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Subplot: Super-EMP at a Hospital
Old 09-18-2014, 08:56 AM   #1
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Subplot: Super-EMP at a Hospital

I'd like some more brainstorming help with another subplot.

The background is that an alien presence has caused an EMP-like event that fries all electronics everywhere in the US from the East Coast to Nevada.

A patient is in a hospital hooked up to some machine, and of course the machine fails. The patient doesn't die, but will need to have access to a working machine within weeks, or problems will result (possibly death).

My current idea is that the patient is undergoing dialysis following a crush injury that resulted in kidney problems. The dialysis machine stops. How soon would she need a new machine? Would she die if she doesn't get one?

How bad would the crush injury have to be?

But it doesn't have to be dialysis.

Thanks for the help.
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Old 09-18-2014, 09:11 AM   #2
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Forget dialysis. Go for a ventilator. Death in minutes if the power goes out, unless a staff member can ventilate using a resuscitation bag. In any single large hospital, there will be dozens of such patients.
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Old 09-18-2014, 09:55 AM   #3
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Not sure kidney failure fits the timeline you want for your plot:
  • In-center hemodialysis. You go to a hospital or a dialysis center. Hemodialysis usually is done 3 days a week and takes 3 to 5 hours a day.
  • Home hemodialysis. After you are trained, you do your dialysis treatments at home. Hemodialysis is usually done 3 days a week (or every other day). Discuss with your doctor how long each session needs to be. A session could be as long as 6 hours, which may help you feel better.
  • Daily home hemodialysis. After you are trained, you do your dialysis treatments at home. Hemodialysis is done 5 to 7 days a week. Each session takes about 3 hours.
  • Nocturnal home hemodialysis. After you are trained, you do your dialysis treatments at home. Hemodialysis is done 3 to 7 nights a week. Each session is done overnight (about 6 to 8 hours).
Hemodialysis
When she gets home I will ask my daughter (a nurse) what disease / treatment she thinks would fit a scenario of must get back on a machine say once a week…
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Old 09-18-2014, 10:46 PM   #4
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When this book comes out I really want to read it. Okay, you've already got the suspense built....
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Old 09-18-2014, 11:44 PM   #5
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Al , I'm going in for a minor operation in two weeks , under general anesthesia. I think I am going to have to put you on ignore till after the operation . L.O.L.
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Old 09-19-2014, 11:13 AM   #6
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Right now, I'd like to have the person not die, but need to continue whatever treatment within weeks. Then I'll have the suspense of "Will he/she be able to get a working dialysis or other machine in time?" Perhaps planes will be sent to population centers to evacuate critical patients.

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Old 09-19-2014, 11:15 AM   #7
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Thanks, Walt. I'll probably be looking for beta readers at some point. I'm at 56,000 words so far, and I'm expecting the final book to be around 90,000 words.

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Old 09-19-2014, 11:48 AM   #8
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there was a MASH episode where they jerry-rigged a non-electric dialysis machine. Wangen or Wanken...somthing. used couple of large jars with liquid running between. prolly used suction/vacuum somehow
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Old 09-20-2014, 09:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
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there was a MASH episode where they jerry-rigged a non-electric dialysis machine. Wangen or Wanken...somthing. used couple of large jars with liquid running between. prolly used suction/vacuum somehow
Check this out. This is when you know you have a bad HMO:



I've got a good dialysis scenario now.

Next question: What patients will die immediately? Patients on ventilators. Patients in the middle of surgery. Patients about to be defibrillated.

Others?

Thanks.
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Old 09-20-2014, 09:59 AM   #10
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Is this reasonable?
In the ICU, three patients who had been on ventilators minutes before were being kept alive with resuscitation bags. One of the nurses waved Marie over.
“Are you a patient?” The nurse looked at Marie but kept pumping the bag.
“Yes.” Close enough.
“I need to help other patients. Can you do this?”
“Just tell me how,” said Marie.
The nurse demonstrated how to hold the mask securely while pumping the bag. “I’ll try to find someone else to help. It’s easier with two people.”
“How will I know if I’m squeezing too fast or too slowly?”

What would the nurse answer to that last question?
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Old 09-20-2014, 12:19 PM   #11
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If I remember correctly, EMP does not do damage to electronics that are not active. i.e. not powered. If this is true, the time to get a working unit from another hospital/clinic is what your would have. Seeme to me dialysis would work ok.
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Old 09-20-2014, 12:22 PM   #12
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This is EMP on steroids caused by an alien. Everything electronic is zapped. Even batteries and stuff in Faraday cages.

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Old 09-20-2014, 03:14 PM   #13
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This is EMP on steroids caused by an alien. Everything electronic is zapped. Even batteries and stuff in Faraday cages.

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Ah. An electro-magnetic pulse that doesn't bother with the fiddly laws of electro-magnetism.

This sounds less like hard science fiction and more like the 'Star Trek' fantasy stuff. Blame it all on the alien's mastery of Trombonic Particle Fluxes or some such, and you're good to go. Any Trek writer can tell you there's no plot hole a little technobabble can't pave over. :-)



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Old 09-20-2014, 04:03 PM   #14
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Why not let stuff in Faraday cages survive? It's not like hospitals keep a bunch of spare equipment in metal protective boxes in expectation of EMP being an ongoing problem. That also lets you bring working machines back into the story later if you need them (maybe some were in a shipping container somewhere), and keeps the physics readers happy that you are mostly staying in bounds of actual science. Big enough pulses can penetrate imperfect Faraday cages if you need that, too.

Really big EMP (or solar events) can fry open wiring, like telegraph/telephone wires, so you can have a lot of latitude for story telling and still keep the science plausible.
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Old 09-20-2014, 08:13 PM   #15
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Blame it all on the alien's mastery of Trombonic Particle Fluxes or some such
Easily explainable with modern swing theory.
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