Beware the doctor’s office

I have been going to doctors’ offices for years. I read the magazines and newspapers while I wait. I put my hands on the arms of the chairs as I sit down and get up. I never thought about catching anything in the waiting room or from the examination rooms.

When I got the infection in my eyes I was referred to an ophthalmologist. She diagnosed me with a bacterial infection – conjunctivitis with an allergic reaction to the drops I’d been prescribed by the doctor at the Walk-In-Clinic. She told me I was infectious and to use different towels from others in my household.

When I went to the Emergency Department at the hospital I was diagnosed with Adeno Viral Eye Infection and told I was extremely infectious. The doctor told me that the examination room would be scrubbed down with bleach when I left and he held all the doors open for me so I would not touch them. He told me to get treatment outside a hospital because this virus was so contagious that they feared a breakout in the hospital. I said if I’m that contagious should I go and see the ophthalmologist? He said that ophthalmologists deal with these things all the time.

I went back to my ophthalmologist. Now I was aware that I am highly contagious. There seems to be no concern about contagiousness in the waiting room. I sat down but I did not touch the arms of the chair and I did not handle any reading material (my eyes were too blurry to read anyway).

While I’m waiting my turn, an elderly couple came in. I could tell that they both had been probably six inches taller in their younger life. The husband had a patch over one eye. The husband sat beside me, his upper arm brushing my upper arm. He went into the ophthalmologist’s examination room and came out a few minutes with drops in his eyes to dilate his pupils. He sat down and whispered to his wife, “She thinks it’s Herpes.” and then picked up one of the available newspapers.

I was jolted. Thoughts raced through my mind. I did not want to get Herpes in my eyes. I wondered how he got Herpes in his eye. What’s it like to have Herpes in your eyes? These waiting rooms (sometimes even the examinations rooms if not maintained well) are dangerous places! Who knows what diseases one could catch while getting treatment for a different condition. There is an incubation period between picking up a virus or bacteria and the symptoms manifested by it, so the two may not be connected.

I had some sanitizer in my purse. As soon as I was finished with the ophthalmologist and left the office I put sanitizer on my hands and my arm where I’d brushed up against the elderly gentleman. I was taking no chances.

I’m almost fully recovered now and still being careful. I do not know where or how I got the infection but I can take precautions. As I get beyond this illness I will probably be less vigilant but never as lax as I have been for years.

Wash you hands – lots,

Dr. Bea Mackay

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