E.'s Story

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E. Bernardson

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Lab

I poked myself one day putting a needle away after I drew blood on a patient and remember the patient saying to me 'Oh my I hope you didn't stick yourself. My daughter got really sick!'

E. Bernardson

I was a young nurse in 1978 working on 41A, the dialysis intensive care unit. It was a challenging, exciting time here at HCMC in renal disease treatment. I was proud to be at HCMC where we served a 5 state area for acute renal care and dialysis. Hepatitis was very common in the patient population and many employees did get exposures and acute hepatitis. I poked myself one day putting a needle away after I drew blood on a patient and remember the patient saying to me “Oh my I hope you didn’t stick yourself. My daughter got really sick!” I was well aware of the awful stories of nurses or techs who had also gotten very ill and nurses reporting of deaths from Hepatitis B in those early days. I also knew if I did not convert, likely at that time I would never be able to do patient care. I reported the stick, was sent down to the ED for gamma globulin shots as that was all we had to try to avoid illness.

My husband and I had already made plans to move to Colorado and I was starting at the VA in the Kidney Transplant Unit under a pioneer in transplant, Dr. Thomas Starzl. I was about two months out from my needle stick, feeling fine but once in Colorado I just felt tired. I woke up with stiff joints, remembering I could no longer make a fist as my hands hurt so bad. I went to a clinic in Colorado and they just thought it was nothing. I continued to go to work and just felt awful. I called HCMC and Employee Health was so supportive. They insisted I get tested and communicated with the clinic I was at. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with Hepatitis B and was glowing yellow and feeling awful. Not bad enough to stay in bed not good enough to do anything, just awful. We now were in Colorado and I had no family, no friends and aware of how ill I could get. Employee Health called me daily, made sure I was doing ok and offered support as I was young, scared, feeling ill, and worried how sick I would get, including thoughts of dying or never working as a nurse again. HCMC Employee Health followed my labs, helped the local clinic with my care and called me every day.  They made sure I was doing ok and could help direct my care.  I was ill about 3 weeks but felt so supported by Employee Health.  That was many years ago.  When Covid hit here and I had Advanced Practice Providers in my group getting ill, I was so taken back by the same concern, care and help Employee Health offered.  It brought back the fear I had and the way Employee Health just made me feel better.  So many years, yet still delivering the same great care!!  Thank you Employee Health for all you do!!