David RhindTuesday 08 November 2016, 10:09AM
This is a slight departure from my
regular column, which usually provides business
For a change, I thought I would
share an interesting experience that taught me a few new lessons
and reminded me of some old ones.
In any profession, there are phrases
that immediately set the adrenal gland and flight-or-fight response
It's a response that was borne from
our ancestors being chased by actual predators, yet the response is
equally challenging in today's modern environment.
For pilots, it might be: "Engines
two and three have flamed out."
For pharmacists it's probably: "Mrs
Johnson just had a serious allergic reaction - you checked the
And for corporate-types (in the
absence of any recent, discernible workplace brilliance) it's: "The
CEO would like to see you in their office."
For a doctor that phrase is:
"Somebody's having a heart attack."
I'm a doctor and that happened
Thankfully, the gentleman survived
but of course, it doesn't always work out well, and I've
unfortunately seen the flip side of that coin a number of times.
The latest TV ads from the Heart
Foundation have been great in terms of raising awareness that heart
attacks can happen quietly.
Thanks to TV programmes such as
House, M.AS.H., Grey's Anatomy and Dr Ropata from Guatemala, most
people assume that myocardial infarctions are chest-clutching and
They are not, and the next patient
that walks in to your pharmacy to pick up their GTN script could
calmly have one in the scripts-out area.
People of all walks of life have MIs
- young and old, fat or thin, white or brown - and, sadly, many
people die from them.
Sadly, my dad was one of them.
Five years ago I delayed the start
date for my new job at a large corporate company because my dad - a
pharmacist, and also David - had died from a myocardial infarction
(MI) while he was working out on the leg press machine at a gym in
He had been pharmacist-in-charge at
Rotorua Hospital for nearly 20 years.
There was no defibrillator at the
gym, and other than a kind nurse who helped him, no-one had any
formal training in CPR.
As medical professionals, you'd be
aware that one of the key determinants of survival after an MI is
the time from collapse to defibrillation. The American Heart
Association teaches that for every minute that passes before
defibrillation, survival decreases by 7-10%.
That's point one -
After starting at my new job, and
given the recent situation I had experienced with my dad, I
suggested it would be a good idea to have access to defibrillators
at the various locations the company had, and for the wider
business to have CPR training, so that in a worst case scenario
people would know what to do.
My suggestion wasn't followed up,
which is not a big deal, because it's normal for people in business
to focus on the most important challenge in front of them at the
Because business is very challenging
- whether you own a two-pharmacist pharmacy in Waimate, or a
two-farm station in Waikanone - so the thought of someone in
the future being in a dire situation, and needing help, is quite
Until it becomes
That's two … hope for the best, plan for the
Two-and a-half years later, a few
months after I joined ASB to establish our healthcare business,
they announced every branch in New Zealand would have a
defibrillator, and that in conjunction with St John, our ASB team
would have CPR training. No doubt this has already helped to save a
I've never been more proud to work
for an organisation than that day (and I am not just saying that
because my boss will read this
Three is… If you care about your customers
and your team, which every pharmacist does, they'll
I was in my dad's workshop in
Rotorua having a rummage, and found some amazing ground glass
apothecary jars, the Parker fountain pen he checked scripts with,
and a random instrument that a pharmacist client (and friend)
couldn't identify from the photo I sent him.
I also found my grandad's
leather-bound, notebook-shaped moneybox, from 1952, that was made
by what was then the 'Auckland Savings Bank' and is of course, now,
This happened to be the day after
ASB announced its sponsorship of ASB St John in schools, a first
aid programme where Kiwi kids learn life-saving skills and the
confidence to take action in an emergency.
This sponsorship is significant not
just for the youth of New Zealand, but also for their families,
friends and communities who benefit from their first-aid
Four…. Clouds. Silver linings.
Pharmacists are the health
professionals the public see most often.
At some time, your patients, or
team, might need help, or want to be able to help someone in an
St John is an amazing organisation
that many people do not realise is a charity. They happen to sell
defibrillators, which are inexpensive, and they have trained
thousands of New Zealanders to save lives. In the meantime, if your
pharmacy is near an ASB branch there is a defibrillator ready and
To err is human; to defibrillate,
Dr David Rhind is the head of healthcare and
professionals at ASB and a practicing doctor