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A heart-stopping story about money and fate

David RhindTuesday 08 November 2016, 10:09AM
A heart-stopping story about money and fate

This is a slight departure from my regular column, which usually provides business advice. 

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 in motion.  

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 script eh?" 

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 recently.   

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 dramatic. 

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 Rotorua. 

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 - science. 

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 time.  

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 ethereal.  

Until it becomes real. 

That's two … hope for the best, plan for the worst 

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 life. 

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
article). 

Three is… If you care about your customers and your team, which every pharmacist does,  they'll notice. 

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, ASB. 

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 knowledge. 

Fate? 

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 emergency. 

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 waiting. 

To err is human; to defibrillate, divine. 

Dr David Rhind is the head of healthcare and professionals at ASB and a practicing doctor

 

 

 
 
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