Some years ago I was working in a hospital doing general network support. It was actually a great place to work and had the distinction (at the time) of having a corridor that was almost 2 miles long. That bit wasn’t quite so enjoyable as having to go from Pathology (furthest point along the corridor), to fix an issue in Maternity (furthest point in the other direction) was not my idea of a good time. I had a few weird moments in this place, some technical and others not.
The boss had this amazing idea that, if people needed less than 10 network points, I would install them myself. As you can imagine, this led to me being some sort of network point pimp and extolling the virtues of having (in some cases) 9 spare available because “You never know”. When this failed it was left to me.
Now, anyone that knows me will tell you that I cannot perform basic DIY. It is simply something I am not genetically made up for. Shelves fall down, holes in plaster get miraculously bigger…I invariably hurt myself. Yet here I was, embarking on a terrifying journey of drilling holes in hospital walls. I remember having to put a new socket in the Pharmacy to replace an existing one where the cable was broken. I exposed the cable run and started to trace the cable I needed to replace. The idea being to tie the new cable to the old, and pull it through. This reasonable theory hit a few snags, namely that the cable run went through walls into other rooms, corridors and even outside for a few meters. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that I made a mistake and disconnected the wrong cable…meaning I had to do it all again. It’s just aswell there was someone there to help me..oh that’s right, I was on my own.
I had to get through a wall that was around 4ft thick in the Pathology department, but the biggest drillbit I had access to was just under 3ft long. Confident and complete with tape measure, I was absolutely certain that I would be able to “Eurotunnel” it and meet up from either side. In the end, and after turning this wall into swiss cheese, I tracked down some builders and stole their giant drillbit to do it.
I had to turn one of the Doctors on-call bedrooms into an office, which involved drilling down from the attic space. Unfortunately the attic space wasn’t big enough for me to stand up in and my trusty tape measure didn’t appear to be so trusty, so I took to crawling along the corridor on my stomach to try and work out where to drill. The Doctors knew that there would be some noise and drilling going on. I am fairly confident that this particular, sleeping, Doctor didn’t anticipate being woken up to plaster falling onto his bed, a drill screaming through the ceiling followed swiftly by a large eye looking through the hole and apologising profusely. I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that Doctor sleeping in his car from there on in.
That said, learning from my mistakes at that point wasn’t so easy to me, and I managed to repeat this feat…only this time in the Maternity department….into a room where they were performing ultrasounds…I can’t be certain, as I was rapidly accelerating into the distance, but I may have caused a number of false alarms and possibly a premature birth or two that day.
It wasn’t all about me scaring the crap out of Doctors and patients alike, I had my fair share. Like sitting at my desk quietly, running a stress test on the LAN with the development team….in the middle of the test, the rocket I had just fired at the head of the Duke Nukem across the courtyard stopped..in mid air, followed seconds later by “Network Connection Lost”. Glancing up, I see the network monitor screen…and all of the lovely green symbols were turning a nasty looking red colour. Half the network was down, I call the developers to see if it was them (they were losing after all) and start running down the corridor to the first place that had gone red. As I am running, I can see that the ladder into the attic space is already down…getting closer still and I can hear drilling. I hit the ladder and scramble up without stopping, until I see an electrician merrily drilling away. I briefly consider asking him how he worked out where to drill so effortlessly, but shake that off and check the comms cabinet….which is unsurprisingly devoid of any flashing blinking light type doodahs. A quick look behind the cabinet and you can see that it has been unplugged…and replaced by a beaten up, paint spattered cord of the workmans drill. I beat him about the head ask him nicely to stop drilling and plug the cabinet back in. Wordlessly I point to the rather large sign that instructs people not to remove the plastic cover and unplug the cabinet…before heading off to find the foreman, relieve myself in the toilet and have a large brandy to calm my nerves.
I remember trying to lift a server on my own…that was clearly too big/heavy for me, but noone else was around to help me…and hearing my knee pop. I get on the phone and Andrew comes running down to me, pushing a wheelchair that I have always hoped was empty when he found it. I remember, through the pain, feeling quite lucky that this had happened in a hospital, that had a ward dedicated to looking after people with leg/knee pain. So you will forgive my shock when I was told I would have to make the journey across town to go to Accident and Emergency before they could see me. Oh how I cursed their computer systems that day…certainly they wouldn’t be high on my list in the future……
I could go on and on…what do you mean I already have? Ah well…
When I first joined the support team there, they always sent the newbies on a rite of passage…the morgue. I can still recall the smell of the place as I headed inside…where the morgue technicians tell me that the computer with the issue is in the main fridge room…they have, of course, left the doors open just for me. I realise that this sounds a little disrespectful…but damn if I didn’t laugh my ass off….when I had finished throwing up of course.
Probably the most memorable, and terrifying thing though was when I was walking back to the office one quiet and peaceful afternoon. One of the problems associated with being in IT within a hospital is what you wear. Generally I wore black trousers, a white shirt…professional looking tie and of course a pager. I had been mistaken for a Doctor on numerous occasions and was quite used to explaining that I wasn’t, and even running off to find them a Doctor from time to time. One of those things you might say. Until this day. Walking back towards my office and a panic stricken woman bursts through the door of the chest/lung ward that was opposite our office. She clocks me and without a word, starts dragging me into the ward…and practically throws me into a room where her husband (I assumed) was suffering some form of breathing attack. As I finally start to realise what is going on, I try to explain that I am not a Doctor…but quite obviously this woman didn’t want me talking to her…I managed to focus enough to hit the panic button on the wall and within seconds Doctors and Nurses start piling in the room to help.
I stand back and watch these amazing people go about their business with this efficient calm about them. A few minutes later and the husband is calmed, breathing more easily and the wife is clearly relieved. I have the upmost respect for Doctors and Nurses…there is no way I could do what they do.
On top of all that, the wife came to find me later and thanked me for helping….She had forgotten the panic button was there and couldn’t focus to find anyone. I didn’t know what to say, certainly I had done nothing worthy of thanks from this woman. People are amazing though sometimes..here was a woman so clearly going through hell and she found the time to thank some poor scared cretin who managed to hit a button. Also, it shows what having a little faith can do…her husband made a full recovery and left the hospital 6 weeks later.
I like people sometimes, I really do.