The Pulse of a Brain Surgeon's Patient

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A "noise" is no longer an annoyance when it serves a purpose. Brain surgeon James Killefer of Knoxville, Tenn., likes the simple sound in the operating room of the patient's pulse amplified by a special machine. It reminds him that the patient is what it's all about.


A noise is no longer an annoyance when it serves a purpose. Today's listener sound clip finds an importance in a noise heard in his workplace.

JAMES KILLEFER: My name is James Killefer. I'm a neurological surgeon in Knoxville, Tennessee at the University of Tennessee.


KILLEFER: In my occupation, I do brain and spine surgery. The sound that I find compelling at my work is a very simple sound in the operating room. It's the sound of the pulse oximeter that measures the rate of the pulse.


KILLEFER: In the 21st-century operating room, there are lots of noises. There are drills...


KILLEFER: ...suctions...


KILLEFER: ...all sorts of machines, people talking - there's a lot of ruckus.


KILLEFER: Sometimes, I just like to have everybody stop talking, and I'd like to turn all the stuff off, even pinch the suction off and just listen to that simple sound, beep, beep, beep, beep.


KILLEFER: It's the simple sound of life that reminds us that we're there for the person in front of us, not there for all the technology and ruckus around us.


NORRIS: Brain surgeon James Killefer of Knoxville, Tennessee, with his sound clip.

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