I was at Emory University Hospital for my checkup last year and a few moments before had been “strapped” to the Electrocardiogram, also known as the EKG machine. Really, it is called the ECG… EKG is from the original German name, which isn’t used that much anymore.
And they don’t actually use straps to hold the electrodes on you anymore. They did, in the 1970′s… I’ve been EKG’ed with sticky pads, straps, and for a while they attached the electrodes with little red suction cups. Those didn’t work out so well: they would often release from your skin with a “pop!” and when they came off in the middle of the test, the test was stopped and they had to start over from the beginning. A friend of mine commented that when they used the suction cups you always looked as if you were covered in hickeys, but hadn’t been kissing anybody!
So I was getting my EKG done at Emory when the doctor stuck his head in just to say hi, and we were carrying on a conversation. The person who is being scanned is supposed to be still, and here I was talking with the doctor. Finally the EKG Tech rolled her eyes and said “Ya’ll Hush!”
We hushed! Both the Cardiologist and I looked a little embarrassed. I started to mumble an apology but I got THE LOOK from the tech. I always thought that only your momma or your girlfriend/wife could give you The Look.
You are supposed to be still and quiet when they do an EKG test on you, so you don’t affect the results of the test. Back in the mid 1960′s when I was born, there were a few other rules, too. You had to be quiet and not move; no one could touch you because the technology was still pretty fragile – touching the patient was thought to affect the test. And the EKG machines of the time were so slow that a test took about an hour. Following those guidelines – be still, be quiet, don’t touch the patient, the test will take about an hour – let’s see you give a baby an EKG.
From what I have been told, doing an EKG on a baby could make a group of highly competent doctors look like the Keystone Kops. But someone at my local community hospital had figured it out, and gave my parents the best advice on how to make sure I was able to undergo the EKG: Don’t feed me.
He told my parents not to feed me that day, or if I had an afternoon appointment, feed me just a little in the morning. Then when it was time to do the EKG, hold my bottle just above my head and then feed me. As predicted, I was much too interested in food to think about moving around! And by standing beside the table and holding the bottle above my head, no one was breaking the “don’t touch” rule.
When you think of “Advances in Medicine”, you often think of new drugs, new surgeries, new technology. Big inventions that get your name in medical journals. But even little ideas – like how to give a baby an EKG exam, for example – help too!