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.
She was a professional nurse at our hospital, not much older than me, and with no time during shift-work to see her private gynaecologist, she made the scary decision to come to the hospital’s gynae-clinic (scary because she would most certainly be seen first by an inept medical student before seeing the specialist).
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.
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.