The Tool

A few months ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed returned from work and set down upon Our Hero’s desk a cardboard box loaded with what appeared to be… crap.

“A guy at work left,” she explained, “And my friend and I were asked to clean up his work space. This stuff was in there and going into the trash, so I brought it home for you.”

Thanks bunches, honey. Let’s see here, what’s this?

A PDA, specifically an old Palm M105. Little black thing with a touch screen, just as cute as it could be. It has all of 8MB of memory, no expansion slot, 8-bit greyscale, no MIDI, MP3 or other capabilities, a little piezo-speaker which can squeak but not reproduce sound. How nice!

Folks, DTs is old – in his teen years he was at one point the proud owner of an acoustic coupler, using which he could dial into work over the phone lines at an astounding 600 baud. Kids, Google these terms but get your parent’s permission first! Thus, although no longer state of the art, neither is DTs -this PDA was a Pretty Cool Thing.

What clinched the deal for the PDA, though, was the stylish leather belt case. Another toy for the Utility Belt? Hells yeah! I can use it to… I’ll think of something.

A week goes by, and in the transport gig we’re dispatched to transport a patient with some obscure medical condition, I forget exactly what. The condition was a strange one but oddly familiar. I knew I’d been exposed to it (the term and definition, not the disease) way back when, but did not of course have my textbooks and notes in the bambulance.

Curses and double-curse my swiss-cheese memory. Doubtless the destruction of those cells was predestined as I guzzled cheap booze, waiting for downloads at 600 baud in the dim and distant past. If only there were some way to harness the incredible power of a really small notebook.

Lo! This here PDA thing is just the sort of gizmo one might require.

Indeed. A shareware-ish program called HanDBase was just the thing. It allows one to create any type of database, defining fields and all sorts of stuff. Neat thing. Using considerably more than 600 baud DTs downloaded this fine program and set to work.

The first database created was GenMedGloss.PDB (Palm DataBase), and is as the name suggests a Generic or General Medical Glossary, a list of useful terms and definitions. Help yourself, no warranty, blah blah blah.

Hmmm. Methinks docs do loves they Latin sometimes. A shortcut might be to have a little list of Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes – if it’s not in the generic med database, one might be able to parse it. Thus, Latin.PDB was created.

Hey, this crap’s fun. And useful, damned if it wasn’t. And yet, what happens? We transport a patient from the language-rich vicinity of Northern Virginia, where one may find Bilingual Nurses Galore, to an inner-city facility in Baltimore which, although rich with accent and colloquialisms, did not exactly seethe with language skills.

“We need to create a chart,” says the BaltiNurse. “Ask her when her birthday is at” or something like that.

“Uhhmmm…” says DTs. Dammit. Helpless again, but not for long.

No problem after that – MedSpanish.PDB is now a-swing at DTs’ hip. A Neat Thing (he said, buffing his nails) about the way this one is set up is that one may select Views, cutting down on the list of entries shown on the screen. Pickup, for instance, has words and phrases especially useful during patient pickup, as do Dropoff, Assess, Body, etc. The Pronounce view shows vowel, consonant, and dipthong pronunciation, and the Rules view describes the conjugation of verbs, subject-number agreement, and junk like that.

Anyway, if you have a Palm device, help yourself. In the works is MedFarsi and MedTurkish, they’ll be up and available soon.

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