Reading and Oxford; MY SHOUT

Article excerpt


THE year is 1642. Reading and Oxford. Typhus spread like wildfire. Pioneer neuroscientist Thomas Willis noted how overcrowding and especially, squalor, fanned the flames.

1853-1856. The Crimean War. Killed in action: 25600; by disease: 38800. Florence Nightingale's hygiene blitz eventually routed Scutari Hospital's killer germs.

2007. UK. Where matrons once patrolled, lethal super bugs stalk the wards; in 'the Dark Ages of hospital hygiene,' the newspapers report, 'fear of MRSA is stopping people going to hospital'.

After last week's tumble off a speeding horse, I felt quite OK; my black eye, however, thoroughly alarmed my daughter. "It could indicate a brain bleed," she fretted repeatedly. So, the next day, despite a near-terror of catching something, I went to casualty. I was last an in-patient at Ysbyty Gwynedd in the 1990s, for remedial orthopaedic surgery following an accident.

I spent a day on a mixed ward - surely an invention of the devil - where the heating was full on, windows were shut fast, lavatories overflowed, floors were awash, soiled and bloody dressings, and worse, lay everywhere; a latter day Scutari, in fact.

No-one on the shop floor apparently had the authority to do anything about anything.

Unsurprisingly, I developed an almighty bone infection, then had a violent allergic reaction to antibiotics. As the treatment would likely kill me, I've since striven to avoid infection. …