Squeaky clean hospital, narrow squeak in surgery

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Ballet dancer in box
Escaping germs is always a close squeak

A simple operation.

Routine, routine, routine.

Except there’s nothing routine in cutting your body open and sewing up a few repairs.

Invasive surgery they call it. Like being carved up on the battlefield, but under anaesthetic.

Always a risk

Yes, it saves lives – in this case, yours.

But all the time your body is at hazard, and it’s only the skills of the experts that keep you alive.

Not just experts with a scalpel either.

The mop and bucket brigade are also keeping you from death.

Because of the germs.

Billions and billions of viruses and bacteria floating around all of us every day – in the air around our bodies, in our homes – and in the hospital where they’re going to do the op.

Hospital battlefield

It IS a battlefield too – right across the consulting room, the operating theatre, the recovery room and the observation ward. A constant war to prevent infection getting into your cut. The cut that saved your life, but could still kill you if the germs get in.

HAIs they call them – Hospital Acquired Infections. And you might wonder how such disasters are possible if medical professionals are doing their job properly.

The truth is that they are – to higher standards than any other occupation. If the world ran to the demanding requirements of the medical profession, we’d all be living in perfection.

Thing is though, that HAIs are not just a medical issue. They’re a hygiene one.
There are more people in hospital with cuts and tubes and wires into their bodies than anywhere else. And every breach in the body defences is a chance for germs to slip in.

Stopping them is next to impossible. Like the air we all breathe, they’re a fact of life.

Anti-antibiotics

Which is why post-op, you drift out of the anaesthetic pumped full of antibiotics.

No significant surgery of any kind is possible without them. The germs are so pervasive and fast, every patient would die on the operating table.

Which makes every hospital a war-zone. A constant onslaught against viruses and bacteria – hostile organisms so small they’re invisible – you can never tell whether they’re there or not.

But count on it, they always are.

So hospitals don’t just need to be clean and KEPT clean. They need a special kind of clean. Because the enemy is everywhere – on surfaces, furniture, drapes, skin and clothing. Swirling through the air too. If you’ve ever watched minute motes of dust floating in sunlight, you’ll understand.

A hospital is a huge place too – requiring a monumental effort to keep clean.

Doing it all to the same standard is impossible, but this is where miracles happen every day.

They need them too.

Antibiotics are vital to saving your life – but fifty years of depending on them more and more has led to overuse. Result – mutating bacteria have found a way to become resistant to them too.

So HAIs are increasingly in the news. Today the No 1 villain is MRSA – Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus – the surgeon’s nightmare. The No 2 is Clostridium Difficile.

You will be tested for both repeatedly – before, during and after your procedure. Between them they kill around 2,000 people a year in the UK, just these two.

Against the enemy

Fortunately you’re not totally dependant on Mrs Mop to keep you safe. Hospital cleaning is science and there’s more to it than disinfectant and detergent.

Operating theatres have HEPA filters – High-Efficiency Particulate Air scrubbers so fine they can remove 99.97% of particles down to 0.03 of a micron – a single MRSA cell is 0.06.

Increasingly, ultra violet light is used too. In high intensity pulses generated in the short-wave UV-C band, the light attacks viruses and bacteria by destroying their DNA. All germs within range are dead in around ten minutes.

Hydrogen peroxide is even more effective. No shadows, no “dead” areas. Misted up into a super-fine ionised spray it reaches everywhere, drawn by static charge. Germs are destroyed by oxidising them – ripped apart by oxygen atoms and destroyed down to just 1 microorganism in a million.

Yes, your surgery is a serious thing, but your body will pull through – the doctors and nurses will make sure of it. Your narrow escape is in avoiding the germs – always a risk, even with defences in place.

A squeak you’ll be glad to be out of.

Originally posted 2014-12-03 13:54:46.