Do Not Enter

July 12, 2009

I had a great bit of fun last week on my last night in the A&E department. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years of being admitted to hospital, it’s to use humour to get through difficult situations. This time, it really helped me through a potential emotional meltdown. I won out in the end too!

Those of you who’ve read this blog before, will know that I have a past history of MRSA infection and although I am clear of this horribly resistant bacteria, I’m still regularly stigmatised by it when in hospital. On this occasion, on admission to A&E, I was carefully questioned about my MRSA status and swabs were taken for analysis. A very kind ward manager found me a bed rather than a trolley and it was pushed into a little side room to ‘protect’ the other patients in case the swabs came back MRSA positive.

The side room had four walls, a bed, one chair and a door. No television, nothing. No en suite either which means that potentially infective patients use the same facilities as everyone else. As I was only a ‘suspected’ carrier of MRSA, no restrictions were placed on my movements around a very busy A&E department. On the third night, I came out of the side room to find a new sign on the door… “Do not enter, please contact staff desk first”. My immediate reaction to this was “Help! My swabs must have come back positive”. I went back into the room and lay down on the bed in despair. That’s when the fury hit. “How dare they put up this sign without first informing me of a change in status!”. I was tired and in danger of losing my cool. Humour was called for. I sat up and carefully made a sign which proclaimed “Enter at own risk, I bite!” and using a sticking plaster from my handbag, I stuck it to outside of the door below the other sign. About 30 mins later, a night nurse stormed into the room and asked if I was responsible for the sign. I smiled back at her cheekily and replied,  “two can play at your game you know. Nobody consulted me about the restrictions placed so I didn’t consult you”.  I demanded to know if my MRSA status had changed. She replied that it hadn’t and admitted that they were playing safe. She then left the room clearly annoyed. I chuckled to myself in victory.

Shortly afterwards, she returned with a smile.  “You win”, she said.  We’ve taken both signs down now”.

raffle ticket

The following morning, I left the room briefly and on my return, my bed and all my belongings had disappeared. Nobody could tell me what was going on but I was hopeful it might be a sign I was about to be transferred to a ward. Another patient was wheeled into the side room and my bed was eventually found in the middle of the department, lined up with trolleys all groaning with patients. Later that day, I was informed that I was to be moved to a ward and as you can imagine, this news came as a huge relief.

The swab reports came back negative on my fourth day in the hospital. Phew! If I’d tested positive, it would’ve compromised my treatment and also meant that I’d been infective to others in the hospital, for a full four days. Countries like Holland, which has brought MRSA contamination under control in the hospitals, must laugh so hard at the Irish interpretation of  infection control.