Spontaneous Pneumothoraxes, X-Rays, Hospital Tech, Tracking Devices, Unstructured Content

What a week its been! I started out on Monday giving a presentation to Victor Walker's Staff on collaboration and I ended Monday lying in a hospital room with a (get this) Spontaneous Pneumothorax (air in my chest cavity that results in a collapsed lung). Guess what, these things "just happen" to tall, skinny guys. I'm not kidding.

So, here's what I have to say about Spontaneous Pneumothorax's and treatment (in case you happened here trying to understand what they are), then I want to tell you about the cool hospital stay I had!

Yes, if you say Spontaneous Pneumothorax enough, you will think you are in a live Dr. Seuss book. But once they jam the chest tube into you, suppress these thoughts, you seriously do not want to be laughing. I went to the Dr. originally because of a weird shortness of breath...I mean, really short. I'm not usually that way. Another symptom was that I kept trying to decide to go for a run, but whenever I would step down hard, it felt like my upper chest was collapsing (hint...it was). Check this out:

See the shadow of my lung going half way across my chest cavity? Its supposed to go all the way across my chest cavity. My first x-ray was sort of an out-patient thing. They said they'd call me on Wednesday with the results. So I settle in at home to finish my day and I get a phone call from the radiologist: "Were you in an accident?" (no), "Have you been hit by anything lately?" (no), "Well, don't be too concerned but drop what you are doing and get a ride to the hospital, I am checking you into the ER now, what hospital are you going to, do not drive yourself whatever you do.".

Ok, to cut the story short, Dr. Kim at Littleton Adventist Hospital had a chest tube in me within 45 minutes of that phone call. Ouch. I'll forgo the details, but it basically sucks...but getting it out sucks even more since you aren't on the same pain medications :-)

Now here is what is interesting to us techy folks. I was in the new wing of the hospital that has wireless. While I didn't do my normal work, I was relatively effective for a guy with a tube in his side and without a shower. Very cool. I actually started this entry while I was lying around.

Next, I had X-Rays every 8-12 hours, so I was joking with the guy that I'd like a copy. Ben says, "I'll bring you a CD". Next thing I know I have all of my X-Rays on a CD that I can browse through and try to be a pain to Dr. Kim. Needless to say, I didn't have much luck diagnosing myself, its difficult to see the lung in the pictures...I know they are trained, but a computer guy just doesn't do Biology.

Interestingly, the X-Rays are a perfect example of unstructured data. Unstructured data is essentially data that is not easily read by a machine. You would want to associate a lot of metadata with my X-Rays, obviously my name, date of birth, date the X-Ray was taken, problem indicated by the X-Ray, etc... Then you would want an application that you could submit queries to the repository of images to search the metadata and retrieve specific images based on the criteria. For example, if someone wanted to see a Spontaneous Pneumothorax, they could look it up.

Using the Honeycomb API, the application could query the Content Addressable Storage (CAS) that a Honeycomb System offers like this:

[fn LCASE(patient.diagnosis)] LIKE 'spontaneous pneumothorax' AND [fn LCASE(artifact.type)] LIKE 'xray'

Submitting this query via one of the language APIs should return a set of object IDs that match the particular diagnosis and artifact that I'm looking for (assuming I named the metadata attributes like that).

The Honeycomb system is a hardware and software stack, but the API and a simulator can be downloaded from sun.com if you want to play with it. The simulator runs in Java so you can run it just about anywhere.

No, I don't think Littleton Adventist was using Honeycomb, but medical is definitely one place that could make heavy use of this type of unstructured data interface.

There was another very cool system in place at the hospital though. All of the staff had tiny radio devices attached to themselves, they were about the size of a tag that goes on clothing at a store or the size of one of our own Sun SPOTs. The tag emits a radio signal that allows the personell to be found wherever they are in the hospital.

I remember hypothesizing about this type of technology and how invasive it would be but within the hospital setting it makes perfect sense. You are dealing with real time events where you have to coordinate resources within seconds in the case of a trauma. Why not know who is closest for responding and be able to call them by name. In fact, the RN's were often called from in my room, since they have speakers and intercoms within the room. This way, the entire hospital does not have to be bothered with constant communications and, instead, the communication can be localized to be point to point without requiring pagers or walkie-talkies on the nurses and doctors.

At any rate, I'm back in the office today and hanging around trying to do things before my follow-up appointment tomorrow.

I have to say hospitals are a hotbed of technology but, in retrospect, I would prefer to schedule a customer visit rather than have one scheduled for me :-)



Wow. Sorry to hear about your health issue, but that's a cool blog post. I dig how you can still have humor about such a physically painful experience. Its weird how we techies can take a situation like that and dissect it into concepts relating to technology. Anyways... I hope you feel better soon.

Posted by Mike on June 28, 2007 at 04:16 AM MDT #

Thanks. I think when you realize its not life threatening and that just like computers, there are people who "get" how to diagnose and deal with problems in your body, all you can do is trust and observe. I mean, when you think about it, the systems they rely on are vital to their role so you get a new understanding of how our job is to facilitate their MUCH more important role in life...its definitely humbling and makes you hope they picked the best vendors, software, support and hardware to facilitate their needs. Thanks for the good wishes!

Posted by Paul Monday on June 28, 2007 at 04:24 AM MDT #

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