Megan2.jpg Today concluded my first week as a DeBakey Summer Surgical Student. Once we completed the morning rounds, the medical student and I were assigned to remove chest tubes from two patients.

I observed the removal from the first patient, but on the second patient I was given the opportunity to assist in the removal. I got so excited when the medical student told me to glove up. She handed me the scissors and told me to cut the knot on the sutures. Then, with the assistance of the resident, I pulled out the chest tubes from the patient. It was so amazing! I could not believe that I was given this kind of opportunity during my first week.

I also observed two more surgeries this week. Another aortic valve replacement and a coronary artery bypass graft (or CABG). During the CABG I was able to stand next to the anesthesiologists, so I had an up-close view of the procedure. I could not tear my eyes away from the surgery. I was a mere foot away from the operating table!

Megan3.jpg I watched as the surgeons bypassed four arteries on a heart that was still beating. This is called an off-pump procedure and is becoming a more popular way to bypass arteries.

In just a short week I have observed and learned a lot of new information. I have witnessed the risk of major heart surgery and the various complications that can arise. Even if the procedure goes smoothly in the operating room, no one can predict what will occur afterward. Emotions run high in the surgical intensive care unit, and doctors try to do the best they can when things don’t always go as planned.

For me, I enjoy getting to know the patients and being there for them and their families. Each patient has a unique story behind them, and just by talking to them for a few short minutes, you can learn something interesting about them.

(In photos: Megan with the five other students assigned to the VA Hospital – two on the vascular team, two on the general surgery team and one on the neurosurgery team. The photo above left shows us “thinking like surgeons.”)