On Saturday, I had one of those life altering experiences. I’m still trying to process it all. I’ve experienced immeasurable fear and anxiety and have berated myself for my own stupidity and all because by nature I’m a compassionate person and will always help when I see a need.
This time my instinct to help could have disastrous results. Or at least, that’s how I felt, until I had a follow up with a Dr at the Olivedale ER on Monday and I learned that actually, I only have a 0.01% chance of contracting HIV!
So what happened?
I assisted a very disorientated man as he ran, in a state of shock, from the scene of a car accident on Saturday afternoon, with a swollen lump on his head so large it looked like he had another head growing out of the top of his head, that had popped open and had a 15-20cm long slash through it. It was gushing blood and before I even had time to think, I’d jumped from our car, taken him by the arm and led him to the pavement, gotten him to sit down, applied pressure to his head with a towel and called an ambulance. It was only after I’d done all that that I realized my hands were covered in his blood and only a little while later, when I scrubbed my hands in the bathroom that I remembered stabbing myself in the finger on Friday, a mere 24 hours earlier.
It’s odd, but I didn’t really know what to do? Do I go to the emergency room and get ARV’s? Do I just leave it? What would you do? I hadn’t ever really given any of this any serious thought until I was in this situation. And what is it with being concerned about being overly dramatic? Because I felt kind of silly going to the emergency room, I kept feeling like I needed to apologize to everyone for wasting their time. But my family and friends insisted I needed to be there, I needed to get tested and I needed to get treatment.
I spent Saturday afternoon and evening at the emergency room, getting base line HIV tests done as well as having ARV’s prescribed. They’re really not a whole lot of fun. I’m dizzy and nauseous and have shooting pains in my limbs. But after my results on Monday, I’m now required to stay on the ARV’s for another 25 days so that I complete a 28 day course. My base line tests were negative and I have to get tested again in 14 days and again in 3 months.
Such a huge palaver with such far reaching consequences from my, admittedly stupid, act of compassion.
I did learn some information and some lessons from this little experience.
- HIV is a highly volatile virus and stars degenerating as soon as it leaves the body
- The chances of contracting HIV from a wound are low, I think the ER Dr said something like less than 0.01%
- Taking ARV’s for this kind of possible contamination, reduces my chances of contracting the virus from 0.01% to 0.001%!
- Carry surgical gloves in your car – probably the most important lesson of them all!
I won’t lie, I was very anxious and afraid up until my follow up appointment with the ER Dr on Monday when she shared all the above information with me and set my mind at ease. I spent Sunday in bed, very very nauseous and then Sunday night tossing and turning and panicking about the outcome of Monday’s follow up.
The whole experience has been a reminder for me that sometimes, in certain situations, we need to dial back our natural instincts and stop and think and use logic! I know logically that I should never have tried to assist the injured man without wearing gloves, I should have tried to avoid coming into direct contact with his blood, but in the heat of moment, my instincts totally took over!