(Although this is not 100% true, we are at least in part the authors to our own health or disease based on our choices.)
But, There's no place more deadly than a hospital...
This is a universal and unspoken truth in the health care community: hospitals can be lethal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 99,000 people die every year from hospital-acquired infections; and not just the sick, the elderly, or the very young.
Case in point: 27-year-old Joshua Nahum was injured during a skydiving accident. Considering he voluntarily jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, Nahum was probably considered very lucky to have escaped the incident with only fractures to his skull and femur. And over six weeks in a Colorado intensive care unit, Nahum slowly improved. Doctors declared that with a complete course of rehab, Nahum would be fully recovered in just two years. Yet just two weeks after the doctors gave him the good news, Nahum was dead. A bacterial infection he developed while in the hospital had killed him. In the wake of this devastating (and, if you ask me, needless) tragedy, Victoria Nahum, Josh's stepmother, founded the Safe Care Campaign, the goal of which is to stop health-care- and community-acquired infections.
According to the Safe Care Campaign's Web site, the organization seeks to "instigate a crucial culture change within the American health care environment with regard to comprehensive infection prevention and hand-hygiene compliance practices." It's shocking, but true - one of the biggest and most dangerous myths around is the sterility of hospitals. The places are awash in all manner of germs that can be devastating to people whose immune systems are compromised because they are recovering from illnesses or surgeries. Contrary to their squeaky-clean image, hospitals are far from sterile places. In fact, they're among the most hazardous with regard to infections. Remember, hospitals are where all the sick people are, which means they're where all the GERMS are.
But what's even more disturbing than this is the fact that hospitals can expose you to different germs than what you'd come into contact with in the outside world. Because bacteria can mutate so quickly, those that linger in hospitals can develop into distinct variants that can have a strong resistance to antibiotics. That makes them much more lethal than the garden-variety microbes you're exposed to every day out in the world.
Thanks to people like the Nahums and other concerned patient advocate groups, the word is getting out about the potential dangers that lie within hospitals. In addition to the Safe Care Campaign, there's also the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (CRID), which was begun by former lieutenant governor of New York, Betsy McCaughey. "You don't often come across such a big problem that you can prevent," McCaughey said.
These groups have a steep hill to climb. In addition to noncompliance to hygiene standards by hospital staffs and the bacteriological soup that's contained in hospitals, the dangers are not going away. So the Safe Care Campaign and the CRID have come up with a list of advice that patients can follow to help protect themselves when they head to the hospital.