Tales of a Medical Student--surgerical Rotation Vortex

(Part I of the "Tales of a Medical Student")

The other day, I watched a cardiac bypass.  Seeing the heart be stopped and
then operated on was...really awesome, much more so than I expected.  Wow. I
wasn't scrubbed (no gown/mask/hat) b/c I was on the anesthesia side of
things.  The anesthesiologist, kind of a dorky dude who was very nice and
explained all the complicated stuff he did, drew off a packet's worth of
blood at the beginning of the operation to save for the five hours of the
procedure until the very end, when they would restart the heart (because the
blood stops flowing properly when they stop the heart, and gets bypassed
(i.e. skips the heart in the circulation) via a machine, and so accumulates
all kinds of crap, and they want to give back a few units of good noncrappy
blood when they start the heart pumping again).  Anyway, the
anesthesiologist said, "Hmm, how shall we keep this warm for him?" so then I
volunteered to keep the packet in the back pocket of my scrubs.  You know,
so that my right butt cheek would keep it all warm and toasty. I use EVERY
part of me for the good of the patient, 'cuz I'm rad like that.

And today on thoracic surgery, now back on the surgeons' side, we were
taking a man's esophagus out (that's the tube through which food travels
from mouth to stomach) because he had early cancer in it, and we separated
it from the stomach side and then up in the throat, and I stuck my hand into
the hole we had made underneath his belly button, all the way up to my
shoulder until my hand came out by his throat (this was done to free up the
esophagus from surrounding structures in order to take it out).  Also, on
the way up I held his heart, beating, in my palm.  Bum-bum, bum-bum, like a
fluttering, delicate bird.  And my own heart almost burst.

panic panic
22-25, F
8 Responses Jul 12, 2006

Great story..

Wow that is so amazing. My surgical rotation was sooo bad! We never got to do anything =(

Re luckygurl777's questions: No, we didn't put the esophagus back. We pulled up the stomach up to the throat so it acts as a conduit for food instead of the esophagus. It obviously isn't a perfect substitute because the esophagus is made especially for its job - for example the stomach doesn't have the valve to keep food from refluxing back, so patients with this surgery often get very bad reflux. Beats dying though.

Cool. And you tell it so eloquently. Keep being amazed, you'll learn so much more.

...so did you put the esophagus back in after cutting out the cancerious-prone areas? If not, what did you substitute for the esophagus....or does this poor individual have to eat through a stomach tube now. I am pleased you still feel humbled and amazed by the body. I get the sense that most doctors lose that, which is a shame. Sounds like you will be a really good doctor. Maybe you'll be holding my heart in 30 years when I am having my heart bypass surgery.

Hey, checked out your profile - where's Part II? I can't wait - such an amazing story! Write more soon, please! =>

wow thats so crazy.. i dont think i could do any thing like that, here i am complaing about taking blood from an arm ....

This is SO COOL!! How often do any of us who have not had these experiences get to hear them told in this way??? Thanks for writing! I hope you will tell more stories like this!