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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ed Bradley's Fatal Infection

The CBS reporter Ed Bradley died last month at age 65 from complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Bradley, who underwent a quintuple bypass operation on his heart in 2003, had been diagnosed with leukemia "many years ago,” said Bradley's cardiologist, Dr. Valentin Fuster, but it had not posed a threat to his life until he got an infection. It is not publicly known whether the fatal infection came from home, a hospital, or somewhere else.

Hospital-acquired infections can come from germs on the hands of doctors or nurses, or unclean medical or surgical devices or instruments. Urinary tract infections are the most common infections for hospitalized medical (i.e., non-surgical) patients like Bradley, according to an article offering an overview of the topic in a microbiology journal, based on 26,000 infections in the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance system. Though some safety experts recommend that a patient routinely ask each doctor, nurse and phlebotomist (person who draws blood) whether they have washed their hands, this may be embarrassing or impractical for the patient.

Lesson for caregivers: It may be easier for the patient or advocate to post a sign on the door or hospital bed saying, “Please wash your hands, and tell me you’ve done so. Thanks.”

Readers: Do you know of errors like these?

Bradley news source: “Admirers to Pay Final Respects to Bradley,” from BET.com News Staff & Wire Services, Updated Nov. 21, 2006.

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