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Searching for Superheros

Searching For Superheros

If you were anything like me as a child, you looked up to every superhero in the comics and cartoons. We wanted to be as strong as Superman, as smart as Batman, and as fast as the flash. Some people carry their love for these characters their wholes lives, always striving to live up to their fictional grandeur. I'll provide a few examples:

  • I see guys in the gym wearing Superman or Batman shirts all the time. Some of them even take extreme amounts of anabolic steroids to attain that superhero-like physique (occasionally at the cost of their own health). Anyone who has seen the current condition of once-famed Ronnie Coleman can see the detrimental aftermath of trying to chase superhero status.

  • People chase superhero status with technology as well. I recently came across this video about the "real Ironman" who built an amazing flying suit. The video is worth checking out: I remember a Mythbusters episode dedicated to superhero tech/gadgets as well.

  • People chase superhero status by training for incredible skills and abilities as well. I was once on the set of Stan Lee's Superhumans for "the human spring" who could do flips overs cars. If you watch the episode, I'm the very young paramedic who they show (I think I was about 20 at the time). The show's premise was to find people who had abilities like that of fictional characters. Some of these people train a certain skill all their life to showcase what they can do that perhaps no one else in the world can.

  • Another way is by acts of community service and helping those in need. Did you know that your own city might have its own "superhero?" Do a quick search on this site: and see what you find. You will see how far people will go to chase the superhero dream (please don't get any ideas). Some of them organize crime watches, other organize community movements, while still others make it their mission to feed and shelter the homeless.

  • Don't forget brain power. Not all superheroes are strong; some are really smart instead. People try to chase this superhuman ability with intense study and sometimes drugs. The "nootropic" craze has been going on for years as people try to find substances that will give them a mental edge. Many products make wild claims about what they can do for your cognitive abilities if you just take their simple (and usually expensive) OTC pill.

  • Others just like to pretend for a little while. Every year people go to "Comic-Con" and many other events dressed up like their favorite fictional characters from comics, movies, TV, and video games. Some of the costumes are extremely well done and realistic. People put a lot of time and effort in to looking like their idol (some more than others).


Many of us go see the movies and think: 'WOW! It's amazing what the hero can do!' I personally love going to see Marvel and DC movies because it reminds me of the cartoons I used to watch as a kid. The movies are usually pretty awful, but they are a good bit of entertainment for a couple of hours (not to mention our movie theatre now serves food and alcohol).

But then… in our minds, we know it's all fiction. People can’t really jump over buildings in a single bound, they can’t talk to fish, and they can’t make anyone tell the truth by the employment of a magic lasso. This is where the thought process of most people stops. For others, the idea sticks in a different way.

Some people believe that superheroes give us an idea to strive towards. Fictional characters are an interesting facet in our society. If someone is extremely fast, people may compare them to The Flash. If someone is extremely strong, we may compare them to Superman. An extremely talented rock climber may get the Spider-Man reference from time to time. Have you seen the guys who do Parkour? They jump around like Batman. We subconsciously think of these characters when we see someone do something incredible. We think and compare ourselves and others to these characters - even if we don't really realize it.

Something always stuck out to me about Batman, though. He was just a guy who trained really hard to become a superhero (well, I guess the money helped a little). Bruce Wayne wasn’t born on another planet, he wasn’t struck by lightning, he wasn’t an Amazon, and he wasn’t bit by a radioactive spider. Bruce Wayne was just like everyone else. He represented what a normal human was capable of. So what makes Batman a superhero even though he doesn't have any real superpowers?

Real Superpowers

Batman has at least a few superpowers - willpower, intelligence, confidence, and a clear mission. This is what allows him to hang out with Superman and Wonder Woman and not feel like a chump. What if he didn't have any of that?

Imagine if you had to go to school to be a superhero (I think there was a movie based on this premise once). Picture Batman in the graduating class. Before Batman graduated he was really excited, but after school was over he got kind of lazy. He didn’t care about chasing The Joker anymore, and mostly just wanted to get dressed up in his Batman outfit to be seen, didn’t really care about fighting crime, and pretty much just wanted to DRIVE the Batmobile around and make Robin do all the work.

Picture this scene: Robin just finished fighting the Joker mostly by himself. Batman kind of half-heatedly helped and carried some of the gadgets, but clearly did not have much interest. The Joker is now in cuffs and they're loading him into the Batmobile to take him to jail.

Batman: Robin, you need anything before we go?

Robin: hm.. actually I think I-

Batman: COOL! sooooo... I’ll drive… I’ll shout our ETA to Arkham Asylum back in a few.. Don’t forget to call n tell them we’re coming - I think the number is in the Batphone- maybe. eh. you'll find it.

Robin: um I-

Batman: *SLAM!*

To make matters worse, Robin even had to write the report.

This wouldn't make for a very good movie, would it? Does it remind you of anyone? Is it you?

Are We Superheros?

What makes Batman special is his training. Archilochus once said: "We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training." How much have we trained? I can guarantee you if you have received most of your training during school, you're not nearly trained enough. School gives most of us minimal competence. If you want to be anything more than minimally qualified, you have to train. I want you to imagine if Batman had your job - Paramedic, Doctor, PA, Nurse, whatever. How good would he be at your job? Do you ever think he would...

Not knowing everything there is to know about your job?

Forget his protocols?

Not know medication math?

Not possess obscure 'once in a lifetime type medical knowledge?

Not know the ins and outs of every single procedure?

Be unprepared for any type of patient?

Be unfamiliar with his equipment?

Be behind on research?

I'll say it again. Superheros give us an image or an idea to strive towards. Since you can't fly, the next best thing you can do is try to be a content expert for the patients you're trying to help. For us in emergency medicine, this can be hard. You never know what kind of patient you're going to encounter next. However, you can train for the things you know you can control. How many times have you gone through the best way to do a resuscitation / delayed sequence intubation? How many times have you gone through troubleshooting your IV pump? How often do you practice putting a central line in - or a humeral head IO? Once or twice? Or hundreds of times? When was the last time you learned something new and useful? Or do you just spend your downtime browsing Facebook? When you show up in your superhero costume (uniform/scrubs), will your appearance, demeanor, and posture make your patient think, 'Thank God!' or 'Oh No!'?

Clearly, there is a big difference between the person who wants to be their patient's superhero and the person who just shows up for a paycheck. I will leave you with this thought:

Your patient is searching for superheroes in their time of need. Would people use that word to describe you?

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