Heartfelt Connection at an Open Heart Surgery
The feed sprang to life at 8:20 and the initial incision jumped out at us. A deep, red, bloody cut ran from the patient's collar bone down his chest. The surgeon continued moving deeper into the chest, sawing through the sternum and cracking open ribs. The room teamed with an anestheologist, scrub nurse, physician's assistant, other surgical nurses and technicians, and medical equipment and machinery. In the middle of it all, lay a human being whose only visible parts were his chest and left leg.
The surgeon calmly went about his business. He explained what he was doing and told us he had done hundreds of these operations - sometimes up to four in a day and sometimes in the middle of the night. He used the word "enjoyable" to describe the flow of the surgical team, which worked efficiently beside him.
I've been told that I have the emotional memory of an elephant - whatever I remember I feel. It happened again as I saw myself in this patient's place, naked, alone and completely vulnerable. I pictured his family waiting outside and remembered how my husband had waited and worried over me. The surgeon's professional and matter-of-fact demeanor stood in sharp contrast to the anxiety I felt before the anestheologist's merciful intervention.
We are all connected by shared experience. A mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction and open heart surgeries are not the same procedures by a long shot. But emotionally, we all know the difficulty of submitting to something we don't want to be part of and the time it takes to heal, both physically and emotionally, from the ordeal.
I'm glad the surgeon wasn't as emotionally involved with the patient as I was. That would not have resulted in the best care. But as survivors, we know that the practice of medicine affects us emotionally as well as physically. We will never forget and that is the basis of our bond.