Jain, a native of New Delhi, India, recently won the 2008 Tenet Hero award for providing "quality, compassionate care" to the steady stream of patients he analyzes and tests daily in his role as the hospital's echocardiography technologist. While most of those whose hearts he "investigates" (the medical term for what he does) score acceptable points on the non-invasive echo cardiology processor, it's those who don't that have Jain to credit for early detection of troubling problems.
Most who are referred to Jain by their personal physician have experienced some type of chest pain or have become tired after just a brief walk. Medicine, exercise, and a better diet and lifestyle usually cure the condition after Jain has determined there's no damage to the heart or surrounding arteries. But every once in a while, he'll spot trouble in the way the heart is functioning or even its shape. He quickly calls in a cardiologist, and procedures or surgeries are scheduled to open up a nearly blocked artery or repair more serious heart damage.
Patients with high stress, hypertension, high blood pressures and previously undetected heart murmurs are the ones Jain spots readily with the advanced diagnostic imaging, ultrasound and echocardiography technology now available. Recently he found infection from a patient's recent gum surgery had worked its way down to the heart, threatening serious damage until stopped by antibiotics.
For patients, though, it's Jain's skillful "bedside manners" that have made him a winner among the hospital's technical staff. Easy-going with a calming influence on often-nervous patients, Jain talks them through the visuals of their hearts that show up on a computer screen. He's careful never to say "You're fine" or to convey bad news, however, leaving that to the medical cardiologists at the San Ramon hospital, but a smile and pat on the shoulder can put the patient at ease.
"I'll just say that I have very good views of your heart and good information," Jain said. "I tell them that I am not a doctor and our cardiologist will have to review the imaging, ultrasound and echo results and pictures before going over the results with them. But everybody who comes into a hospital has worries and I do my best to make them feel comfortable."
Many patients Jain has examined have returned in good spirits and healthy after the heart conditions he detected have been corrected. One woman whose right ventricle pressure showed up on Jain's screen as 110--when the normal is 25--was at risk of what doctors call a "blow out" had she gone much longer without surgery. She came back in good health and jubilant, asking Jain to also check her daughter because of her family's history of heart disease.
Another patient was wheeled into the hospital's emergency room at 2 a.m. with severe chest pains and the cardiologist on duty called Jain at home to rush to the hospital to investigate the problem. Jain found fluids leaking around the heart which only the echo sound technique could pinpoint. Surgeons operated to release the pressure and the 36-year-old, who had been near death, was recovering and even joking with her worried husband before Jain went back home.
For Jain, his work and the good results he has brought to patients at San Ramon Regional is part of a continuing success story that started back in New Delhi, India, where he was born in 1966. Raised by his grandmother after his parents died when he was a teenager, Jain saved enough money and made the right contacts to come to the U.S. in June 2001, just before 9/11 when most visas became hard to obtain. Moving in with friends first in New York, an acquaintance persuaded a relative with a restaurant in Walnut Creek to pay Jain's travel here, where he worked at the new Indian eatery for a while.
Later, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco, both to take a series of courses that eventually led to passing his registry exams in medical technology and to perfect his English. All the while, he worked at a 7-Eleven store in Walnut Creek to pay the bills. In September 2003, he was hired by San Ramon Regional and at that time brought his wife Meenu and their two children to Pleasanton, where they bought a home. Meenu is a teacher aide at Hidden Hills Elementary School in San Ramon. Their son Raja, 14, attends the eighth grade at Harvest Park Middle School in Pleasanton; daughter Bhavya, 9, is in the third grade at Mohr Elementary School.
In naming him the recipient of Tenet's Hero award, Sandra Sanfilippo Ryan, marketing manager for San Ramon Regional, a Tenet Corp. hospital, said:
"This loyal, hard working employee takes pride in the work he does. His respect for patients and co-workers reminds us all of an ideal and role model for which we all should strive.
"We know that there are many instances throughout Tenet where lives are saved and extraordinary feats accomplished every day. Ajay (Jain) represents the employee who overcame personal struggle to fulfill his dream to do an ordinary thing-take care of patients in an extraordinary way."