The Greatest Story Never Told

LarkinConcern turned to fear as the patient’s vital signs continued to deteriorate. The nurse looked up and into the eyes of the patient’s doctor, hoping to see a reassuring glimmer of confidence, but all she saw was a perplexed, fearful look of confusion that had replaced the normally arrogant smirk of the Chief Resident. Their patient was surrounded by the most sophisticated medical technology devised by man, and it wasn’t working. Machines designed to operate in concert to sustain life were instead acting against each other, stifling the flow of blood-borne oxygen to the patient’s vital organs. Everything the nurse and physician had tried was to no avail. Their patient was dying. The nurse, a trained professional with years of critical care experience, felt helpless. A tear began to form in the corner of her eye.

Just then, a quiet young person, dressed in a golf shirt and khaki trousers, entered the patient’s room and said in a calm, soothing voice, “Don’t worry, I’m here to fix the equipment.”

Quickly appraising the situation, the confident technician mentally traced a path from machine to machine, at a glance evaluating the many devices that were crowded around the patient’s bed, logically separating what was operating normally from what wasn’t. Within moments it became clear that the connection between the physiological monitors and the life-support equipment was not being made.

The technician squeezed past the equipment, skillfully avoiding controls and wires, and knelt on the floor to look behind the apparatus. Just as expected, the cable between two essential systems had been jarred loose. It was a tough reach in the confined space. The technician stretched out, just barely able to get two fingers on a connector that dangled from a socket on the life-support machine’s back panel, and gently began manipulating the connector back into place. Metallic chatter from relays inside the machine signaled contact was made … then broken … made again … and broken. Then there was a strong, positive click as the technician pushed the connector completely onto the socket. Communications restored, the machine began cycling with, rather than against the patient’s body, and the patient’s vital signs immediately improved.

To complete the job, the technician produced a small, green screwdriver and tightened bolts securing the connector to the life-support machine’s back panel, then crawled out from behind the equipment.

“Thank you,” said the Chief Resident in an uncharacteristically humble manner. “You saved this patient’s life.”

“No problem, that’s what BMETs do,” said the tech. “Now, can somebody sign this work order?”

Stirring stuff, isn’t it? Yet you won’t view this scene in a Hollywood blockbuster, nor is there comparable melodrama on television. Life-saving moments starring the healthcare technology service and support industry don’t get wide distribution, despite the fact that we play heroic parts every day in real-life.

The public is anxious to hear our story, and with fear of medical technology at an all-time high, it is our industry’s responsibility to let the world know that someone is looking out for their safety. The family of the average patient would be comforted to know the machines that sustain life — and can take it away in an errant minute — are in the care of skilled professionals.

So, in the coming year, let’s vow to make ourselves more visible. Volunteer to make presentations to school kids. Ask politicians to sponsor state and local recognition weeks. Identify reporters who cover healthcare in your community and contact them, not to pitch a story, but to introduce our ranks as a source of level-headed, factual information when medical technology hits the news.

There’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion when you have a good story to tell, and our story is the greatest story never told.

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