands?
Am I being paranoid, or not paranoid enough? After all, previous attempts to contact your newspaper have met with no response, unusual for a topic of interest during a vituperative election debate!
Thursday 15 November, 2007 – 01:01
I’ve spent all night trying to send what follows to the major media organisations. So far tonight I have managed three successful sends. But in the two weeks I’ve been trying to contact anyone relevant, there have not been any substantial replies (and only one reply at all).
The whole country is in an uproar about the societal costs of equine influenza, with no stone left unturned in efforts to fix the blame on someone. But no one has died. But there has been no uproar about the 1000 or so Australians who will have died in 2007 because they were infected with MRSA.
There have been a few media mentions of the hideous weeping sores of those who have been infected by poor hospital hygiene with "golden staph", but no one seems to have publicly stated that this is just the public face of MRSA. You might be amongst the 10% infected with MRSA and draw the short straw and die (and if you happen to be in a hospital that suffered from an MRSA breakout, you only had a 50% chance of not being infected).
For a disease that whose existence is so vehemently denied, half a dozen different variants can be found in little old Australia. In fact, those who die of MRSA complications in a Sydney hospital can have posthumous pleasure in knowing that they have died from a different variant of the disease that plagues Perth hospitals. How nice. At last count, UK hospitals were facing up to 16 different variants of MRSA.
Why doesn’t this disease with its massively lethal complications rate so little mention in Australia? Why hasn’t anyone who just types "MRSA" into a search engine not been appalled by the lethality of the disease? Possibly because in Australia, all you find are repeated warnings to maintain hospital hygiene. The dirty linen is kept hidden unless you can prove you are a medical professional.
In less developed countries such as the US and the UK, hospitals, universities, health care providers, universities, and drug companies, all seem to vie with each other to sell services to avoid this plague. In Australia, federal and state health departments will not point the finger at anyone, because all are equally to blame. Medical professionals hide the existence of the disease, perhaps because if the truth came out, most would be liable for charges of negligent homicide or conspiracy. Mutual assured destruction keeps the truth at bay.
My own case is on the innocuous side of typical. Medical services don’t want to know about it; mention it to a doctor and suddenly the workload is too great for you to get any help; mention it to a politician, and you discover the truth of being ignored. I can’t even get a public servant to send me a benefit statement so I can apply for wheelchair-enabled housing, once the dreaded MRSA is mentioned. Why the attention-hungry media don’t run with the issue is beyond even the range of my paranoia.
I spent more than a month suffering infection control in hospital, and was never told once that I had been given MRSA. In fact, I was never corrected when I said the excuse for my medical isolation was previously diagnosed Legionnaires Disease. I was only told in a one line statement in my discharge summary that I had contacted MRSA and had been cured (and this is when medical practices define a patient as "infected" with MSRA for two years after the last signs of the disease have been found; if the last signs are found at all).
What gives folks? Did the country suffer a massive IQ drop for the month I was in a coma?