So before having my pituitary surgery, I went for a pre-operative assessment at the hospital, which mainly involves blood tests, sitting around in waiting rooms, and being asked lots of questions by nurses. It also involves being swabbed for MRSA.
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which basically is any form of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria which has evolved resistance to standard antibiotics. It's no more virulent than your standard S. aureus bacteria, just harder to treat - and many people carry it around on their skin or in their nose or throat without suffering any adverse effects.Unsurprisingly, it's very bad news in hospitals; if it infects open wounds it can cause potentially fatal blood poisoning or endocarditis. So, before you're admitted to hospital they swab you to find out if you're carrying MRSA.
So far, so standard; that all happened last time I had pituitary surgery. The difference was that this time, about twenty minutes after I'd done the swabs, a nurse dashed into the room where I was chatting to the surgeon, handed me a bottle and a piece of paper, and dashed out. Upon closer examination, it was a bottle of octenisan, which is an antimicrobial body wash used to eradicate MRSA . No-one seemed clear on whether or not I actually had MRSA on my skin or not - it was only when I got into the hospital for surgery a week later that I found out I had been MRSA negative. It seems all the neurosurgery patients had been given the body wash, as a precautionary measure.
And my god, was it a hassle. It would probably be fine for lots of people, but I own precisely two towels and two sets of bed linen, and the "eradication protocol" requires not only that you use the body wash every day, but that all linen, clothes, towels etc. are freshly laundered too. This meant a hell of a lot of laundry every time I got home in the evening; on top of which, you have to leave the body wash on your skin for at least a minute, which required quite a lot of bravery in our icy cold bathroom.
Obviously I'd much rather go through all the hassle than end up infected by MRSA, or give it to anyone else - but my word it has made me resolve to buy some more towels...