July 1, 2012

Saving lives

My mom passed away from metastatic breast cancer to the lungs two weeks ago. Near the end, she had a lot of difficulty breathing, and I was at the hospital day and night to take care of her for the last few weeks.

When she was awake, I would talk with her or help her eat or wash. While she rested, I would roam the hospital and chat with the nurses. After a few days, the nurses finally noticed that no matter what shift they're in, I was always awake and around.

"How is it that every time I'm taking a shift, you seem to be awake?"

"I'm an IT guy, and I fix computers. I'm always on a 24-hour standby, and before I became a manager, I used to work around the clock all the time. My job is actually a lot like yours."

"Eh? We save human lives, you fix machines."

"We save machines and data. Machines can be repaired or bought new, data are often irrecoverably lost."

The nurses still weren't convinced, "Yeah, but when we lose a patient, we lose a human life."

"True, but think about this. Dying is a natural process of life. When you lose a patient, the family grieves for the dead, they might even blame you or sue you for the loss. But as time passes, they accept the loss, recover, and then go on living. It is a fact that no one lives forever.

"For us computer guys, losing data is permanent. A manager accidentally deleted a file that he took days to make on the night before his big presentation to his bosses, and he came to us to bring back the file. How do you bring back the dead? He then went to his bosses to blame us for the loss. And each time he encounters a new problem, he remembers all his past problems, and the past never goes away. Essentially, my users never recover from their losses, and every loss is cumulative.

"My job is thankless like yours. Do you get thanked for lives saved? Me neither. No thanks, and always blames."


"Thank you for taking care of my mom. You guys are the best."

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