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Inside an isolation order

March 23, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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After suffering from a virus and drippy nose for about two weeks, my nurse prepared me for a visit to the urologist to check the status of my kidney stones by doing a urinalysis, culture and sensitivity testing.

After two days passed with "no news," I thought I might be infection free. But on the next (appointment day), my nurse told me I had a urinary tract infection (UTI) caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. I know my mouth dropped open when she told me.

My urologist was not unduly concerned and said the antibiotic he prescribed would get rid of it. When I returned to the nursing home, I expected to receive infection control guidelines. But nothing was said and my life proceeded as usual.

On Saturday morning, however, the aides asked for isolation garb. They used cloth gowns at first. Then after breakfast, isolation wear appeared on a table outside my door. I was told I could not use the bathroom or the shower room as long as I had MRSA. The nurses and aides wore gowns, booties and gloves when they provided care.

On Sunday, they added caps and masks to the other protective gear. That weekend I was washed up with water carried in plastic basins. All liquid and solid waste was bagged and disposed of in the biohazard room at the end of the hall.

On my fourth day of antibiotic treatment, the nurse manager told staff they only needed to wear gloves to control infection. I breathed a sigh of relief when I could use the bathroom and be allowed in the shower room. Some aides, however, continued to wear gowns, masks and booties. Since it took extra time to don them, I am sure some felt the task was drudgery.

Although I have had UTIs caused by other types of staph, this is the first caused by MRSA. At a previous facility my staph UTIs were treated with contact isolation—eased after 24 hours on antibiotics. There, the aides were more accustomed to caring for residents with MRSA and were less fearful of contagion.

A few aides took my infection in stride. Others were clearly concerned about contracting the bacteria and passing it on to their children. I certainly understand their concern—no one wants MRSA!

Over the years that I have lived in nursing homes, I have seen aides donning and doffing protective garb to care for residents with MRSA. However, experiencing firsthand a MRSA UTI and the procedure to keep it from spreading is quite different.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...