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Blood and Tech

October 16, 2019

I hate hospitals. Not their purpose, of course. Just being in them makes me uncomfortable. I know why. It has to do with an attack of appedicitis that wasn’t appendicitis, but still painful, a brutally painful night in the hospital, months of recovery, an diagnosis of an incurable disease. (I got better.) But, I ended up with a severe case of PSTD. I was known to pass out if anyone just tells me about an operation or injury.

But, here’s the thing. I could teach the first aid merit badge with it’s descriptions of various broken bones and injuries. I had a houseful of kids who got their share of bumps, bruises and bloody noses. I was even there when three of my kids were born.

So, how do I mix those two traits? Being capable when I need to deal with hospitals or trauma, while being affected by PTSD?

One of the tasks in my job is to deal with outages. “Outage” is a broad term. It could be everything from a weird “beep” when a call drops in to an entire site, or the entire enterprise being offline.

I’m really good at this part of my job. When things get their craziest, I am at my best. ADHD helps, a lot. I can quickly shift focus from one line of thinking to another. I can even manage multiple outages at the same time. What’s even harder, is I can manage an outage while also participating in a conference call. My most involved time was three separate calls all going at the same time. (That’s why they invented MUTE buttons.)

An outage call involves a lot of down time. You are waiting for engineers to join the call. You are waiting for testers to validate. You are sometimes just waiting for systems to run.

Lots of waiting.

Here’s where ADHD is no longer my friend. You would think that an outage call is simply another event happening during the day. You just do the rest of your job during the downtime right?


The very brain chemistry that lets me bounce from one topic to another during an outage, makes it nearly impossible to focus on regular work tasks during an outage. I cannot devote my exclusive attention to the outage call, of course. Not if it lasts nine or ten hours with over 2/3 of that being down time.

It happens occasionally. I’ll get caught up in another task. And I forget about the outage call. And during down time, it’s silent on the phone bridge. A silent phone bridge sounds a lot like a non-sphone bridge. And I’ll work away at my other task. I might even slip into hyper-focus.

Hyper-focus: A side effect of ADHD that causes a person to become so engrossed in a task that they lose track of everything else, including time.

And then, I realize, “I haven’t eheard anything from the bridge recently.”

What someone waiting on something from me?

No, we are still waiting on desktop engineers to get on site.

Oh, okay. Let me know if you need anything.

Worse is when they were waiting on me. And now I have to backtrack and remember where I was in the situation.

Better to not get too involved. Stick to tasks that don’t require any thinking. Organize my inbox, for example.

ADHD forces me to hold both habits in my head at the same time; the ability to jump from topic to topic and the abiltiy to hyperfocus. Like the Asian concept of Ying and Yang, you can’t have one with out the other.

It’s like my PTSD around blood and hospitals. During an emergency, I can concentrate on the task at hand and I don’t have any issues dealing with blood, or injuries, or pain, or even hospitals. But, after the crisis is passed. When I have a chance to sit and think, then, the PTSD kicks in and I have to go sit down and think of a happy place or something.

And during an outage I have to do just the opposite. Once the situation settles down and I’m no longer bouncing from topic to topic, I have to remain focused and not allow myself to focus on something else.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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