I met today with at least a dozen folks at Boston Scientific (BSC), where I'd been invited to share my findings re: a person (me) with implanted cardioverter doing welding with processes that involve an electric arc. There are several such processes in common use. My interest and investigation focussed on two such processes that I've used and want to continue to use. You may recall that the usual guidance is "don't do it" and that I wasn't satisfied with that broad-brush treatment so I did a bit of investigation. The good folks at BSC were very helpful about providing me technical info beyond "don't do it", and they were very interested in my findings. They have a huge campus in a northern suburb of St. Paul. I had no idea they were this large. See attached satellite shot. I know the parts contained in my red outline are Guidant (now BSC) and some of the buildings outside my red bound may also be theirs. Upon arrival I was met by Ken and we walked thru a long skyway encircled in yellow on the attached sat view. This skyway has display cases showing their history, and the walls are lined with many hundreds of patent plaques. There are 8 senior technical fellows on this campus, four of them attended this meeting. I suspect that is quite unusual. In my experience, it usually takes at least a vice presidential presence to get more than two or three senior fellows in the same meeting. The rep who assisted with my implant was also there. They showed me a Telegen that was all taken apart so I could see what was inside. They loved it when I got my magnifying glass out of my pocket. "Does that lens have video?" "Oh yeah, spread-spectrum wireless -- see that innocent-looking van down there in the parking lot?" They make their own capacitors, lithium-iodine batteries and titanium cans. Guidant actually pioneered the use of lithium-iodine batteries in these devices, Medtronic followed somewhat later. During an excellent lunch they told me quite a lot about the device I have, including the signal processing technology used -- fascinating! The presenter was delighted to see that I was tracking just fine. When I'd paraphrase to check my understanding he'd beam and say "yes! That's exactly right!" I also saw some history. Implanting a cardioverter as recently as the 80's was a big deal: several hours of surgery which included splitting the sternum and sewing a conductive patch to the heart. The devices were nearly the size of a paperback book. I'm definitely glad I waited. I got to see leads like those that were snaked thru my veins and lodged in my heart. I can see how that's a tricky bit of work. The physician is guided by real-time fluoroscopy but it's still a good trick to get a lead to take a hard left when it must do so to get where it needs to be. Then it was my turn. I'd prepared a powerpoint presentation just to remain more or less organized ... but I had NO "bullet" word slides. I purely hate those impediments to discourse. I brought it on an USB stick because Ken had said all of their conference rooms have 'puters and projectors that someone presumably has made work together. That seemed simpler than messing with my laptop. My slides were all photographs of the instrumentation I built, lab setups, scans of pages from my lab databook including scribbles and X-outs, oscilloscope screen shots, etc. I suppose I spoke for about 45 minutes not including discussion time. I invited open discussion and spontaneous questions any time. The atmosphere was very casual and collegial. I brought most of the hardware I'd built as "finger food" to pass around and look at. Engineers love "real stuff". They seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. One asked, "you did all of this in a week and a half?" "Uh, more like 5 days ... but I was motivated!" At another juncture someone asked how I might choose between welding processes as in TIG vs MIG. I gave several reasons, including that TIG is much more amenable to precise welding of small objects like "butt welding needles together." I got an odd look. "Why on Earth would you butt-weld needles together?" I grinned and said, "hey, I'm retired, I don't have to make sense!" They loved it. These folks clearly care about what they do beyond production of income. They see preservation and extension of quality life as what they do. There are signs in the parking lot depicting active people doing what they want to do. Welding was and is something I wanted to continue doing, and by golly I'm doing it. I heard one comment, "not exactly our typical customer..." Another said "geez, kin we hire him?" The general impression seemed to be that they were amazed at how thorough I had been in the limited time I had. That was easy to explain: avoidance of mulekicks to chest is an excellent motivator. One younger engineer, maybe mid-30's, introduced himself as being pretty much the fields and EMI guy. His name was Kippola. I said, "are you a Finn?" The tech rep lady looked at me like "did you really say that?" but Mr. Kippola grinned, said "yup"! "Michigan Tech?" He beamed. "Yup!" "AW RIGHT! We're probably the only two in the room that can pronounce sauna correctly." He laughed and agreed. It is possible to trick this device with an external magnet to either disable delivery of shock therapy or just to record what it's seeing. It can then be remotely interrogated -- it has wireless telemetry. I knew this before but the doc slammed that lid shut right now. Today the tech rep sorta conspiratorally said that she'd be talking to both my Dr. and the device nurse. This could get interesting. I was impressed with her immediately upon first meeting post-implant, in my hospital room early next morning. High-energy, totally open to my many questions and she had answers. I left a CD with them that has my powerpoint slides, all of my data, mfrs datasheets of key parts I used to make my instrumentation, photos, etc etc that pretty much documents everything I did, how I did it and why, what I was thinking, and my results and conclusions. Someone mentioned patent possibilities. I said as far as I'm concerned my stuff is all available free to anyone interested. I won't post it, though, because it's 65 megs. They gave me a lapel pin that I think is a total hoot: it's a red heart with a yellow lightning bolt. They actually gave me two of them, one for Mary. They also gave me a very nice polo shirt with "Boston Scientific" embroidered over the pocket. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time today!
14 years ago