Friday, July 17, 2009

Claustrophobia of the Heart

I've been meaning to blog about this for awhile, but a few weeks back (around the end of June), we went to this really neat free art exhibit called "Claustrofobia del cuore".
We wandered into the third floor gallery, hidden away in a ritzier part of Palermo and caught the exhibit on its last showing day. We were able to meet the artist, and here comes the cool part, who was declared dead for 14 minutes before he was somewhat miraculously was revived (some of this got lost in translation). In anycase, the showing was the art which was inspired by his time "in limbo" and all were titled cardiology themes ("Tachycardia", "Angiography")- perfect, due to our recent dive into the topic for our research!

One of his works, a bit abstract, but you can maybe tell its a meter of some soAdd Imagert?

Also, to supplment our knowledge of cardiac pathology, Xiao and I got to watch 3 open heart surgeries on my birthday! The surgeon was super nice and very good at teaching. I basically got to see all the surgeries (double bypass, aortic valve replacement, and subaortic stenosis removal) with my face a foot away from the heart! The procedures were really fascinating (I was standing in the OR for about 7 hours and the time FLEW) and I was incredibly impressed with the agility and meticulousness of the surgeons.

I never knew much abou the bypass procedure until we observed it then looked up stuff on wikipedia. But its incredible! The surgeon basically reroutes the major arteries of the heart (while a crazy pumping device substitutes in for the heart) using other nearby arteries (see above pic) or an vein from your leg. The surgeon was basically stitching together two ends of hollow spaghetti, it was that ridiculous and detailed.

The last procedure we saw was even more complex (see above pic)! Xiao got to scrub in and hold the beating heart in her hand which was pretty awesome, I stayed behind the lines and was happy to observe. The surgeon had to cut away the grossly overcalcified existingn aortic valve and then set things up to lower a biological valve into the original space. They had to set up a ring of threads (over 40 different threads going in!) and then hooked each individual thread through the valve and slid it down into the ring. It took over 2 hours and was pretty neat engineering if you ask me! I think the builder/engineer in me would love doing this stuff for a living, but the long hours and intense focus would be a bit much, but who knows!

We have also been super spoiled to get mini lectures from many of the hospitals doctors, including a few lectures on cardiac pathology from the chief of cardiology and the chief of pathology! They really take care of us here and really want us to learn! In addition, we were treated with twice a week Italian lessons... til we became lazy and tapered off- right before verb conjugations hehe. Unfortunately, my mom has informed me I am responsible for communicating for my entire family when they arrive in Rome in a week, uh oh...

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