Greensburg Salem students observe open-heart surgery
A 60-year-old man lay on the operating table, his exposed heart glistening beneath fluorescent lights. Around him, an orderly surgery team worked to hook up his veins to a heart bypass machine.
"That's the heart," Andrea Redinger told her class, pointing to the still-beating organ. "Do you see how it looks like it has a paper bag around it• That's the pericardial sac."
The Greensburg Salem High School teacher and her biotechnology class sat one story above the operating theater at Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital, watching the double heart bypass operation through windows in the operating room's ceiling.
The field trip Monday was the culminating activity of Redinger's semester-long elective for seniors interested in science or medical careers.
"It's the coolest thing I've ever seen, definitely," said Gabrielle Bruzda, 17, who is considering a career in anaesthesiology. "This is the real deal."
"There's so much pressure," remarked Carrie Maier, 18, as the surgery team sewed a section of vein to the patient's heart, using a needle as thin as an eyelash. "I can't picture a doctor doing something normal. They're, like, superhuman."
The observation room above the operating theater hadn't been used for years when Dr. George Magovern Jr., the hospital's chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, got the idea in 2008 to invite high school students to watch surgery.
"It actually goes back to when I was (their) age, coming in and watching my dad do the surgery," said Magovern, whose father, Dr. George Magovern Sr., also was a heart surgeon at Allegheny General. "You're able to bypass a lot of red tape and actually get within feet of the patient."
As in most cases, yesterday's patient did well on the operating table, Magovern said. Magovern, who was still wearing blue scrubs beneath a white coat, with a mask dangling around his neck and sterile booties over his shoes, had come upstairs to answer students' questions after the three-hour surgery.
"How do you do this every day?" asked Ryan Loughran, 17.
"As long as you stay good at it, it doesn't become too stressful," the doctor said. "You still keep the fact that it's a human being in mind, but you try to focus on the technical aspects."
Many of the students said they were considering a medical career, and for some, the surgery strengthened their interest. Emily Craig, 17, thought she might become a doctor.
"I expected to be more grossed out," she said. "I'm actually not at all. I think just because it's so interesting and so real."
Redinger said the class, which also has learned about genomics and stem cells, dissected a beef heart and listened to guest speakers from medical professions, would construct a display about the surgery for their classmates.
This was the first time she brought a class to watch surgery, but Redinger, whose enthusiasm for science was evident in her DNA-shaped earrings, said she hoped to make it an annual field trip.
"For a lot of them, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," she said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Knife-wielding man attacks 2 in Sheetz lot in Greensburg
- Groups sponsor candidates forum in Monessen
- Franklin Regional stabbing suspect could leave Pa. for treatment
- Butler blasting worker in North Huntingdon water main break put on probation
- Ex-clerk convicted of stealing more than $116K from WCCC avoids jail
- Youngwood Council to pick solicitor from ‘good mix’
- Delmont must address access road for gas station
- Police: Charges unwarranted for Yough shop class project
- Bolivar couple charged with endangerment; baby nearly drowned, police say
- Greensburg artist follows unusual path to creative career
- Fundraising under way for Indiana County newborn struck by stray bullet