Article Date: 7/1/2005


All Choked Up

A brush with death helps drive home a practice management mantra.

Every optometrist knows never to underestimate the importance of a good staff. I've heard this mantra of practice management for years, but it wasn't until recently that I discovered just how true it is.


ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN SCHREINER

Mike, one of our technicians, has been in the business for years. From the dispensary to the office, he can do it all. His forte is the lab, where he performs small miracles, including taking on jobs that other labs won't touch. People actually bring in outside prescriptions just so Mike can make their glasses!

An apple a day . . .

It was a slow day at the office. Spring break was over, the kids were back in school and it was pouring rain. I was passing the time talking woodworking with Mike while he fabricated liquid polymers (I told you he was good). Feeling hungry, I grabbed an apple out of my lunchbox.

This particular apple had to have been the juiciest apple in the history of apples, because when I bit into it, a shot of juice hit the back of my throat, triggering a swallow reflex. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but this time, the action caused me to suck down a rather large chunk of apple.

Mike heard me wretch. "You alright, Doc?"

I could still breathe, so despite feeling like an anvil was lodged in my esophagus, I thought I was okay. I was about to say so when the chunk shifted, cutting off my airway. I had been in the act of exhaling, and caught without much air in the tank, I was in trouble.

I noted with a perverse sense of professional curiosity that it takes roughly six seconds of oxygen deprivation for your vision to start creeping around the edges. Recognizing what was happening, Mike got me in a bear hug and gave me the Heimlich.

Nothing happened.

The twinkling lights and dark patches in my vision made me wonder if the jolting had somehow detached a retina. Or was I just dying?

Mike gave me the Heimlich again, more forcefully, and again, nothing. I started thinking of how these things seem to go so much more smoothly on television. What's that, Grandma? Go toward the light?

"Again?" Mike's voice reflected my own desperation.

Third time's a charm

The next thing I remember is Mike trying to push my diaphragm through my spine and the apple blasting out of my throat like a cannonball. Greedily, I sucked in air.

Mike, suddenly looking much older, shook his head. "Doc, I can't take that kind of excitement!"

"You saved my life!" I exclaimed when I could speak.

He waved a hand. "It was nothing."

Who could forget?

I had to disagree. My life was certainly more than that. In fact, it was worth exactly $7.35, the cost of the lunch I had to beg Mike to let me buy him as a gesture of my gratitude. He was embarrassed by the attention and seemed happy to forget the matter and get back to discussing the finer points of table saws.

But I'll never forget it.  Thanks, Mike.  You're a life-saver.  Never underestimate the importance of a good staff!

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENé LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

 



Optometric Management, Issue: July 2005