July 20, 2010

John as The Six Million Dollar Man

Steve Austin, astronaut, had it all. Then, a horrific accident. His injuries were grave. But “we can rebuild him; we have the technology.” Thus, the six million dollar man was salvaged, as was Lee Major’s career.

In the past eighteen months, I’ve had a torn rotator cuff repaired, a quadruple heart bypass, and just nine weeks ago, a hip resurfacing. If I were living in the nineteenth century, uh, well, I most likely wouldn’t be. Medical technology continues to surpass expectations, and it does it quietly. While most of us are excited about our new iPad computers and Droid touch screen smartphones, many of us are beneficiaries of technology that dwarfs home computing advances.

My new hip is a case in point. Made of titanium, it’s stronger than anything organic. The resurfacing surgery lasted about an hour and a half. The hospital stay was four days. Day one I was up and walking on the new parts. Painful at first, for sure. But a mere six weeks later, I was walking better than the day before the surgery. And that’s saying a lot. Without going into the gory details of the surgery, you might imagine what it takes to replace the “ball and socket.” It’s not like unscrewing the old light bulb and replacing it with a florescent one. No, there are a lot of parts to move around to get to the spot. Then there’s the sawing, planeing, cutting, stitching, and gluing! Good thing I was out cold.

Before the surgery, it was all I could do to get out of the car and walk to the hospital lobby. A couple hundred years ago I would be stuck in the cave, not able to hunt, not able to run away from the attacking hordes. In short, I wouldn’t have survived very long.

(By the way, the long wait and poor quality of this surgery in socialized medicine countries Canada and Great Britain are huge problems. So maybe I’d still be in the cave. But more about that another time.)

Medical advances are all around us. My heart bypass back in November of 2009 is another amazing example. It started with a blip on my electrocardiogram (EKG) at my primary doctor’s office (thanks for noticing, Dr. Bill!) I then promptly failed the stress test the next week when he referred me to a cardiologist. That same week, into the hospital for a quick angiogram. Lying on the table, I watched the monitors as my doctor inserted the probe in through my wrist, up through the arteries, and into the heart. It was a strange but incredible experience. Of course, I was hoping for a “simple” stent, which would open any clogged artery during the same procedure. No such luck. So, a quick consult with the chief of thoracic surgery, and into the operating room within two weeks as he opens my chest and reassembles things on my heart while a machine keeps me alive.

Wow. We are blessed with the most impressive medical system in the world, and most of us don’t even know it. Kinda puts technology in perspective for those of us who work in business data processing.

I might not be worth six million dollars, but for the huge investment of dollars and human capital in medical technology, for which many of us are grateful recipients, I say thank you America.