Cardiac Surgeon, William Springer- running a half marathon.
Have you ever noticed that when you are in a serious situation on bypass- or things start to go awfully wrong, that time seems to slow a bit, and you are actually accomplishing the tasks needed to fix the situation much faster than you perceive it to be? As you decompress and debrief, other people are letting you know how fast it really went down, when in your eyes- it seemed to last an eternity?
In our profession the unexpected can manifest itself very very quickly, with potentially disastrous consequences. It’s how well we are mentally prepared that can make a life or death difference for the patient…
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One of the strangest side-effects of intense fear is time dilation, the apparent slowing-down of time. It’s a common trope in movies and TV shows, like the memorable scene from The Matrix in which time slows down so dramatically that bullets fired at the hero seem to move at a walking pace. In real life, our perceptions aren’t keyed up quite that dramatically, but survivors of life-and-death situations often report that things seem to take longer to happen, objects fall more slowly, and they’re capable of complex thoughts in what would normally be the blink of an eye.
Now a research team from Israel reports that not only does time slow down, but that it slows down more for some than for others. Anxious people, they found, experience greater time dilation in response to the same threat stimuli.
Critical Incident Reactions — What If I Freeze?
“Being under tremendous stress is a very bad time to start making a plan to survive, because your creative thinking skills, like your hearing and vision, are greatly diminished by stress.
But, this is a very good time to carry out plans that have been thought out and rehearsed.”
Hence our constant repetition and training. Same as the Marine Corps, sometimes we members of the heart team- we just need to react- and get past the shock of the unexpected- and rely on our experience and training.
Percent of people & Type of Perceptual Distortion
88% Diminished hearing
81% Tunnel vision
78% Automatic pilot
64% Time seems slowed down
66% Heightened visual clarity
63% Memory loss for some parts of the event
58% Memory loss for some of your own actions
49% Dissociation; detachment
34% Intrusive, irrelevant thoughts
21% Memory distortion (you “remember” things that did not actually happen)
15% Intensified sounds
15% Time seems speeded up
12% Temporary paralysis
Dr. Alexis Artwohl’s Perceptual Distortion Survey Results