They look around the office, check out the sheets, stare at the clock before they go in the room. I've gotten questions about whether I use fragrances in my oils or in the laundry soap. They peer at the board certification, the license, and the credentials. They want to know how long I’ve been doing massage.
“About 16 years,” I say. “Someday I’ll get it right.”
It’s the massage, of course, that will convince them. But the details are important. Is the place clean, neat, up to date. Am I wearing jeans and flip-flops? What about washing hands before I start?
Recently a client came in who’d been to me a couple of times in the last few months, looking for some relief of low back pain. She hadn’t seemed to be real picky, but when she first came in, she told me she wanted to get a “real” massage. I’ve heard that phrase before, and I think I know what it means. No cookie-cutter fluffy stuff, just get the pain out of the back and shoulders.
Just for my own edification, of course, I asked her what she meant. “I want you to find and address the problems so I feel better after the massage,” she said.
As I was working out the troubles, she told me what she’d had before. She had a hard time finding a therapist who was able to and willing to work on the problem areas. When she finally found a therapist, she developed a massive infection on her thigh after a massage.
“It was MRSA,” she said.
Angry didn’t begin to describe how she felt. This client, a very experienced nurse, had worked some of the toughest areas of her hospital for more than a decade and never gotten a MRSA infection.
MRSA is a resistant staph infection that can kill people. It’s a bad word in hospitals, because it’s a sign of poor or inadequate hygiene. Every instance has to be investigated and followed up. A MRSA infection in a hospital means people haven’t been paying attention and following the rules.
This client, of course, had prided herself on never having a MRSA incident at work. Now she had an infection pop up after a massage.
She knew her therapist liked to mix oil and lotion in an open bowl and use it as a lubricant, and assumed that mixture was for her massage only. She called and the therapist admitted she used the same mixture on several clients.
In short, the bowl was a “Petri dish.”
Angry doesn’t quite describe how she felt. It wounded her personal pride in her work, her self-image and the problem was so preventable.
Sure, she could have gotten the MRSA from shaving her legs, and the massage just helped propel the infection. But because her therapist wasn’t following good hygiene procedures, it didn’t matter. That’s why we wash hands, use closed containers and don’t stick our paws into open bowls or jars and later use those same vessels and mixtures on multiple clients. It does matter.