“Ok.” I waited. I could tell from the look in her eyes this was going to be bad.
“So, I was having a cavity taken care of a few weeks ago when the dentist stuck herself with the needle. They told me that I had to get tested for diseases. So I did. I had my blood drawn. It came back positive for HIV.”
She paused for a moment not sure what to say next.
“So we need to set you up with an infectious disease specialist, huh?”
“Yeah.” She ran a hand through her hair. “I need someone who is really good. I’m scared.”
She looked normal. She didn’t appear ill. There was nothing about her that screamed out, “I am high risk for HIV!”
She never would have known about the HIV if her dentist had not made a mistake and then admitted it and then gotten her tested.
And there was now a dentist somewhere who was worried that she might have contracted HIV herself. Was she taking meds? Losing sleep?
I remember listening to a physician who said she had contracted HIV from a needle stick. She was talking to us in medical school about the importance of safety measures on sharps, of being careful. We all thought she was such a loser. We would never make such a stupid mistake. It would never happen to us, you know?
Until it does.
We all get stuck.
Three times for me, so far. I remember each. Once while placing a central line in a gravely ill patient with sepsis. Once in the OR during an abdominal surgery (the surgeon’s fault actually, I was assisting). Once after injecting a joint in the office.
There is the wait. What is lurking, hidden in that blood? My blood? Pain. Sure it hurts. But will I die?