The other day, I was reading about everyday carry, and one writer was talking about how “two is one, and one is none”.
I recalled one night, nursing midnights in ICU. Now, every single hospital that I have ever worked at, has an emergency generator. These are equipped (or, at least, SUPPOSED to be equipped) with an automatic apparatus, that is intended to identify an interruption in the supply of power from the local power company, and start up the on site emergency generator, and then, once said generator is up to speed and functioning, disconnect the hospital from the shore power, and energize all “emergency” circuits from the generator.
As it developed, on this night, the power went out, and everything went black. We eagerly awaited the onset of generator power, but, alas, such was not to be.
Now, y’all may not know this, but in an ICU, there is an abundance of very, very sick folks. Indeed, several of them are dependent on ventilators to, well, ventilate them, since their illness renders them incapable of breathing adequately on their own.
With that thought in mind, it may not be a surprise that these life saving ventilators require an uninterrupted supply of several things, not the least of which is electricity, in order to function. When the power fails, and the emergency generators do NOT promptly start up, well, things get interesting.
While the ventilators, themselves, do NOT have battery backup, the alarms signaling malfunction, do. In order to respond to these alarms, the nurses, such as myself, need to alight from our chairs, walk around the nurse’s station, enter the room, and identify and remedy the fault eliciting the alarm.
(a) That is considerably easier to accomplish when you can see where the frack you are going, and identify trip-and-fall hazards, prior to, uh, tripping over said hazard, and falling upon your face.
(b) Should you have TWO ventilated patients, you are tasked with reaching each patient, disconnecting that soul from the (nonfunctioning) ventilator, and manually ventilating them employing the manual bag-valve resuscitator kept at bedside for just this sort of problem.
Except, you are one, non elasto-nurse, person.
As it developed, our ward clerk was in nursing school, was intelligent, and had paid attention. She ventilated my second patient, and the on-unit respiratory therapist ventilated Mary Sue’s second ventilated patient.
It only took a couple of minutes (…that seemed like hours!) before we regained power. But, I thereafter took to carrying a flashlight on my person.
Problem solved, right?
Not so right. A couple of weeks later, the power failed, again. The generator failed to generate, again, and I thought, “Voila! I’ll whip out my handy-dandy flashlight, and illuminate the area!”
Problem with that, is that the flashlight had somehow turned itself on, while on my belt, and was deader than disco. So, same cluster…er, hug (yeah! HUG!), same musical ventilation, and same subjective eternity until power came back on.
New! Improved! Plan, was a couple of flashlights, with a regularly (every other month) assessment of function and battery charged-ness. As well as additional flashlights squirreled about my person. So, presently, I have two flashlights on my belt, two in my shirt pocket (one Streamlight Stylus Pro, another that has been customized with a near UV emitter, so that I can use it as a Wood’s Lamp), one on my badge (one of the coin cell lights thrown in with my order from the folks selling me my CR 123 batteries), and one on my keyring (a Streamlight Nanolight). (none of these are any sort of freebie: I bought the Nanolight, and the Stylus, and then bought several more, at retail, because they perform for me what I need doing. Like, illuminate my way when nocturnal dogwalking, allowing me to avoid a dirt faceplant.)