By Garrett Seeley
Thanks to the coronavirus, I have had time to catch up on some older movies. One that I watched recently was “Hancock.” In that story, a superhero is unappreciated and becomes a cynic and a drunk. I hate to admit that I see parallels between myself and this individual. Not that I am a drunk, or that I am by any means a superhero. But, I definitely do keep feeling bottled up – especially during this pandemic. This time has helped me see some things I did wrong; somethings I can’t help but keep doing wrong. I have used humor inappropriately to hide pains and frustrations. Sometimes that has made me frustrated and hard to deal with. I have not been the best person, but I tried to be. I found that perhaps I can’t be. I am only human. I have proof.
Recently, I found myself on the other end of the health care system. After some chest pains, I found myself in the ER. Next, I was in a cath lab for heart blockage, then a GI lab for bleeding, then an OR for tumor removal, then in chemo for stage 3 colon cancer. All of this happened in the face of a global pandemic. It has easily been the weirdest five months of my life. I have tried to keep a smile on my face and maintain a positive attitude. Ironically, all of this happened in a facility where I once worked. I was at the groundbreaking ceremony for the building that I found myself in. It was a hospital chain I watched grow, helped grow, for almost 20 years. It was at a place where I knew the nurses and the biomeds by name. The school where I currently teach, Texas States Technical College, trained over half of the biomeds there. They are friends and colleagues. And, at that moment, I found I was at the mercy of the equipment maintained by my former students. I checked the PM stickers, and I felt safe. I knew the initials of the person from the last PM. I knew all of them. They all make up a competent staff. The PMs were up to date. Any equipment malfunctions were attributed to the use of equipment. I actually didn’t see anything malfunctioning during my stay. I actually helped the nursing staff a little with maintenance of the equipment being used on me. And, I helped them with usage issues. I witnessed health care from the bed, instead of from the bedside, for three weeks. This is the weirdest time of my life, and one of the safest. The HTM field and my local health care chain kept me safe. Colleagues, friends, ex-students, neighbors; I ran into them all.
Frankly, I am not used to being the one in need. I am used to being the one that swoops in and saves the day. I live for those moments. I crave it; I always have. Without that event, something in me withers, and I doubt my own value and worth. I think that’s why I try so hard to make a difference in my own way; it’s to make a positive difference and know I did it. My Illness forced me to admit that I’d been killing myself to do that. Literally. I was working 70 hours a week some weeks. The whole time this cancer was in me and I ignored it. I am not alone. We, as HTM professionals, often work ourselves to breaking without considering the pains. I want to encourage all of you to slow down. Take time during this pandemic to “focus on you” a little. Perhaps get a colonoscopy. I needed one at age 46. Please take that lesson to heart. Also, do not forget about your mental health.
I know of biomeds who have committed suicide. I don’t know their motives, but I know what mine were when I felt down. It’s hard to feel like we make a difference in the world. When this happens to me, I reached out for approval. From time to time, we need to receive praise. My family has always been a blessing and gave overwhelming approval when I reached out for it. It is important to have a good support network. They remind me of literally thousands of people who are helped by what we do. Find a good support network. Remember, your initials on a PM sticker go to a patient in a bed, that is a name, a life that you helped. You “pay it forward” everyday, without even knowing it. You did it for me without even knowing I was in a hospital bed. You, biomed saved me. Thank you all for putting yourself out there at a hospital every day, especially during a pandemic. I want to tell you all that I am one of those people you helped. You helped me. You, the HTM professional reading this. That PM sticker put on every piece of equipment reminds us all of that. You do not always hear it, but you are always there and always helping. I want you to hear this now. Thank you. Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for paying it forward. Thank you for what you do every day. Happy HTM Week from your peer; and your patient.
– Garrett Seeley, MS, CBET, is an Instructor of Biomedical Equipment Technology at Texas State Technical College, Waco.
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