The technology Roy Sharma works with at the Hospital for Sick Children was the stuff of science fiction a few decades ago, and it ranges from EEG and MRI machines to even more specialized equipment that will lay out the brain’s activity into a grid, or measure every bit of magnetic activity it issues to the nervous system. It has the potential to be powerfully intimidating to adults, so it takes a very special skill to help children relax and be comfortable while it’s being used to produce life-saving data.
Sharma’s official title is Team Leader of the Neurophysiology Department at Sick Kids, where he’s worked for 28 years after training at UBC and the British Columbia Institute of Technology in electrophysiology. He recently received the hospital’s Robert Salter Humanitarian Award for his work, having been nominated by his colleagues for his dedication, and his “patience and compassion with children and families.” One letter of recommendation described him as a “calming force” with a little boy panicking before epilepsy surgery.
“Working here is a different environment than most places,” Sharma says. “Because you’re working with kids it’s a challenging environment, but it’s a unique environment where you can make a difference. The kids are so different, they’re needy sometimes, they can be difficult and if you provide a good environment for them to co-operate — so the things we do here that are unique are, a child may need sedation for a procedure, but we try to use our charm and our personalities and skills to avoid the sedation. Parents are so happy that can be accomplished.”
With a focus on epilepsy treatment and research, Sharma’s team is able to use conventional EEG machines as well as cutting-edge machines like the Magneto Encephelogram (MEG) to help surgeons work from three-dimensional visualizations of brain activity to pinpoint potentially epileptogenic areas of the brain. Over the years, maintenance of machines has given way to mastering networks and databases, transfer and compression rates for data and video being stored in the hospital’s system as computers have standardized much of the technology.
“There’s a long-term bond we develop with the doctors, and it’s unique to Sick Kids,” Sharma says. “In some ways there’s no separation between technologist and physician — we’re like a team, and we work together.”