Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Heart-Lung Machine

Last week I attended a parent evening for families of children who have had heart surgery. It was a wonderful evening with opportunities to meet other families facing similar circumstances, a delicious dinner, an emotional look at how one surgeon was able to save the lives of two children from El Salvador by bringing them here for free heart surgery, and the chance to see a heart-lung machine and meet a perfusionist.
Of course, it was an emotional night. Every time I'm in a room with a bunch of heart families and we are asked to introduce ourselves and talk about our chilren I get all choked up. And this night some of the parents expressed their heart-felt thanks and appreciation for the surgeon who saved their children's lives. As one parent said "you'll never know how much you impacted our family." All the staff present that evening are true heroes. Every day they go to work and change people's lives. And last week I learned about another person to thank for saving my son's life. The perfusionist.
I remember the doctors telling me that Drew would be on the heart-lung machine for surgery. I understood that it took the place of the heart during surgery. But until I saw this machine and how complex it is and talked with a perfusionist in charge of keeping kids alive while the surgeon's are fixing their hearts, I had no idea! Did you know they stop the heart before surgery? And at that instant the heart-lung machine has to be ready to kick into gear and oxygenate and circulate blood to the body. The perfusionist has to monitor every vital sign there is including how much oxygen is going to the brain and the temperature of the body (which is lowered to minimize oxygen use during surgery). And then, when they are finished with surgery, they have to convince the heart to begin beating again on its own and gradually allow the heart to take over the job the heart-lung machine was doing. What a truly amazing machine!
Of course, I was also thinking there is another person who better be on his game the morning of surgery. Another whole team of people that I am trusting with keeping my child alive. Another group of people I should be praying for and thanking God for everyday.
This is a heart-lung machine

And these are perfusionists, running the HLM during open-heart surgery

Click here to see where I got these pictures and read some interesting information on the heart-lung machine.


Valerie said...

Honey, you should write books! You are so good with words!!!

Love you!


kate, still sad about casey... said...

you're right andrea, that *is* cool. i love the top pic; the guy is looking so affectionately at the machine. it also made me think about anasthesiologists -- that's another job where i thought they just kind of turn on the machine but it turns out that there is finesse involved. yay for health professionals! :-)