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"Gentle." "Kind." "Outstanding." "The best tech ever." These are the words families share to describe Zach Deviney, a polysomnographic technologist in Cook Children's Sleep Study.
"Those are the same words that could describe all of my coworkers that I work with daily or nightly," he humbly said. "It's a group effort and bigger than the individuals. We all take care of our patients with a passion for what we do for a living."
Polysomnography Manager Amy Gray agrees whole-heartedly. "Each sleep technologist on our team of 10 takes great pride in their work and is extremely creative in their endeavors to obtain a clean sleep study for our patients," she shared. "And I'm proud that Zach is an important part of this team."
For Zach, the connections he's able to make with patients and their parents isn't only rooted in more than 16 years of sleep technologist experience. He's been in the bed as well, undergoing several studies due to his own sleep apnea.
"You've got to let the parent know that you're there for their kiddo and empathy goes a long way to build that trust," Zach said. "I can relate to all of my patients because I've been in that bed with all the wires on me. Parents and the patient knowing this definitely helps calm that anxiety."
When looking at what a sleep studies involves, it's understandable why it can be daunting. Over the course of a study, sensors and electrodes record a patient's vital signs, as well as brain waves, heart activity, oxygen levels and breathing activity. This is important because fragmented and otherwise poor sleep can influence growth and development, including academic performance in older children and behavior at any age.
Amy added, "Our sleep technologists play a pivotal role in improving the health of children in our community with their unique age-specific skillset to obtain a quality sleep study for our pediatric population."
Zach has a similar, succinct outlook on the role they play. "We get to solve problems and make sure these patients get the right treatment," he said. “I firmly believe that we save lives for a living or, at the least, we improve the quality of life for these children."
The diversity of diagnoses for his patients, along with the dynamic of the parents, means that he doesn't get to settle into one approach but must adjust accordingly. "Each child is going to be different and you have to adapt to what's going on," Zach explained. "If I have a little kid, the slow and patient approach with him is needed. Maybe turn it into a little game. But we also have to be mindful of the nervousness and anxiety of the parents. That requires us to be empathetically thorough when discussing the plans. The support of the parents is absolutely necessary."
Gratefully, Zach achieves this when considering the recurring theme in those words of praise from parents. "He talked both to me and my daughter and told her all that he was doing," one mother shared. "She's only 2 years old but that did not matter to him at all." Taking the time to ensure that everyone understands what's in store is the secret to a successful sleep study.
During the course of the study, the patient is very much in a vulnerable state where trust and faith in the person caring for them is essential for all. Zach recognizes that responsibility but isn't overwhelmed by the work because he loves it.
"I love helping finding the answers to what may be keeping a child from a good night's sleep, which could easily lead to them getting sick," he said. "You know the saying, 'If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life?' That's pretty much sums up how I feel about this job and the exceptional team I work alongside."
This prevailing sense of commitment, teamwork and purpose that Zach embodies is precisely the spirit of the phrase #WeAreCookChildrens.