Heart-Stopping Action

By: John Conley –

Every year, Mrs. Furlong’s anatomy class goes to Allegheny General Hospital to see an open heart surgery. This is an invaluable experience for the students. Anyone can tell you something and show you pictures, but there is nothing like the experience you get when you are there and get to visually see everything happening right before your eyes.

One of the anatomy students who attended this year was Chezarina Capretto. She said, “I am very happy that we saw firsthand an open heart surgery and saw someone’s heart beating. The experience is something I will never forget and if you ever have an opportunity in seeing one, go, you won’t regret it.”

Brittany Ott, who attended the observation last year said, “I was grossed out in the beginning when they were cutting the sternum open and breaking the ribs and the entire time I was just scared and hoping he wouldn’t die. My favorite part was when they were sewing the patient up because at that point I knew he was not going to die. We learned about open heart surgery for a month, but I forgot almost all of that, but watching the open heart surgery is something I will never forget.”

Jessica Muller recalled about her experience. She said, “It was very cool and the doctors put ice inside of the heart. There was really no blood anywhere so the doctors could work and fix the valves. Although other people thought it was gross, I loved it and thought it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life.”

Tori Furlini said, “I learned that blood is much darker before it is oxygenated. Also, the heart needs to be stopped before they operate. It is stopped by cooling the blood and pumping potassium into the heart using the heart-lung machine.” I also asked her about the patient. She said that the patient was a Jehovah’s Witness.

Many people may not know this, but Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to receive any form of blood transfusions. This put the patient at a higher risk. The surgeon had to be extremely careful to limit the blood loss of the patient.

Open heart surgery is very important to us because at one point in our lives this could possibly save someone we love or even ourselves. Before 1902, if you had a heart condition or problem you had no option other than you were going to die. Now, if someone has a serious heart condition there is a good chance you will still survive. As complicated as open heart surgery looks to the average person, it is actually relatively simple for doctors to perform. There is an extremely high success rate. The surgeon that performed on the patient said that he was not even the slightest bit nervous.

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