“The Red Cell Highway: An Inside Look at Heart Surgery in America”

Editor’s Note:

This book is halfway written,

It is a rendering of the reality, sometimes sad and at times funny, emotional, and clinical vignettes of the many different aspects relating to open heart surgery- from the perspective of a perfusionist. This book is a commentary not only on the intricacies of heart surgery, but openly engages and describes the peaks and valleys of ethical or moral successes and failures.  It highlights moments where lives are saved by the strength of the character of the team- as well as surgical strategies undone by flaws imbued in the highly trained individuals living and breathing this volatile work environment.

Here is a brief preview…

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The Writer

 

Frank Aprile is the founder and author of many blogs, the two most significant being UnwrittenFeathers.com, and CircuitSurfers.com.  The latter having almost 1 million unique visits and being established for six years.  He is a cardiovascular perfusionist who himself is a German immigrant to America.  It details his journey as a young man in a foreign country, assimilating to American culture, joining the United States Navy to become a Hospital Corpsman, and ultimately training to enter the field of cardiovascular perfusion and open heart surgery.

This book is a commentary not only on the intricacies of heart surgery, but openly engages and describes the peaks and valleys of ethical or moral successes and failures.  It highlights moments where lives are saved by the strength of the character of the team- as well as surgical strategies undone by flaws imbued in the highly trained individuals living and breathing this volatile work environment.

It addresses medicine at its highest level, and reveals an exceedingly technical and extremely stressful element of heart surgery that few people realize exists.  Surges in technology can and will outpace the ability of the practitioner to avoid compartmentalizing the patient thus rendering them emotionally opaque or dispassionate.

The author himself has risen from the ranks of being a hospital janitor at 17, to leading a Naval Hospital emergency room in the jungles of the Philippines at 20, working as a surgical first assistant while earning his way through college in San Diego.  With his 26 years of experience as a perfusionist, he has placed people on bypass at 47 different hospitals, across 11 states, Hawaii, and Canada.

In his own words, Frank Aprile describes what it is to be a perfusionist on the open heart team and why success can never be measured as a simple percentage or number:

“It’s uniquely exhilarating doing something so few can do.  That pretty much describes my life as a perfusionist, putting people on cardiopulmonary bypass for open-heart surgery.  I think we are reminded of our human fallibility (the potential to err is in all of us) each day we put someone on a heart-lung machine to perform cardiopulmonary bypass. With so many steps and moving parts in the equation, the goal is to choreograph out a perfect ‘10/ every single time.  Of course that doesn’t always happen, as unforeseen circumstances may come up, equipment may fail, and the totally unexpected ‘never thought that was going to happen’ moment rears its’ head.

So the ‘10’ ends up being- not the perfect pump run, as much as it disengages the focus from clinical perfection and enunciates the perfect recovery from an adverse situation.  That’s truly when we are ‘perfusionists’. The ability to adapt to rapid change, think through a previously unencountered problem, and still keep your heart in your chest- is what makes us all so special. Anybody that’s been in the field of open-heart surgery for a period of time has been in the zone. That’s a cool place to be. But ALL of us, have hovered outside of it as well.”


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