“I Gotta Ask?”

Have you ever needed to ask someone for something but you felt intimidated? I remember in first grade feeling terrified when I had to ask the teacher if I could use the bathroom. A lot of kids used that excuse to get out of the room during an intense session of the alphabet but I honestly liked school and I would never abuse my privilege to leave the room. Yet in those first few months I agonized whenever I had to raise my hand and ask permission to go.
The other night, while on vacation, I had a similar experience when my husband inconveniently fell and twisted his knee to the size of a football. We spent the night into the wee hours (no pun intended) in an emergency room hundreds of miles from the teaching hospital where I work as an RN. Although we were in a rural hospital, we happened to be located in an area surrounded by seven world-class ski areas where our attending doctor had seen injured knees every day of his professional life. So when he made the suggestion that he drain some fluid off the knee and inject it with numbing medication we felt we were in very good hands with the prospect of safe lasting relief.
As the doctor prepared to start the procedure I noticed his version of washing was a three second rinse without soap.
“Aren’t you going to wash you hands first?” I boldly went where no other had gone before.
“I just did,” he answered.
Now, I didn’t go to medical school or spend grueling years as a resident, but I do understand germ theory; “Aren’t you supposed to sing the alphabet song to yourself and use soap?” I replied.
“Are you a medical professional?” His eyes squinted with piercing suspicion.
After I affirmed his guess, he lamented over his harrowing night filled with life-saving heroism, proceeded to shame me for asking, and finally, like my first grade teacher, he dismissed me from the room as if I were guilty of extortion.
In the end, I wish I could say that the worst part of our experience was that my husband slipped before we even made it to the ski hill. But for me it’s the fact that I never found out whether the doctor re-washed his hands, as my husband was too jacked-up on morphine to remember. As the days go by, and my trained eyes scan his knee for infection, I promise that the memory of this embarrassing wee-wee dance will not be forgotten. At the very least, that doctor may think twice whenever he washes his hands and to you, beware: asking permission to have your needs met might seem belittling but ignoring them could turn into a slippery slope. Thousands of patients die each year from hospital acquired infection. Don’t be too shy to ask. You deserve it.

  5 comments for ““I Gotta Ask?”

  1. Brenda Gray
    January 26, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Thank you Rita,
    By calling the doc on his lack of handwashing technique, I’ll bet you just saved a few more lives yet to come his way. You have my respect:0)

    Like

  2. judy fairchild
    January 26, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Hi Rita,
    It’s hard to believe how fast we can be knocked down to being 5, scared, intimidated and embarrassed.

    Most would not have spoken up at all and I’ll bet the next professional who tries it will be rewashing their hands

    George and I are in Tahoe skiing this week coming home Sat.

    Like

  3. judy fairchild
    January 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Hope Brian is feeling better. So bummed about his knee and so glad you were with him but what bad timing!

    Like

  4. jill
    January 27, 2011 at 2:17 am

    thats my girl riter

    Like

  5. greg
    January 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Rita- shocked you let him chase you out!

    Like

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