In 2008, my father John McCleary was infected with MRSA while he rehabilitated from a minor ankle fracture at a tiny hospital in our home state of Maine. After he died, I began a Campaign in Maine to screen all high-risk patients for MRSA. Months later, Governor John Baldacci signed a law requiring all high-risk patients entering Maine Hospitals be screened for MRSA.
Then I shared Dad’s story with others, including the Consumers Union Safe Patient project. The CU gave me opportunities to join the nationwide campaign for Patient Safety. This networking has been helpful in my local and national Patient Safety work. I now work in the Maine Quality Counts consumer advisory council. We are making a difference for patients in primary care settings in Maine. I see attending Partnership With Patients Summit in KC as a way to grow this network of patients working in patient safety.
When I became a cancer patient last fall, I used everything I had learned to improve my chances. I learned all I could about my condition, my surgery, my alternatives, and my care. I improved my diet and exercise habits, and I asked for MRSA screening 2 weeks ahead of surgery. I used Chlorhexidine showers for 2 days before and on the day of surgery. I used online resources to find the best Hospital and doctor for my needs. I am now cancer free and I’ve had a complication free recovery. Knowledge is power, and we are safer with it than without it. I can share my experience of being an engaged patient with others and they can share my story with even more.
I didn’t assume that the hospital would keep me safe; I explained my expectations clearly.
Excerpt from my letter to the hospital:
Take the important “time out” before surgery and complete that check list. Give me the appropriate pre op antibiotic and give it at the right time. Keep me warm and clip, don’t shave my hair. Tell me your name and I will tell you mine, on every contact. Please don’t ask my husband to leave my side. He will help keep me safe. Wash your hands every time you touch me or my environment. Pain Control is very important to me. Use the 5 Rights for every medicine you give me. Remove my urinary catheter as soon as possible. Involve me in all discussions about my healthcare plan even if something has gone wrong. Secrecy erodes trust. This list of steps can keep me safe and sustain my trust. Push me hard to walk, cough, deep breath, and take fluids. I want to be out of here as soon as possible because I know it is the best thing for me and my health.
I am giving you my trust, gratitude and sincere admiration for the incredible work that you all do.
You are giving me the safe, clean and expert healthcare, so I can get back to my family for Christmas and begin my recovery.”