Because I’m careful. I am so, SO careful all the time, but others are not. I always make my surgical needles safe. But many doctors I assist do not. I always discard my sharps. And many do not. I never point a sharp at someone. Many do.
Exactly one year ago I had an injury on duty. It changed the course of my final year of med school and my general approach to medicine. It put me through four weeks of awful medicine and several terrifying blood tests. I won’t forget it, and I wish it hadn’t happened, but today I want to share three snippets where I was involved, but did not suffer the injury myself.
There is no shortage of war stories from healthcare workers who have taken Post-Exposure Prophylaxis ARVs (the medication you take to prevent HIV after being exposed to it).Days and days and days of nausea and diarrhoea are just the beginning of it. Before my experience, I had seen friends become anaemic and flat-out exhausted on PEP. I saw them become sick. I heard horror stories of Stevens-Johnsons and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis.
Earlier this year I wrote that we needed more YA about teens with HIV. I didn’t know, at the time, that a 2013 YA existed on the very topic: My Life After Nowby Jessica Verdi. I also didn’t know that not soon after I would be injured on duty, have to take prophylaxis, and months later have residual post-traumatic symptoms.
So recently I read My Life After Now as a sort of desensitisation exercise, to get back some of my empathy and also, honestly, because I was curious about how well Verdi would have accomplished writing about such a difficult scenario.
Let me tell you: I was pleasantly surprised! The writing was not necessarily my favourite – quite noticeably for a younger audience, obviously – and the setting was in the USA, which is quite different from my own. Nevertheless, I thought Verdi illustrated the ambivalence towards the virus by teenagers who have heard of it ad nauseum VERY well. Continue reading “Mental Health and HIV, ft. “My Life After Now””→
Infectious Disease is interesting. In fact, I would wager that it forms at least part of the backbone leading to most medical students deciding to study medicine, regardless of whether or not they end up enjoying ID.
Seven Modern Plagues by Mark Jerome Walters investigates seven diseases causing havoc today. He looks at the circumstances that first brought them to us… and then illustrates how humanity has, in some way or another, influenced their massive growth. For example, the earliest known HIV case was in 1959, so how and why did it reach such large proportions in the 80s… and why do we still see new forms emerging?
It was hot summer afternoon and I was on my rural Family Medicine rotation; the Friday leading up to my birthday weekend. I was looking forward to an off-weekend, and I’d be going home to spend my birthday with my family for the first time since 2008. I had dressed up in a new skirt, a pretty pink top, and had even worn my contact lenses to work. I wanted to look “pretty” for going home.
A very, very sick man was brought into our clinic by his mother and sister. He was emaciated, shivering and delirious. Because I had been in the area for two weeks and the area has an incredibly high rate of HIV, I knew, or at least very strongly suspected, that he was a patient with the virus. I also strongly suspected that he was suffering from cryptococcal meningitis, because I’ve seen so many cases of it.
In our third year, a friend of mine had an upsetting first shift in Trauma Surgery: the first suturing she ever did was on a young woman who had just survived corrective rape. Rape is common in our country in general, and so is the “corrective” rape of gender non-conforming women.
A year later, we saw a transwoman being place in a single room, because the hospital had no policy for what to do with her. She did not want to be in a male ward, but strong leadership was lacking and so a patient with no infectious risk was placed in a single room. It did not sit well with us, but we were fourth years. We did not know what we could do.
Tonight I attended a fantastic talk by Dr Alexandra Muller from the University of Cape Town on providing healthcare for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender patients: why we should care and what we can do better.
I have a very good relationship with my optometrists – so much so that I still have not found a Cape Town-based optometrist. At my recent vision test (my vision is significantly worse, again) I mentioned cutting back on my contact lens use and relying more on my glasses. Continue reading “Question: On Contact Lenses and HIV Exposure”→
Readers of this blog might remember that I went to my first ever book fair last year. My first purchase that day was a book called Whisper Not: 15 Africans speak out on life and love beyond HIV (Mpongo et al), which some of the authors graciously signed for me.
I started blogging as a way of debriefing myself and in the process discovered a whole world of medical blogging. I have found mentors and colleagues all over the world, but I have also met people from the “other side”. I have gotten to know – by means of what they choose to share with the world – people who sit on the other side of the physician’s desk. They have imparted knowledge and understanding that medical school could not, no matter how hard it tried.
Here are five blogs/twitters of people who unwittingly became my teachers – in no particular order.