A year at U of R

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

pediatric driver's license

Today was my first full day of the new pediatric rotation. It is really a whirlwind of adjustment. Each unit we go to has a different way of charting, different procedures, and slightly different models of equipment. This unit uses a different model of pulse-oximeter and different types of blood-pressure machines. They even have a special thermometer in pediatrics that reminds me of a magic wand. You take the temperature of the temporal artery by pressing the thermometer against the forehead, and moving it around the crown of the head and left ear in a big arc, keeping it pressed against the head the whole time. Whenever I wave the thermometer around to take a temperature, I want to tell the child to make a wish. Then I'll wave the thermometer around their head and say "abracadabra... you wish will come true!"

Today, I was assigned to take care of a child who uses an electric wheelchair. One of my assigned tasks for the morning was to take the patient's weight. Easy, you say? Think again. While the child was still in bed in the morning, I decided to try to get the wheelchair weight, so that I could subtract it from the wheelchair plus child weight. In our whirlwind tour of the unit the previous day, we'd been shown the scale. It was an electric platform with various buttons and levers, none of which I knew how to operate. For all I knew those buttons might take the weight in kilos or set off an atomic bomb... I just hoped I remembered which one to push.

The mom was busy brushing my patient's teeth, so I asked if it was easy enough for me to drive the wheelchair on my own out of the room to the scale. "Sure," she said. "Here's the 'on' button, and use the joystick to steer." Then she added as an afterthough, "By the way, that chair cost [here she stated an unimaginable sum]. O.K., no pressure now. Good.

I walked up confidently, positioned myself behind the unimaginably expensive chair, and hit the "on" button. Then ever so gently, I touched the joystick, and the chair promptly backed over my foot. That's 300 pounds of metal on tires with the treads of a tank that went over my foot. Ouch. But it's amazing how fast you learn to drive with negative feedback like that if you mess up. And if pain is a good teacher, humiliation is even better. No way was I giving in.

Now that I'd figured out which way was forward, things went smoother. With tiny little pulses of the joystick, I nudged the chair out of the room. I only caught my feet a few more times, but promptly backed off of them.

I made it into the hall, and onto the platform of the scale. I pushed buttons on the scale for a few minutes until the screen showed a weight that seemed logical. On the drive back to the room, walking next to the empty chair, I was doing much better. I even managed a 180 degree turn in a very short radius.

By the time I got back to the room, I was convinced that if they were marketed at Christmas, every kid would have one of these chairs. They have powerful acceleration, the steering is responsive, and they're very fun to drive. And as I learned, they run over pretty much anything.