Needle & Thread

I was 2 feet away from a beating heart today.

This morning I awoke at the crack of dawn to complete my final extra clinical hours, this time in the Cardiovascular OR. Three words: A.MAZ.ING.

I observed an aortic valve replacement and the surgical team really stepped up and made me feel welcome.  I went through the whole process, from meeting the patient in pre-op to watching them prep and drape him and put him under.  Once everything was ready and the safety checks had been completed, the anesthesiologist set up a platform by his station and I got to stand at the patient’s head and peer over the drape into the sterile field.  As they cut through the pericardium, the heart emerged!  I literally had to catch my breath…I could have reached out and touched it!

The surgeon explained what he was doing step-by-step, and the anesthesiologist filled me in on how the entire team operated.  The craziest part was when they injected “cardioplegia” – a cooling agent with pure potassium to make the heart stop beating.  I watched on the EKG as the T-waves peaked, the QRS complexes widened, and the patient went into asystole before my very eyes.  They turned on the heart-lung bypass machine, clamped the aorta, and were off.  When the surgeon took out the stenosed valve, he held it up for me and pointed out the calcifications and fused leaflets.

After 2 hours, my feet ached, and I was cold as hell (those ORs are flippin’ freezing!), but I was absolutely pumped.  The human heart has always intrigued me, and to be that close….I am really beyond words.

In other news, our summer clinical placements were sent out today – I GOT PEDIATRICS!  Yay!!  I’ll be working Friday 12-hour shifts for 6 weeks, plus one extra Saturday shift, at a hospital that is known for its pediatric care.

It’s been a good day.

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