“I now understand even more why someone would want to go in this line of work; these men and women in the OR make a difference, together they do something incredible, literally life altering, they are nothing short of modern day hero’s.”
This is a narrative from a future perfusion student who job-shadowed a good friend of mine in the South Florida area. It is a very good read- and suggests to us how exciting our vocation truly is- and how sometimes we get so absorbed in our clinical lives, that we take the extraordinary for granted.
Anyway- this isn’t meant to be a pat on the back- just a reality check of how we are perceived by the uninitiated looking through the glasses of the perfusion career potential- and what it is we really do.
For those of us considering changing careers, or going back to school after having been stay at home parents, or the high school graduate that is considering becoming a perfusionist; many questions arise.
What is it like, Can I do this, Can I afford the education, Can I grasp the education, Can I handle the stress, Can I see blood in big volumes, etc.etc.
From the first moment I heard about the perfusionist profession I was intrigued, searched the web for testimonials, stories, advice, cases, etc. Before long I stumbled on Circuit Surfers and have been following them ever since. Enrolled in a community college to (re) do my credits: since I’m from Europe, a lot of things were not transferable, you always seem to lose some when you move to another country. (Not to worry europeans: If you know your stuff, you can probably CLEP out of a lot of subjects.)
But before spending all that money and time on studies, Wouldn’t it be great to find out first if the profession of a CCP is really what you want to do? Wouldn’t it be great to first be able to shadow a perfusionist? Many of my friends in the healthcare industry told me: “The job of a perfusionist is really hard on women, its very stressful, sometimes you have mean surgeons, the pressure during surgery will kill you, you work very long hours…”
The only way to find out what it is really like and if this was for me was to actually observe a surgery. Easier said than done: The perfusionist schools normally organize for their students to shadow perfusionists at work, but I’m not in a perfusionist school yet. After trying to organize it myself by contacting various teachers and surgeons to no avail, I decided to contact Circuit Surfers for advice. They posted my request and:
Mr Forsberg responded and organized for me to shadow a case here in South Florida. Aware of this being an enormous privilege, I had a hard time sleeping last night! Set the alarm for 5 AM, just to make sure to be in time at the hospital at 8, the drive only being 27 minutes, but for such an incredible opportunity one does not take risks.
At the Hospital I was met by Mr Forsberg and his boss: a WOMAN! Yes, the head perfusionist was a woman! Warm, smart and sharp she quickly explained the procedure, scrubbing in and then we went to the OR. Mr Forsberg explained how the machines work, showed the back up machine and introduced me to Mr Alberto, who was actually going to handle the machine. There had originally been two cases planned today but one of them was cancelled.
The case today was a “cabbage” or CABG, Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting. The machines were all prepped, checked, double checked and so on, the right medications were prepared, paperwork filled out. Finally the patient was brought in and the staff went to work.
At first it was not sure yet if the perfusionist was going to be needed to work the usual way, the surgeon first wanted to check if there was not too much calcium in the veins, if this would have been the case, things could break and perfusion would not have been possible. In this case the surgeon would have had to perform on a beating heart, a so called “off-pump” surgery. I could follow the procedure of going in with a small camera via a monitor screen that was right above the perfusion machine.
Finally the surgeon decided, yes we were going ahead and the machine was going to be needed, it was on. Veins from the patients leg and chest had been harvested to be grafted to the patients coronary arteries, to improve blood supply to the heart muscle. Everybody went to work, nurses, anesthesiologist, Physicians Assistant and of course the perfusionist, they worked together like a well oiled machine. The procedure must have been trickier than anticipated because everybody went real silent, you could feel the tension, the other surgeon from the cancelled procedure even came by and helped.
The machine and the perfusionist now pumped the patients blood, the whole team had the life of a man in their hands. They fought…and succeeded. They saved a man’s life.
Everything went well and the blood that had been pumped out of the patient and cooled was now warmed up again, went via various filters back into the patient. When the patient was now no longer on the machine , the perfusionists direct job was done, the machine was cleaned, items were removed and discarded, while the rest of the team sewed up the patient. This whole surgery was extremely fascinating to watch.
These people working, fighting together to save a man’s life, really are nothing less than hero’s. I now understand even more why someone would want to go in this line of work; these men and women in the OR make a difference, together they do something incredible, literally life altering, they are nothing short of modern day hero’s.
On my way back home many things went trough my head, but one question in particular kept on surfacing: “Can I do this? If I can get trough the studies: Definitely.” I switched on the radio; guess what was playing? Alesso’s “We could be heroes”.
I would like to express my intense gratitude to Mr Forsberg and Ms Jill, and Circuit Surfers for giving me this opportunity to shadow today.
Jacomina Depuhl, student
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