23 May 2010

Reversing roles and avoiding tragedy

Virginia Cory -- my mother -- is having elective knee surgery tomorrow. Never easy, surgery today is complicated by a variety of hospital-acquired infections, including some very nasty staph infections that most people have heard about as "flesh-eating bacteria." Now, it turns out there are some very simple pre-surgical practices that can help prevent those hospital-acquired infections.

One of them is pre-surgical bathing with a strong disinfectant. By bathing, the practice means careful cleaning of the surgical site, plus areas where the various tubes and attachments penetrate the surgical patient -- that is, pretty much anywhere on the skin, and the other orifices where things pass in and out of the body.

Now, let's look at the facts:
  • My mother is 86 -- almost 87 -- years old. She's competent, but she's also in great pain, and isn't the most flexible person in the world. She's not able to get to all the places on her body that she needs to bathe and clean.
  • My mother was a professor of nursing. She knows one or two things about bathing patients. Including getting to those orifices.
  • I'm cheap labor, and could with some instruction, bathe my mother properly. My mother could probably instruct me, and I've already researched how to bathe patients for pre-surgical staphlococcal prophylaxis.
Now, here's the issue: this kind of bathing means you have to get to some very private places. Yeah, those private places. I'm not squeamish, nor ashamed of, bodies. The thought of the bathing doesn't bother me at all -- except for my mother. When I think about doing this for Virginia, in a weird way the Orestia comes screaming into my mind. Seriously. And as we know, nothing good can come from that story -- which arguably is the tragedy of all tragedies. So it's on to plan B.

I've made sure that one of the nursing assistants will bathe my mother, and show her how to clean the appropriate bits tomorrow morning. In this simple way, I'm really, really hoping to avoid both classical tragedy and modern tragedy.

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