How Cell Phones Saved 2 Lives in a Vietnamese Hospital

By: Nat Jay

When you think about cell phones, the images that pop up in your mind are those of cutting-edge technology -- streaming video, voice recognition, push email, high-speed Internet, mobile TV... and more.

But can you ever recall a cell phone saving someone's life... or even creating life, based on your point of view? Well, here's what happened in April/May 2007, and it's anything but high-tech. In fact, it's miraculous (even common sense) that someone actually thought of using a cell phone this way.

It happened in Vietnam, at the Pleiku General Hospital, about 550 km north of Ho Chi Minh City, the capital. The doctors were operating on a mother due to deliver a baby by caesarean section. They were at a crucial point in the operation when suddenly, the lights went out. The backup generator too failed and the operation theater was in pitch dark. The doctors couldn't see what was in front of them, let alone figure out how to complete the operation. If they couldn't continue, it could endanger the lives of both the mother and her unborn child. Given the urgency of the procedure, anything could have happened if they had deliberated or delayed. There was clearly no time to waste. The operation had to continue.

What the surgeons did next was nothing short of an '8 mega pixel' Kodak moment: They quickly borrowed 8 mobile phones from fellow doctors and nurses -- anyone who had a cell phone on them, or could get one from somewhere. And they used the combined light from all those cell phones to complete the operation and deliver the baby. Talk about smart thinking and unusual use of technology!

The light obviously wasn't bright enough, but it was good enough for saving two lives and successfully concluding the operation. Soon enough, the backup power too was restored, and the mother-baby duo was declared to be in good condition.

Kudos to the surgeons for taking responsibility when it mattered the most. And thanks also to the penetration of cell phones on a truly global scale -- that people feel it necessary to carry it with them, almost like a life-saving (and giving) device.

Low-tech or high-tech, what's important is how well technology serves us today. At the end of the day, that's the only thing that matters -- be it in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam or in New York City, USA.

Cell Phones
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