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The Standard: “Open Your Heart” Takes on New Meaning

By Luke Swiatek ‘17
On November 7, 2017, I had the privilege of attending a field trip to Christ Hospital, where our anatomy class, taught by Mr. Dunne, was able to observe an open heart surgery. Going into the trip, I was a little skeptical about the whole ordeal, because I wasn’t sure how I would react to such a gruesome procedure. I’ve always been interested in the medical field, but mainly just nursing, so I’ve never really looked into these types of surgeries. My outlook on the trip was that I was going to end up staring at the wall the whole time because I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing someone have their chest ripped open…but I was wrong. As the camera turned on and the surgery began, I couldn’t help but cringe a little as I saw the surgeon cutting open the patient’s chest. However, as the surgery began to move forward, it ended up teaching me a lot about cardiovascular surgery.

The surgery started off with the surgeon cutting open the chest of the patient, separating the thick layers of tissue until he reached the sternum. The next step involved the use of a bone saw to cut through the sternum to reveal the diseased heart. The retractors were placed on either side of the incision, and the surgeon propped open a hole big enough to reveal the patient’s beating heart. The patient’s heart had to stop beating in order for the operation to take place, so the use of ice cold potassium allowed the heart to stop beating. The perfusionist, the person who is relied on for life support for the patient during open heart surgery, used a heart-lung machine to keep blood flowing throughout the patient’s body. A breathing tube was then inserted to keep the patient breathing because he or she was knocked out from the anesthesia.

The surgeon then went forward with the procedure and fixed the patient’s heart murmur. After this was completed, the heart had to be “woken up,” and the patient’s chest had to be closed. Wires were used to put the sternum back together, and stitches were used to put the skin back to its normal place. This marked the end of another successful open heart surgery and another life saved.

There was a lot of information presented to my class and me, but two of the main points were the different careers in the medical field and the steps you can take to prevent heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in America. A few of the careers presented to us were cardiovascular surgeons, nurses, perfusionists, physicians assistants, and anesthesiologists. Some of these careers are extremely hard to get into, but they are not impossible to attain. The medical field offers countless job opportunities, and with hard work and dedication, these jobs are achievable.

Since heart disease is the main cause of death in America, doctors and nurses are trying to stress the steps you can take to avoid heart disease. Eating right and exercising daily are two of the best ways to do this. Staying away from things like processed foods, sugars, and trans fats can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Thirty minutes of exercise five days a week can decrease your chances of heart disease tremendously.

Overall, the trip was a big success, and my classmates and I had a great experience and learned a lot about cardiovascular surgery. A big thanks to Mr. Dunne for putting the trip together and for helping his students to see something they might never see again.

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