Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My medical waste

I have only superficially touched on the issue of medical waste, and the huge amounts of waste and trash that is generated through it, not to mention the amounts of resources that go into medical and pharmaceutical research, and how medicines and wastes are dealt with, whether used or not. Bryan and John, both medical students, mentioned to me independently the inherent contradictions between medicine the way it is currently practiced and sustainability. I have not needed any medical attention for a really long time now, not even a band-aid. My streak came to a crashing halt these past few days.

Act I
The time: Friday night/Saturday morning, two am
The place: My kitchen
The event: Environmental harm through medical waste
The people: Darshan, Matt, Ashlea, Alex

After a fun night out going to see Theo Katzman and Love Massive, and Hannah Winkler at The Ark followed by a good time at 8 Ball, Matt and I came home with hungry stomachs. Very few things are better than late night breakfast. I have enjoyed making hash browns of late, and with a couple eggs, who needs to go to Fleetwood Diner? I make us breakfast with some of my dad's wonderful mustard-marinated hot peppers on the side. We sat down at the dining table, and I wanted to turn on a lamp rather than keeping all of the kitchen lights on. It seemed like it wasn't plugged in, and so I ran my hand along the cord, and when it got close to the fridge, I felt a very clean, very deep cut through my ring finger on my right hand. I take a look at my finger, and blood is gushing out, but luckily, I was able to keep the top of that finger on and pressed. Turns out I almost took off the top of my finger (really) with the top of a tin can that was lying on the floor, held down by the fridge, right along the path of the cord. Alex came out with a band-aid, and we stemmed the flow of blood. The band-aid was not getting soaked, and so even though the cut was very deep, I didn't need stitches. Ashlea and Matt were queasy.

Did I need a tetanus shot? I didn't remember the last time I got a shot of any kind. It is likely therefore that my last shot was in India, at least eight years ago.  By the next morning, everything seemed to have sealed up alright, and the band-aid and medical tape held my finger shut. My finger did not seem infected. The debate raged in my mind for a few hours. My dad said that I probably didn't need a shot if the cut wasn't infected by then, but he recommended getting one. But a shot?! What about the single-use needle and syringe? And what about those huge vials of vaccine from which they only use a small amount? I am sorry for all of this, Mother Earth. 

I waited a couple days, so I didn't have to go to the ER. UHS seemed like a much more low-key place...

Act II
The time: Tuesday morning, nine am
The place: Clinic 1A, University Health Services
The event: Further environmental harm through medical waste
The people: Secretary X, Dr. Y, Nurse Z, Darshan

I caved. I went to UHS, and set up a walk-in appointment. Out came a bundle of papers, and I filled in a sheet. They put the papers in a red folder, and put this little yellow zip tie kind of thing to ensure that no one tampered with the records. I trudged over to Clinic 1A, and handed the folder to the Secretary X, and she cut off the yellow zip tie and threw it away. (Heart sinks.) I wait to see Dr. Y, and take off the second band-aid I had put on since the cut. He takes a quick look (~5 seconds), and says the wound is healing well. He takes a band-aid, and puts it on, and hands me several more band-aids. I get up and see Nurse Z to get the shot. She makes me fill out a form stating the risks of the shot, and show her my upper arm. In goes the needle, and injected is the liquid with the syringe. She puts a little round band-aid on my arm after wiping the spot with a little bit of cotton. I don't ask for the needle or syringe, although I really should have.

It is interesting how we've surrounded ourselves with essentially non-reusable objects that can cause such physical harm (e.g. concentrated sharp metals) such that getting hurt because of them warrants the use of more non-reusable objects.


  1. Are you suggesting we share needles?

  2. You're on to something, it seems....

  3. The obvious problem with medical waste is that it can be infectious, contributing to the spread of disease. mesa medical waste disposal

  4. Single-use medical devices like syringes are designed to prevent the spread of infection and disease. It's a good thing there are initiatives to recycle certain portions in these devices; for instance, the plastic components in syringes. For parts that cannot be recycled, proper disposal should be followed.

  5. It’s too risky to expose medical waste and get mixed together with other waste. Everyone should be practice proper segregation -- biodegradable from the non-biodegradable. Do take extra care when disposing of hazardous materials like chemicals, expired drugs, and used needles. If not disposed of properly, this will definitely spread diseases.

    Dollie Wessner

  6. Really helpful topic about medical waste. I think medical and healthcare waste should be disposed in time and the right way. If we do that perfectly and timely, we can protect our health from any kind of infections and illnesses. Thanks a lot...

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  7. You seemed to me a conscious man. We should all be like this careful about the dangerous medical wastes. We should try to get the right info about disposing because these wastes are infectious.