Friday, 5 April 2013

Error Horror


All nurses are reminded to switch off the equipment, BOTH on the base of the apparatus AND on the MAIN switch (the red knob by the door).

Dr Thompson

If St Johns Hospital had had a night security guard who actually did his patrols, rather than hang about A&E and their new blonde night nurse, things might have ended differently. As it was, there was no one to notice the faint hum that started in the printer room of the Engineering Department a little before 2:30am.

But it was not the fault of the guard as much as it was Dr Thompsons. After all she was the one who had forgotten the main switch (the red knob by the door) as she left for the evening, despite being so strict with her nurses on the matter.
The pitch of the humming in the dark and humid printer room increased slightly before settling back down at a barely audible level when the machinery had warmed up. The very first 3D printers on the market, only 20 years or so ago, had made an absolute racket warming up, not to mention during the painstakingly long printing job - the arm holding printer nozzle screeching every time it passed slowly over the printing dish, administering a miniscule amount of tissue sample. The latest models however were silent and effective, and both the nozzle arm and the printing dish moved smooth and fast. A well trained orthopedics nurse, provided he or she had the skills to prepare a good quality mixture of progenitor stem cells and calcium phosphate, could grow a femur in less than two hours. The printing of both epithelial and muscular tissues was a lot faster than that, depending on the sample size.
It was an easy job really, and there were many specialists in the hospital who considered Dr. Thompson a little more than a janitor, and her department was commonly referred to as ‘Stationary’. All she requested was a blood sample of the patient to be sent to the Engineering Department, and a transfer of MRI and X-ray data straight to the designated printer, and an hour or so later a cooler box would appear, its content ready to be fitted.
This afternoon had seen a bit of a rush, and all five of the printers had been running in parallel. A traffic accident up town, involving three cars and a school bus, had brought with it an urgent need for major organs as well as bone fragments. Dr Thompson also knew the demand for nervous tissue would increase drastically in the following days. As the more fortunate of the crash victims would start to line up outside the hospital, complaining of neck pain after whiplash-injuries, she would need to put through a large order of myelin base for nerve fiber production.

Perhaps if the day had been a little less stressful Dr Thompson would not have forgotten to switch off the main switch by the door.
The soft humming of the printers went unnoticed through the night.

At 6.00am the night guard left the A&E for a final sweep of the building before handing over to his daytime replacement. He peeked in to the various wards on his way along the long corridor that made up the spine on the hospital building, and exchanged a few words with some of the night staff. Most wards were slowly and sleepily starting to stir, as the staff was getting ready to leave their shifts after a calm night.  The night guard stopped at the end of the corridor, put his key into the lock of the double doors of the Engineering Department, and entered the dark hallway. Having no patients, there was no need for nighttime personnel. One of the nurses was on call for emergency organ printing, but other than that the department was left unmanned during the night. With his mind still on the sweet new night nurse in the A&E, the guard did not registered the soft touch to his leg as something brushed past on the floor and into main hospital corridor. He shone his torch around for his usual quick check of the department, and turned around ready to leave. The soft warm mask that engulfed his whole face came out of nowhere. Only the instant primal thoughts of claustrophobic panic registered in the brain of the guard before the acid had melted through his skull.

Dr Thompson grabbed a morning take-away coffee from the small café next to her flat, and jumped into the car. She was in an extremely bad mood for two reasons. First, she had barely had any sleep after waking up at 3.00am with fresh memories of a nightmare.  A horrifying dream involving a mish mash of body parts she had recently printed, creating a crab-like being out of nine finger joints, an assortment of muscular tissue and a half-made bag of acid-producing stomach lining.  Secondly, she had turned on her computer in the morning only to find an angry email from the hospital manager. Apparently that idiot from IT had been gossiping and revealed that she had not updated her anti-virus software on the departmental computer for months.
Jesus. She was always annoyed at people worrying about technology and computers, when all she was interested in was to help people, and practice her specific form of art - bio-sculpting masterpieces. With a smile on her face she thought about the amusing pun of forgetting to update an anti-virus program in a hospital. Perhaps the man from IT thought it helped against the influenza virus too? 
Seriously, what harm could it possibly do?


  1. Really good concept! I would love to see a movie based on this. 3D printing really opens up a whole new world of possibilities - Rise of the Machines style!

    1. Happy you liked it!
      Science and medicine develops so quickly these days, it sometimes feels like we are in a science fiction setting already..

  2. I would totally read this book Tee. I love your stories I am amazed at how well you write if not a little disturbed at how dark the last one was but did that not actually happen in the recent school shooting?

    1. Cheers Laura!
      Yes, the last story is in fact completely true in essence! A fantastic woman ..
      Read more here:

  3. GRYMT att du satte igång och bara körde! Du kommer se resultaten av detta långt fram i tiden! :D

    Lycka till Boss!


  4. Well this story clearly was of interest to me, anything relating to 3D printing is automatically amazing. I think it's my favourite thing I've learned about in the past few years. Printing bones and now organic matter is simply amazing.

    Perhaps Dr Thompson knew about this machine's behavioural issues, is this why she put up a notice? "Seriously, what harm could it possibly do?" - is this said with a slight smirk on Dr Thompson's face? I don't trust this woman, I think she was jealous of this new fancy woman down in A&E and is really after the night security guard for herself. If she can't have him... no one can (except the 3D printer).


    1. Ahaha! I love your analysis!
      I actually didnt like Dr Thompson myself either.. As I wrote her I realised she was really arrogant. So, yes, it is definitely said with a smirk on her face :)