by Hannah West
It is about five weeks into my dietetic internship, and, for the first time, I find myself applying many of the processes and techniques that I learned in undergraduate school. From the counseling aspects of nutrition, all the way to basic human anatomy and physiology, this dietetic internship has already opened my eyes to the practical application of those "when am I ever really going to need to know this" subjects we covered in school.
Not all dietetic internships are as hands-on as MUSC's, and, for that reason, I am extremely grateful that I was chosen here.
Learning about the cardiovascular system in school, we looked at a lot of pictures, models, and, if we were lucky, a cadaver. Those visual aids were meant to enhance the learning process, and they did, to a degree.
Here at MUSC, I was able to witness an open-heart surgery firsthand during my rotation in Ashley River Tower, which primarily dealt with patients in the cardiothoracic ICU and critical-care unit. Witnessing an open-heart surgery not only was important for me to better understand how the cardiovascular system works, but also because my father had an aortic valve repair four years ago. Having the opportunity to visualize a procedure similar to what my father went through was a very humbling experience.
A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is defined as a surgical procedure in which one or more blocked coronary arteries are bypassed by a blood vessel graft to restore normal blood flow to the heart. These grafts usually come from the patient's own arteries and veins located in the leg, arm, or chest. The CABG we witnessed was a triple bypass. As one surgeon sliced through layer after layer of thin tissue surrounding the heart, the other surgeon obtained a blood vessel located in the patient's left leg.
It was phenomenal to see how precise the surgeons work. It was even more amazing to watch the restoration of normal blood flow begin again after being filtered through the bypass machine during the procedure. The patient's heart virtually came back to life before my eyes—red, pumping, and healthy again.
I am so thankful to be at a teaching hospital where this opportunity of a lifetime was given to me. The entire team I was with couldn't have been nicer. The anesthesiologists made room for my preceptor and I at the head of the bed to increase our view of the entire procedure. Our presence was welcomed by all, and, for that, I want to say thank you to all of the wonderful "teachers" MUSC employs.
I visited the patient whose CABG we had observed to talk about a heart-healthy diet. This part was the most remarkable for me. The patient was already sitting up and drinking liquids with a smile on his face just one day after surgery. He was such a nice man, and I felt so connected to him after having witnessed such an invasive procedure performed on his body.
Sometimes during a surgery, I think, it is easy to forget you are viewing a human being with feelings, thoughts and a history. During that brief moment in his room after the surgery, everything came full circle for me. I realized just how beautiful the surgery was. It allowed this man to continue living his life fully and happily. MUSC really does save lives, and I am proud to be affiliated with such a great cause.
Friday, Nov. 2, 2012