Nurse, cut back on the pain killers, please

Technology in creating and communicating is fantastic today, and will likely be more so as the New Year starts. I can be almost anywhere in the world and with an available link I can access my e-mail, write this month's editorial, and send it instantly for publication. I never fail to marvel at how it works, but accept it and expect it today. However, I may have found a small flaw, which tomorrow's device designers should think about. (They perhaps have already given it thought, as far as I know.)

Here's the scenario. I leave home on a Friday afternoon for a doctor's appointment armed with my Smart Phone, Tablet, and a pain in my abdomen. Next thing I know, it's a day later, and I have been admitted to the hospital for surgery, having already undergone: x-rays, CAT scan, ultrasound, and an ERCP (don't ask). I'm also lying on a gurney ready for laparoscopic surgery, a technique in which operations in the abdomen are performed through small incisions (usually 0.5-1.5 cm), as opposed to the larger incisions needed in laparotomy.

I have heard the stories about this technology ,which has reduced things like gall bladder removal to an out-patient level. In fact, the former managing editor of this magazine had one done by a robot earlier this year and went home the same day. "Piece of cake" is what the head nurse, a neighbor, says as she leaves for the weekend at the end of her shift. So I settle down, secure with the knowledge that at worst I will be released first thing in the morning sans a piece of my digestive system.

I do wake up later, in a hospital bed, with tubes of fluid snaking into my arms, one with oxygen up my nose and countless monitoring attachments beeping away. Groggily I acknowledge the surgeon standing beside me as I am not quite feeling bonhomie at this point. "We ran into more infection than expected," he says, "and had to forgo the laparoscopic technique and do it the old way." This sort of explained a row of 25 metal staples down the right side of my abdomen.

OK, I've set the scene, enforced recovery and some undisturbed time to finish bits and pieces of this edition of ILS. I can move, somewhat without pain, and with the aid of a patient's assistant, I have my phone and tablet and prepare to knock off an afternoon's work. A picture is worth a thousand words and ILS illustrator Chris Hipp has nailed the image: how to comfortably use the phone and tablet while tied to several other points in the room though tubes and wires. At first, it seemed my sub-surface "poor me" attitude was the problem, but the more I tried, the more it became obvious that tactile communication was more of a problem than anticipated. Even typing an email caused one of the fluid shunts to loosen and the monitor peeped away until the nurse arrived to reset it and me. This happened several times until she replaced that shunt with one on another arm closer to the feed.

Deciding that a TV football game was a better use of my time, I gave up the work idea, apparently to the delight of the floor staff who had been giggling outside my door. Besides, I could try again in the morning as I prepped for discharge.

Now here's the thing I decided that night - as I tried to occupy hours of sleeplessness while fighting gas pains - the ultimate solution is that my creative thoughts could be transmitted across Cyberspace to a welcoming terminal that transcribes these into words for editing and eventual publication. In fact, why stop there? Why not just telecommunicate directly into the digital version of the magazine? Better yet, I could just "think" my column and send it right to your brain: instant gratification for me and an education for you. I'm onto something here; I think I'll send the idea to Geoff Bairstow (inmyview@yahoo.com), who writes My View for Laser Focus World, a sister publication. He's the kind of guy that eats this stuff up, and then we can both get columns out of it.

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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