Have you ever wondered what a surgeon sees when he or she is performing open-heart surgery? On a recent field trip, the seventh and eighth graders from Unity found out. They had the chance to watch open-heart surgery from the surgeon’s vantage point.
The adventure began when Sherry Cicero, a recovery room nurse at MMH and mother of a seventh grader at Unity, approached Unity’s science teacher, Marie Collinson, with an idea for a field trip. Liberty Science Center has an amazing program called “Live From.” Students are able to watch a live feed of a surgical procedure from an operating room at MMH. There are several camera placements in the room, including one that is positioned directly above the operating table. And the learning doesn’t stop there: the operating room staff can see and hear the students in the theater at LSC and are able to take questions during the procedure (yes, the patient signed off on having students watch remotely).
Sherry came to class to explain to the students what they would be seeing and to offer ideas for the types of questions they might ask (questions about salaries, for example, are frowned upon). On the day of the surgery, she was gowned up and in the operating room. She didn’t say “Hello” to her daughter, but the surgeon did! Before the procedure, an aortic valve replacement, began, he asked if Sherry’s daughter was there and had her wave her hand so he could see her.
The Unity students were wonderful: polite, respectful, clearly interested. Their questions displayed their interest: “How many of these procedures have you performed?” (about 100 per year, a few thousand altogether), “How much blood is in a person’s body?” (about 5 liters), “What made you want to go into the medical field?” (classes in high school).
For me, the most incredible part was when tubes were inserted into the heart, the profusion machine was turned on, and the heart stopped beating. Right there before our eyes, a person’s heart stopped beating. About an hour and a half later, the team started the heart up again, allowed the rhythm to stabilize, and closed the incision. So cool. Some students closed their eyes or turned away during certain portions of the surgery, but no one asked to leave the theater because of queasiness (leaving was an option).
All of us, students and adults alike, left with a sense of awe that such a thing is even possible.
About the Author
Marie Collinson was raised by a research physicist who often answered my questions with questions. That was the start of her life-long love of investigation and exploration. She has a BA in writing (with a minor in literature) and an MA in basic skills instruction and have taught college English for 26 years. She spent 10 years teaching environmental education at Fairview Lake YMCA in Sussex County before heading into the classroom to teach science: 7 years in a private school in Montclair and now 3 years at Unity. Marie is certified K-12 English, K-5 elementary education, and 6-8 science.
The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Unity Charter School. Unity Charter School is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the author.