Thursday, May 29, 2014

Germaphobe or Germ-aware?

Last week was very nerve wrecking.

Three weeks had passed since my last dose of antibiotics and I was given the green light to start taking my biologic again. I could welcome back my immunosuppressed life. YAH!

Wednesday was supposed to be my big re-launch day; however, big surprise, I managed to be 'too busy' to self-inject. Then, Thursday rolled around and I knew I shouldn't delay anymore. So I made the first big step, I took the syringe out of the fridge! There was no turning back. I set the timer for 30 minutes to allow the immunosuppressing drug to reach room temperature. My nerves kicked into high gear. Every situation of 'What if' was being envisioned in my head. My mind was playing good cop, bad cop.

      Good cop: Get a grip! You can do it. Nothing is going to go wrong. It will help you get better.
        Bad cop: Remember what happened last time? Do you? Do you?

So with my nerves on high alert, I did want any good autoimmune patient would do - I prepared to inject. I got out my alcohol swab, gauze, band aid, filled out my biologic journal with my pre-test information (temperature, heart rate, overall health etc.).

Then the timer went off, it was injection time! I washed my hands, and boy did I scrub, in fact, I rinsed and then repeated just to be sure. It was like I was preparing to go to surgery. My hands would NOT be the source of any future infection. I chose my injection site; my left thigh seemed like a good target, cleaned it with alcohol and took a big deep breath. Removed the cap off the pre-filled syringe and, as noted in my instructions, with a ‘quick, dart-like motion’ inserted the needle into my pinched skin. I pushed the plunger all the way down until I heard the CLICK, the needle was safety inside the needle guard.

I was done.

I took it easy and distracted myself with a combination of social media and Netflix. (My mind has a tendency to wander into that dark zone of worry.)

The next day, I ventured out into society and I was quickly reminded that I need to be Germ-aware. However, I think I might have crossed the line over to becoming a Germaphobe.

While waiting in line to get my driver’s license renewed, there was the 2 year old kid with the snotty nose sitting next to me. Green/yellow discharge was coming out of both of her nostrils. I kept thinking, "Stay away, STAY AWAY!".

Then the mother wiped the kid's nose and I continued to analyze the consequences of this situation, "I hope she washes her hands before she touches anything".

Then there is the public washroom, I had to go in when my 4 year old who had to go potty. Those rooms are germ incubators! As my daughter touches everything, I freak out and ask her to stop doing that. There are lots of germs in here. After she is done I not only thoroughly wash her hands, I use this opportunity to thoroughly wash my own hands too.

Then there is the man who didn't cover his mouth when he coughed. I repeated to myself over and over, "Don't touch your face, don't touch your mouth, don't touch your eyes and you will be okay".

Then there was the woman, sitting next to me coughing repeatedly. Thankfully, she covered her mouth properly, but I found myself thinking "I sure hope that's a smoker’s cough. Please, please, please!".

Next stop, the drug store, I quickly added a travel sized bottle of hand sanitizer to the list. I used to despise this stuff, however, now I search them out when in public.

All of these situations reminded me of a Rick Mercer skit from years ago. I giggled to myself as it played over in my head.

I never used to freak out like this. Even when I first started taking a biologic, I maintained sanity. I am no stranger to microbes, back in the days as a scientist in a research laboratory I handled pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. I had excellent technique and was completely reasonable. Although my days of lab work are temporarily on hold, complements of my RA, I thought I had maintained some common sense. Apparently not.

When I used to teach microbiology to second year university students studying a health related field, I used to say "a little dirt doesn't hurt". I still believe that mantra, however, I think I have just modified it slightly. It doesn't hurt the normal, healthy general population but for those who are immunosuppressed I think sometimes the dirt might hurt if we aren’t careful. We must be rational and diligent.

After much reflection about my paranoiac episode after re-starting my biologic, I think I was within what is deemed ‘normal’ in light of recent events. However, I think that to be germ-aware is a healthier approach. We have enough problems without adding a fear of germs. Don’t lose your common sense.

Say it with me... "I will be germ-aware; I will not let the fear of them control me".


  1. I follow @JATetro on Twitter. He's the Canadian "germ Guy". I met him once at a #hcsmca tweet up. He even has groupies (but they don't follow him around). The Canadian Patient Safety Group has a yearly on line webinar day too. I signed up one year and got a box of materials and even temporary tattoos about safety practices. It was very interesting and it's reassuring to know there are people with that at the top of their minds.

  2. Thanks! Always good to keep connecting with others.

    Part of me thinks I was overreacting and the other part thinks I wasn't. I just don't want to get super sick again. :)


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