The Challenge: Introduction


This is a brief introduction into a very interesting challenge placed in front of me just yesterday. For you to understand the challenge, I must explain the origins first. I am a biomedical engineer, I work in and out of hospitals, and I despise them. The mere thought of getting up in the morning and feeling that stench–a combination of bleach, blood, sweat and other unnameable bodily fluids–brings me just a bit down. Why do I do it? Because, no matter how much I try, I can’t bear the thought of having someone else do the job and do it badly.

After all, it is life we are dealing with.

This story begins one Saturday morning, when I got a call to deliver a much needed product to the hospital. I wasn’t supposed to get the call, they just couldn’t reach my coworker. Diligently I drove to the office, got into the warehouse and climbed up a ladder to the fifth level, approximately thirty feet off the ground. I wasn’t grumpy, I wasn’t displeased, I was just in a hurry.

That was the mistake.

I got the equipment, four small boxes, so I dropped them to my coworker, a nurse fortunately, who quickly stowed them away in her car. I then placed my feet on the ladder and, for just seconds, everything stood still. (Cliché, I know, but that’s what I felt). Then, like a fast forward button, the ladder decided to move, with me on top. Turns out Isaac Newton was right, there is a law of gravity.

I hit my shoulder first, I clearly remember, and it popped out immediately. I lost grip, my right arm didn’t respond. My body swayed backwards and my neck hit the edge of the fourth level. I bounced forward and my chest hit the third level–at that precise moment, I ran out of breath. I then bounced backwards and hit the middle of back with the second level.

I fell on my butt and bounced, only to land on my back, completely flat.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think of anything else but walking again. I tried and tried but for one and a half minutes I could not move my legs. My coworker rushed to me and the rest is a bit of a blur, until I got to the damned x-ray machine. The cold surface sent chills up my spine, my breath was quick and almost ineffective, and my entire chest seemed to compress.

“Don’t move, we don’t know the extent of the damage on your spine,” the doctor said. And so I did. I didn’t move. While the machine took more and more x-rays, I looked up to the ceiling and wondered: is this it? Is there anything else or am I not going to move my legs forever more?

That, people, is the worst feeling I’ve gone through: to be completely unable to answer a question as simple as: am I going to walk to the bathroom tomorrow?

Minutes seemed eternal. I could hear them speak–I believe a resident was there, all excited because he was getting an exciting case–whispering and I’m pretty sure they turned to me and analyzed every inch of my body as if I were a freak. The big-shot doctor walked over to me and looked down straight into my eyes.

I’ve never been so nervous in my life.

“You’re fine,” he smiled, “you’re just banged up.”

And here I am. What’s the challenge, you ask? I want you to try and guess it.