Monday, April 24, 2017

Tired of perusing my multifaceted foolishness? For a fascinating and ruthlessly honest look at healthcare from an ER doc's perspective check out; Writingwithscissors.blogspot.com. The link is on my blog list. The latest "What I've learned" post is a classic that anyone in healthcare should read. There are many ER blogs out there, but this one is in a class by itself!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Where Did Mercurochrome Disappear To?

I've seen plenty of treatment modalities go from widespread use to complete and total extinction. Things like scultetus  binders, Phisohex, French eye suture needles,  hypodermoclysis, and last but not least; Mercurochrome which was a local antiseptic nick named "monkey blood" because of it's unusual color. When applied to skin it dried to a lovely orangey-is that a word?- red color. Worryworts used to fret that the coloration obscured inflammation, but infection cleared so quickly (hopefully) that this was a moot point.

An add from 1952 touted the child friendly nature of this first aid miracle solution: "Mercurochrome is one of the best antiseptics for first aid as  children do not hesitate to report their injuries promptly when mercurochrome is the household antiseptic because they know it will not hurt."

Every kid's mother had a bottle of this stuff readily available in the home medicine cabinet as an over-the-counter antiseptic. In the hospital it was mixed with Maalox and applied to decubitus ulcers and in the OR,  the final step after a Phisohex and Zepharin  prep was to paint the surgical site with Mercurochrome. Everyone knew when it was time to start a case because the Mercurochrome painted skin would almost glow in a radiant reddish-orange hue beckoning the awaiting team. What a beautiful site that glowing orange belly rhythmically rising falling with the Airshields ventilator chugging away. Everything seemed right with the world...It was great to be alive. Like Dr. Slambow used to say, "IT's TIME TO HIT IT."

In 1998, sourpusses at the FDA declared that "Mercurochrome was not generally recognized as safe and effective as an over the counter antiseptic," and interstate sale of "monkey blood" was prohibited. Maybe the science was lacking, but anecdotally, Mercurochrome had been around forever and did not kill or injure an appreciable number of people.

The hysterics over the medical use of mercury finally caught up with and doomed the use of  mercurochrome. What the heck?? Mercury was everywhere back when I was a nurse. Amalgym dental fillings-I have a mouthful.- thermometers to insert in an assortment of orifices, Thimersol preservative in multi-dose vials, syphgmomanometers, and every floor had a big brown glass bottle filled with mercury to inflate Miller/Abbot intestinal  tubes. These 10 foot long python like hoses tubes were filled with 45cc of mercury after the tube was in a patient's stomach and used for gastric decompression. Peristalsis moved the mercury filled balloon and tube through the GI tract like a whippet chasing a jackrabbit. Where that mercury filled balloon went, the tube was sure to follow. I heard stories about how one parapetic Miller/Abbott  tube made the complete GI tract  journey exiting from the anus. Anyone up for a round trip?

When on call,we used to play with mercury on the same table we dined from.  Dumping a glob of that marvelous silver liquid out of the brown glass bottle  and then corralling all those little BB sized  silver spheres and getting them back in the bottle could while away the time. We also thought getting squirted by an errant arterial bleeder was a badge of honor. Ahh.. the ignorance of youth when thoughts of mercury toxicity or hepatitis were far away. Dumb, but happy!

We knew nothing of the facts that mercury in sufficient doses is indeed toxic to the brain and kidneys. Although the mercury in Mercurochrome was negligible, the FDA required manufacturers to prove the benefit of their product outweighed the risk. This was never accomplished and Mercurochrome has disappeared for good.

My original title for this post was going to be: "Mercurochrome: Malicously Maligned for Malevolent Mercurialism."  Something about this aging business has attracted me to alliteration and I'm even starting to think in alliterations. Perhaps a long nap will help with some of this nonsense.  Thanks for journeying into my bottomless pit of eternal foolishness. I still worry about all you folks reading my posts so late at night. Lots of unpleasant things used to happen when I worked nights and I hope you are getting along with more grace than I did back in the day.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Specialty Operating Rooms

No... this is not going to be one of those boring, braggadocio posts about our fancy sub- specialty  neuro room complete with  nonferrous ceramic surgical instruments to accommodate intraoperative MRI. This is about unique personality types that somehow managed to coalesce into a surgical team that functioned well despite individual quirks or personality disorders. These specialty  OR teams share a unique, unusual, and sometimes, unhealthy  bond. It's a well known homo sapiens trait to seek out others that are similar to ourselves and the OR was no exception.

Room "D," a combination general surgery and ENT suite  was well known for being home to providers (I hate that dumb term) healers, sounds so much better, that had problems with alcohol consumption. From the anesthetist to the circulator, they all enjoyed imbibing on a regular basis. Being trained professionals, they were very careful at monitoring their drink to sink time interval. According to this rubric, a  span of 12 hours must elapse between drinking  and standing at the scrub sink. After their case load was completed, they usually high-tailed it straight to the Recovery Room and I'm not talking about the post-anesthesia ward. There was actually a local watering hole about 1 block East on Halsted Street that used that clever moniker as a marketing ploy to lure hospital workers. As a group, they could carefully monitor that critical drink to sink time interval as well as get their blood alcohol level back to a comfortable range.

Although surgical masks could hide their large, bulbous, ruddy nose, they were still plagued with problems like fine motor tremors which led to the development of  many  clever and unique shake minimization  strategies. Most of what I learned about dealing with hand tremors came straight from the nice folks working in Room "D." Here is a link to some of the very best tips to quell hand tremors from the experienced experts. These tricks are OR tested and really do wonders for the shakes regardless of etiology. I am having trouble with the link, but the post was from March  2, 2015 and titled "Fools Foils for Fasciulating Fingers." Sorry about the lame alliteration, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Although not a big fan of distilled spirits, my hands would sometimes develop fine motor tremors when called in for late night cases. Practiced counter bracing just like the folks in Room "D" were so adept at worked like a charm. You really can learn something from just about everyone.

Room "K" was famous for attracting over-thinkers and folks with profound OCD tendencies. The magnet for these folks was a highly unique and exotic OR table that had been imported from Germany. Unlike a traditional American OR table with limited mechanical controls operated by the anesthetist, this European marvel of mechanical engineering was electrically operated by the surgeon.

American OR tables have very  limited movements. This German surgical platform could execute very fine shifts and tilts in virtually any direction. German surgeons love to be in control of everything including the OR table. Why trust a lowly anesthetist for correct positioning when he did not even have a direct view of the field?  Practitioners (healers?) working in this room loved being in control of just about everything and were OCD at it's best or worse depending on your perspective.

The OR has ample fodder for those with a penchant for obsessional activities. It all starts with that 10 minute surgical scrub. If anyone dares challenge this hand washing activity the obsessive practitioner can invoke the asepsis Gods. "How dare you question my lengthy hand washing. do you want me  to infect the patient?"

Another obsessive desire is satisfied with the repetitive counting of sponges and instruments and somehow the number "10" always seems to come up. This starts to assume special significance and soon it just has to be 10 of this and 10 of that . This  repetitive practice really does double duty in that it satisfies the obsessional drive and is of vital importance in the OR. Every good scrub nurse is OCD to a certain extent.

Having that fancy over engineered table was like the  icing on the cake to an OCD surgeon. He could tweak table movements 1mm this way and 3mm that way. Somehow another tilt or yaw of the table was always necessary. A days obsessions are never done The surgeon tries to turn his attention elsewhere, but cannot. The harder he tries the more intense the table fiddling urge occurs.

The obsessive nit-pickers in this room were probably ahead of their time. The very fine OR table  positioning enabled smaller incisions with much less trauma inducing retraction. This was a time when big open surgeries were in their glory days minimally invasive was unheard of. The trouble really started brewing if a German table afficiando was stuck with a crude traditional OR table. The sweating and swearing were about to begin. I don't know who was in worse shape the drinkers sans alcohol or the surgeon without his fancy table.

I




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I know that I'm an old foolish retrogrouch and take a perverse sort of  reverse snob attitude  regarding electronic devices. No smartphone, no flatscreen TV, but I still use a VCR. The only media platform I'm on is Blogger - No Facebook, no Instagram, no Tumblr, and no Twitter.

So a really big thank you to whoever began "Tweeting" about my foolishness on Twitter. A whole bunch of really  nice people began perusing my foolishness as a result of some kind soul twittering. I appreciate the new readers. I'm not quite sure how this Twitter thing works, but if you do like something could you consider tweeting about it?  I treasure your readership.

I used to receive quite a few readers from "Headnurse" blog, but since Jo retired from her blog there has been a slump. I should not complain, I'm happy if just one person reads my posts.

If you found me, I know it has not been easy and I do appreciate indulgers of my foolishness and those who share me foolhardy endeavors. My hats off to those of you who are conduits of my foolishness and pass it on to others.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Downey VA Hospital Restrains Assaultive Parients

Yes, I have a personal  history with patient assaults. Here is a link with the gory details if you would like to peruse the sad tale  http://oldfoolrn.blogspot.com/2015/08/knock-out-punch.html

Part of the problem with patient vs. staff  assaults  at Downey was the lackadaisical attitude of the administrators who were supposedly running the show. Assaults were so common that the hospital director's office had a form letter that was sent to all victims. The themes of this letter were that we were dealing with very psychotic patients and such unfortunate incidents were inevitable and oh, by the way, thanks for trying to help these poor unfortunates. Next time learn how to duck. OK I made that last one up, but that seemed to be the underlying message. There was no such thing as patient accountability or accountability of anyone for that matter.

The head nurse,  Matty,  of Building 66 where I worked  was a stout pit bull of a woman who rarely ventured past the safe  confines of the nursing office. She was an office-sitter of the highest order. Of course she had strong feelings about how to manage patients on the ward, but had no experience in the clinical realm.

Miss Matty loved to pontificate about patient assaults on employees. It was one of her favorite topics and her main point was that the employee's insecurity and lack of confidence communicates a sense of vulnerability to patients who then slug them. Her favorite refrain was, "Carry yourself with a sense of authority."  This made no sense to any of the staff. Ward attendants and nurses used to discuss this while on the ward within earshot of patients.

I quickly deduced that some patient on staff  assaults were entirely unpredictable and were deeply rooted in the psychopathy of the patient's illness. See, I can use that psychobabble speak just like all those highly educated big shots! Other assault episodes seemed to follow a pattern of escalation and were somewhat predictable. Some assaultive patients even expressed regret for the incident.

After an assault the patient was always placed in full leather restraints with a robust leather cuff around each extremity which was anchored to a steel bed frame with a heavy leather belt. The cuffs had a sliding lock mechanism that required a key to release. The bed itself was bolted to the floor to prevent the patient from kangarooing the bed around the restraint room. Some of the more experienced patients knew how to bounce an unbolted bed up and down when in restraints to move about the room. "Kangarooing" was a very good, descriptive  term for this phenomenon.

Putting an uncooperative, assaultive patient in restraints was not a pretty picture. One technique involved at least 4 nursing staff members to do the dirty work. A secret code word was agreed upon and since I was always hungry, "Big Mac" did the trick for me. After hollering the code word each staff member grabbed one extremity and physically carried or in the case of a really big patient, dragged him to the restraint room and tethered him to the bed with the leathers.

The alternative  technique involved a couple of staff members grabbing a twin mattress and while holding the mattress vertically, force the patient into a corner. Once cornered, the patient usually surrendered after an interval of punching and kicking at the back of the  mattress. It required a seasoned nurse's best judgment to ascertain when the pugilistic activity subsided enough for restraint application. The attendants were fairly good evaluators of the degree of "fight" left in a cornered patient and I usually left the decision up to them as to when restraints could be used. If a patient had too much "fight" in them when the mattress was retracted, it could always be pushed back into position pining the patient back in the corner. I always thought that the sudden eruption  of the punching  fists on the surface of the mattress looked just like that carnival whack-a-mole game. When the surface of the mattress settled down, the game was over.

I really detested the drama that accompanied the restraining process. There were about 4 patients out of 40 that required restraints. The youngest, Danny, was a Viet Nam veteran and had a predictable pattern to his violent outbursts. He would scream like a Howler monkey before striking out and once secured in the restraint room, he voiced remorse for his behavior. Danny told me that he felt like striking out when he felt threatened and out of control. I assured him that he was safe and maybe the next time he felt the urge to strike out to come and talk with me and we could figure something out to avoid that unpleasantness of being wrestled into the restraint room.

Whenever Danny approached me with that rage in his eyes, I always asked him what would work to make him feel better. Sometimes he just needed to lie down for a spell and other times he requested restraints. I complied and after the restraints were on, I always said, "Just let me know when you feel like coming out and I will release you."  This worked well for Danny and we established mutual trust because I promptly let him out at his request. For Danny this worked really well, but when he made his request to other nurses, I got called out by the head nurse who thought my interventions were unwise to say the least. Oh well, at least I tried.

Danny's schizophrenia suddenly went into remission and he was discharged to live happily ever after. APRIL FOOLS on that last sentence.