The mystery of a heartbeat

I Never thought that I could one day call something magical or mind-blowing until I put my feet for the first time in cardiothoracic open heart surgery. It will always feel unique no matter how many times you attend. You will always be amazed. How couldn’t you when you witness the cardiorespiratory arrest ? When a patient is literally dead, depending on a machine to pump the blood for the rest of his body, and another to breathe for him ,while performing some skilled repairs on the heart. How couldn’t you feel in awe when it regains its rhythm?

Going to the cardiovascular department everyday for two consecutive month was beneficial not only on the professional and learning aspect but also on the human one. It taught me how to be grateful for the simplest of gifts. How can I not be after I have seen patients who have only hours left to live ,still mumble a thank you and pray for you? When I keep complaining about an issue, I immediately stop when I recall the hospitalized children, children of different ages varying from 4 to 16 who are supposed to be going to school, having fun with their friends, discovering life. Instead, they spent most of their days surrounded by doctors and eager medical students. When I used to feel down, the sight of babies fighting for life would be enough to make me feel brave again. Babies who have been intubated for more than 20 days, babies who got infected by the worst germs, babies who developed some serious post operatory complications and STILL they survived and became in a good shape.

Some days, I could not help but wonder if I were in the same position of a patient who has a terminal cardiopathy and who has to choose between undergoing a surgery that could be fatal or be discharged and count the days until his death. What if I had to take that decision? How can life be so unfair, so unjust?

Losing a patient can be very painful. I will never forget the face of a brave, amazing woman who had a 6.2 cm inflammatory aneurysm. I could not help having tears in my eyes when I wished her well that morning before heading to the operation room ,because I knew what a tough, challenging long surgery she will be undergoing. Her smile and her answer will forever remain in my memory. I could not help but wonder how my life would become if I had that same strong faith of hers.  I will also never forget the sight of a tiny lifeless baby or the sight of devastated moms after receiving the dreaded news. I could not stop blaming myself for days because I didn’t know how to make them feel better.

I have never truly been convinced of how surgery can change people’s lives until I stepped in the cardiovascular department. Patients no longer complain of angina, shortness of breath, or fatigue. Patients who become able to walk again after they have been confined to bed for months. Have you ever seen a team being able to perform open heart surgery on a five months pregnant woman?

If there is anything I would advise for is the following: consult early, don’t wait for signs to exacerbate because it may be too late by then. And if there is anything I would wish for. It is hard luck for doctors, because they are truly overwhelmed.

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