“Hello?” I manage, rubbing my sleepy eyes.
“Dr. Joseph Quinn?” says a questioning voice from the other end of the line.
“Yes, can I ask who is calling?” I reply.
“Sorry, it’s Emma Kelly here, calling from Brisbane Hospital. Patient B267 from yesterday has developed a blood clot in his chest, and it looks like you’re going to have to operate again. Urgently too.” she says frantically.
“It’s okay; just keep calm. I have no other operations planned for today, so I can operate whenever you guys are ready.” My voice comes back steady and clear, a trait I have mastered over the many years of doing a job that requires you to stay calm through the very frequent chaotic times.
There is silence on the other end of the line.
“Sorry, the cyclone coming down the coast from up north is interfering with the lines. It’s getting pretty bad up here actually. I just hope that the power stays on.” She says in a concerned tone.
“Okay, when will the robots and patient be ready?”
“In 5 minutes, I just hope this is going to be safe. Usually we have a doctor close by in case of emergencies like these when there’s storms or a cyclone happening, and it’s not entirely safe to operate through the robots. But our doctor is stuck and can’t get out of his house so this is our only choice.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine. I’ve operated through storms before, and our lines are quite reliable, so I think we’ll be okay. Thanks Emma,” I say, as I hang up the phone.
As the leading heart surgeon in both Australia and in the world, the development of robotic surgery has allowed my work to reach so many more people, and has enabled countless sufferers of heart conditions to be treated.
I walk directly to my office, consisting only of the multiple holographic screens that I use during surgeries, with the primary one situated on the far wall. This is the one that allows me to see straight into the patient’s heart area during surgeries. The smaller screens, show other important things such as the instruments needed for the surgery, a view of the entire room, so I can see where each robot is at all times, and necessary monitors needed for the patient being operated on. The screens show both the patient and the robots already in position in the theatre.
“Asher, pick up the scalpel and make primary incision to open chest.” As usual, the robot responded straightaway and did exactly what had been commanded, with an unbelievable amount of care and precision.
“Asher, place scalpel on the used instruments tray.”
“Sulla, pick up the sternal saw and divide the sternum. Asher get the sternal refractor ready to put in place as soon as Sulla is finished.” I continued to instruct the robots in this way, as despite their skill in performing such tasks, they were completely reliant on my direction.
There was a suddenly a lag in the movements of one of the robots. This started to concern me. Then, as the movement returned too normal again, I had to repeat my instructions to the robots. “Asher and Sulla, look for the patients’ blood clot, George, I need you to check the patients’ blood pressure, heart rate and blood oxygen level.” I repeated, the desperation for the patients wellbeing showing in my voice.
Suddenly, the screen went blank.
“Dammit!” I shouted. I ran quickly to the main switchboard on the wall near the door, hurriedly…