Space Cadet

Lately, I’ve had one theme that has continuously managed to resurface in my day to day life: outer space. Perhaps this is mostly self-induced by reading space-themed books, listening to podcasts by my favorite astrophysicist (What? You don’t have a favorite astrophysicist? Absurd.), finding this awesome website, following the NASA picture of the day, or the fact that I recently transported my favorite patient ever to the hospital. This kid and I were meant to meet.

You see, my favorite patient ever was a nine year old African American kid with glasses and a plainly stated favorite school subject of “Stephen Hawking’s theory of black holes.” One look at this kid, and I knew he was in frequent danger of being stuffed in a locker; this is definitely my kind of kid. I’m pretty fond of nerds in general, but give me a science nerd, and my heart just melts. His single-mom was dangerously trendy and an odd match for her precocious offspring; I definitely didn’t get my nerd-itude from my single-mom, either. This kid and I were having so much fun chit-chatting about science on the way to the hospital, I almost forgot to take care of him.

Growing up, my favorite toy was a cheap, crappy microscope that nearly caused me the loss of a friendship over a critical debate in 1990 with another elementary-school student over whether it was more important to seek medical care or a microscope slide for a sample when presented with an actively bleeding injury. (I stand my ground that she was not going to bleed to death in the time it took me to get a slide and a sample before applying a Ninja Turtles Band-Aid, for the record.) I keep a handheld microscope far more powerful than that piece of crap ever was in my purse these days. My favorite patient ever and I looked at all kinds of stuff with it once we got to the hospital.

I am fascinated by science and technology, and in EMS these are vital topics. I can carry with one arm a machine with a battery power source that is capable of not only showing and reading electrical activity in a living heart, but is also able to defibrillate at various levels of Joules, pace a heart at various speeds and amperage, collect and monitor active CPR data, collect and monitor blood oxygen saturation data, and collect and monitor expiratory carbon dioxide levels. Frankly, this is just freaking amazing considering that 12 lead ECG technology has made great leaps since it was first brought to light in the 1940s.

I often find myself wondering how the technology we use daily without much thought came to it’s current form, and more importantly how can we make it even better? Obviously, countless sources went into creating the technology we have today. Maybe it’s the little nerdy dreamer in me, but I can’t help but think of NASA when it comes to the kind of technology and equipment that will definitely come in handy on an ambulance. In Packing For Mars, Mary Roach wrote:

“If it’s cordless, fireproof, lightweight and strong, miniaturized, or automated, chances are good NASA has had a hand in the technology. We are talking trash compactors, bulletproof vests, high-speed wireless data transfer, implantable heart monitors, cordless power tools, artificial limbs, dustbusters, sports bras, solar panels, invisible braces, computerized insulin pumps, fire-fighters’ masks.”

I don’t doubt that many things conjured up by the brilliant minds prepared to apply science, math, and technology to evaluate the cosmos can make our impacts greater as medics. If the EMS community ever opts to send a representative to check in with the research and technology at NASA, I would like to officially make the statement public that I will happily volunteer.


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