Imagine the well-known tale of Rip Van Winkle revisited this New Year. The protagonist of our story, Rip, having gone on a weekend excursion into the Catskills as part of a team building exercise for the hospital leadership team he had just been promoted into six months earlier from his Radiology Technologist position, decides to take a nap after the team finishes 4 hours on the ropes course. It is Spring, 1995.
He awakens in his well-appointed cabin to find it covered in dust and cobwebs. He stumbles out of bed and out of the cabin to find the entire property abandoned and in disrepair. Confused he eventually hikes out to the main road and eventually flags down a car with a very nice young couple and asks for a ride back to the city.
During the course of the ride, Rip cannot help but notice the technology in this car is simply remarkable! There is a car phone that plays through the radio, and the dashboard looks like something out of a Star Trek, Next Generation episode. There is a computerized Navigation system displayed on the dashboard that the couple accessed and manipulated by voice commands to input Rips home address. He expressed his awe at these devices and the couple laughed at him as if he was joking.
As they travelled the wife pulled out an 8 x 11 device that looked like a laptop, but had no keyboard and started watching a TV news program on FOX news. Rip saw no cords, no antennas, and was so intrigued that he leaned forward from the backseat and started watching and was completely confused as the broadcasters were discussing next steps that President Obama would be pushing for to assure that “Obamacare” would not be undone by the new Republican controlled Congress and Senate! President who? Obama what?
Over the course of the next two hours he sat silent and mystified as he continued to watch news story after news story that made sense only by matching it with the date at the bottom of the TV screen. April 1, 2015. He did not know how it was possible, but either he was going mad, was currently dreaming and unable to wake himself, or he had slept away 20 years of his life? He thought about opening discussion with the couple, but thought better of it realizing that people do not react well to having mad men in the backseat of their cars.
You can imagine the rest of the story. The couple dropped Rip off outside his home in the suburbs of the city, and he found the house and surrounding neighborhood to be 20 years older. Not surprisingly, his family no longer resided at the location. He walked a couple of miles to the local library, which was still there. After an hour or so of coaching from a young, pleasant librarian on how to research using Google, Rip sat mesmerized as he, in 3 short hours, was able to find out almost everything that had happened to his wife, son and daughter over the last 20 years. He wept as he read of his wife’s fatal car crash 8 years earlier, then again when he found his now 32-year-old daughter’s wedding notice two years later, and his son’s, now 30, licensure as a Medical Doctor in Radiology.
15 MINUTES OF FAME
The next few months were nothing short of fantastic. Reuniting with his son and daughter, DNA testing, and cellular analysis confirming that Rip was who he said he was, and that his body had somehow escaped aging over the last twenty years. Speculations ranging from alien abductions, to stasis, to wormhole time travel, to cloning all were debated on CNN and Fox News! Rip declined the Reality series, Biography and Lifetime movie offers that would have made him a very rich man.
Within a couple of years, Rip’s life settled into a new normal, working again as a Radiology tech. Digital X-ray was not that difficult to learn, and he really had no interest in 360 slice CT’s, 3T MRI’s, 3D Hybrid OR Angiography Suites that had become the rage in his chosen career field. People still broke wrists and needed x-rays. He still had meaningful work.
Over time he was able to establish a relationship with his children, and later grandchildren and that brought him joy to offset the sorrow of the loss of his beloved wife and his former life. All in all, he considered himself blessed for the strange life he had been appointed to live.
MORAL OF THE STORY
The thought occurred to Rip one day, that many of his peers went through their lives as asleep as he was. Missing the important time with family as their kids grew up, some losing spouses as well from death or divorce. At least he had a wake-up call that allowed him to change the rest of his life around what was truly important.