Florence nightingale proposed a correlation between hand hygiene and general health, well being and mortality. Germ theory wasn’t around at that point but she implemented hand hygiene practices to spectacular effect. Regardless of whether you are 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years or 60 years old hand hygiene is one easy way to ensure that you and your family stay as healthy as possible, decrease transition of bugs and live as long a life as possible. Therefore I will not apologise for asking you to wash your hands when you come into our home. The fact that our boy is an extremely low birth weight preemie plays a role in this, but to be honest, you should be practicing good hand hygiene in your own home, when you are out and about, and all times in between. If you quickly grab me some milk on your way over here’s a list of what you touch, that who knows how many people have touched before you: your car keys, car door, steering wheel, shopping trolley, wallet, that packet of crackers that 20 other people have picked up, decided against buying and put back, your eftpos card, the eftpos machine, the cashier’s hand as they pass you your receipt, the milk carton, my front door handle, my bathroom tap.
I’m sensible about hand hygiene at home not because I’m a nurse, but because I’m a person, who wants the risks of the transfer of germs to be as low as possible.
This has then been multiplied by a thousand since bringing Oliver home. We are now, in the words of the mums who have requested this topic, a bunch of parents who are to others, hyper-vigilant to the point of ridiculousness, and to ourselves, hyper-vigilant in a usually medically necessary, always psychologically necessary way.
We worry because we have seen it, felt it, experienced it. Because we have lived in hospital and like when you move out of home, you don’t really want to move back.
We check our baby’s temperature more regularly because febrile convulsions in a kid who has already potentially experienced lack of oxygen could be bad, bad news. We look at our baby’s chest, check their breathing, look for in-drawing, listen for wheeze or crackle, because respiratory infection in a chronic lung diseased kid can be fatal. We hear the cry, or see the lip colour change, or feel the hard, distended belly and we know it’s time to get in the car. Time to go back. To be seen. Checked over. Then come home, or stay in. Make a change, or leave things to progress.
The days that you come home again and breathe a sigh of relief were not you being an overprotective mother. They were you making sure this time wasn’t the time that you missed it.
Because you can’t afford to miss it.
You worked too damn hard to get here.
They don’t always know why it’s different. Why a term baby can get a cough, go off its food for 24-48hrs and bounce back and a preemie can get a cough, go off its food for 24-48 days and lose piles of weight, need an NG tube and then struggle for weeks trying to feed orally again….A term baby can get a cold, need 2 nights in hospital on some nasal flow, and a preemie can get a cold and end up in ICU for a week on CPAP and potentially the vent. It is different.
We are hyper-vigilant. Because if we aren’t and we miss it, the consequences do not bear thinking about.
So come along to ED with us. To the GP. To the A&E. And breathe with us when they say there’s nothing to worry about. We will do the same for you, as these are our children. It’s not overprotective, it’s parenting. It’s not over the top, it’s love. It’s not over exaggerating, it’s surviving.
I’m off to wash my hands now. Meet you there ?