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Electricity in small packages

February 25, 2016
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Those convenient little bundles of energy known as batteries are everywhere.

They come in all sizes and shapes, ranging from the tiny dots that power hearing aids and watches to the triple As, double As, Cs and Ds found in everything from the kitchen clock to the flashlight in the car to the little units that power our electronic notebooks.

Of course, there are also those specialty batteries used for items ranging from rugged earth moving machinery to delicate medical testing equipment. In other words, the power packed in batteries runs the world.

When curiosity sent me into my research mode, I discovered to my surprise that Ben Franklin was actually credited with originating the term "battery" way back in 1748.

In my search, I also learned that a Primary Battery is one that can only be used once, and then must be discarded. That explains why our kitchen clock runs down at least once a year.

A secondary battery, however, is made to have its power restored. This is the rechargeable battery we're all familiar with.

Strange as it may seem, this fascination with batteries was initiated by my cardiologist. When I visited him several months ago, he told me casually, "Your pacemaker is due for a battery change early next year."

I like to think that I'm in control of a majority of things in my life.

I know how to put a new battery in my kitchen clock. I'm adept at changing the batteries in my hearing aids (yes, I've come to that point in life). Even the little battery-powered fan I use at my desk is no challenge when the small batteries are due for replacement.

Of course, there are some battery locations that require me to call in others for the actual act of changing or recharging.

For instance, a few weeks ago, I gratefully relied on a trio of tall, ladder-equipped firemen to change the batteries in my smoke detectors. And son Tim is my go-to guy when it comes to recharging my cell phone battery.

But when the cardiologist mentioned it was time for a new pacemaker battery, I realized this was one change that was beyond me. And the idea was more than a little daunting.

Fortunately, Dr. C. is a physician without equal in our region. I have relied on him for many years to keep my trusty ticker functioning smoothly.

We had a long talk and he explained just what this battery change entailed.

In the end, I told him I was confident he'd do a fine job. I only had two stipulations for the procedure.

He had to promise to stay awake for the process. I planned to sleep through it all.

The night before I was to meet Dr. C. for our battery date, my diabetic son, Tim, offered to give me one of his insulin pump batteries to save me the trouble of the upcoming event.

Though tempted, I had to decline his generous proposal since his pump and my "pacer" aren't powered in the same way.

I'm happy to say when I woke from my O.R. nap, Dr. C. reported all went well and the pacer was back to full power for another seven years.

It's been two weeks now and the trusty pacer is quietly doing its thing under a rather impressive incision area in my left upper chest.

I was given only one restriction. I'm not to raise my left arm above my head for six weeks.

Fortunately, I have no plans to serve as a hand-waving Parade Marshall any time soon.



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