Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Diagnosisaster

Several decades ago, when I was a high school athlete, I learned a powerful lesson about the potential disasters that befall those who diagnose problems in too big a hurry.

During a high school football game one of my teammates (I'll call him Jack) got his "bell rung" (these days, they call those concussions) and was laying flat on his back on the field, out like a light.  Those were the days before schools had athletic trainers so it always fell to one of the assistant coaches to be the resident "medic."   On our team, that person was Coach B.

Coach B rushed from the sidelines, medical kit in hand, to quickly discern what the problem was with Jack.  Breathing? Yep.  Broken bones? Nope.  Bleeding profusely? Nope.  Lucid?  Not a chance.  Communicable? Not a chance.  Diagnosis:  Knocked cuckoo and out cold.

Once Coach B had made is expert analysis he quickly broke open an ammonia capsule (aka, "am caps").  Ammonia capsules were broken apart with the hands, releasing an aroma that would very nearly raise the dead.  Coach B waved am cap #1 under Jack's nose.  This act should've given Jack a jolt similar to that of administering electrical defibrillation.  However, Jack remained motionless.

Coach B tossed the am cap over his shoulder and grabbed another, and quickly cracked it open.  He waved am cap #2 under Jack's nose.  Still no visible impact from a treatment that should have brought Jack from laying flat to sprinting in less than a second.  Nada.

Coach B then made his second quick diagnosis of the evening.  He deduced that the am caps themselves must be faulty or out-of-date, thus not having their usual punch.  Coach B then grabbed am cap #3, cracked it open and inhaled its ingredients deeply into his own lungs.  

Now our team had TWO folks in supine position on the field - Jack and Coach B.

I've heard it said over the years that students in medical school are taught to respond to all emergencies in a leisurely fashion.  After watching  Coach B's frantic and hurried diagnoses that night on the gridiron, I learned that lesson early on.

When things are the craziest, it pays to slow the pace just a bit...



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