I am writing a book on an inside perspective on Heart Surgery in America. I decided that I would release portions of this story as I am telling it- to see what you think. We all have our stories about how we got here 🙂
It is in chronological order, so some of the passages will relate to the story of a man, and his journey to get into the surgical arena, and become a perfusionist.
Let’s see how it goes, and I look forward to any suggestions or comments. Plz remember, this is a somewhat rough draft, but based on real events as they happened. 🙂
Yahoo’s, Cowboy’s, and Heart Surgeons
An Inside Look at Cardiac Surgery in America
By Frank Aprile
This Book is Dedicated to:
The moms, the dads, the husbands, the wives, the children, their friends, and the dreams of all the patients we couldn’t save.
It is a living tribute to the men and women working in the crucible we call open-heart surgery and their lives as seen from behind those surgical masks and scrubs.
I would like to show appreciation and love to the following individuals for showing me the “light at the end of the tunnel” regarding what is important in life:
First and foremost, my wife; Kashmir Elizabeth Stonerock Aprile, for her unconditional support and love, and for being the best MOM any of our kids could ever ask for.
My daughters and sons; Maria, Kimberly, Justin, Naya, and A’brehn Aprile, that I have to facetime as they are growing up, because my work takes me away from our home.
Joshua Morris, aka LVADone, a Heartmate II recipient that has been living with a Left Ventricular Assist Device for more than 8 years, becoming a spokesperson for Thoratec, and basically a true test pilot furthering the cause of extending lives through biomechanical engineering.
Up and down, back and forth, side to side and a controlled release of the ball from the right hand, past your smudged cheek, perfect snap of the wrist, slow motion escape as the scuffed basketball slathers off your fingers, a flicker formed by muscle memory towards and through to its’ intended target, a steel rim and a dirty net. Frozen still, smelling the sweat and grime that licked the perimeter of your face as you blur to slow motion, to watch your shot become the anticipated “swish” and feel the ripples and tone of one moment of gentle perfection. You could smell the tar coming off your hands, salt coming off the ball, the perfect smell. It smelled like a lot of practice, for a lot of days, for a lot of reasons.
Then it’s over, all done and over. It was done the right way, and you knew it before you scored. You unlock your pose and back pedal to defend the next incoming pass of the next attempt to score against you.
And that’s my life, that’s my chessboard. An old playground, made up from, and used up by… a lot of souls that have their own shots to make, and their own goals to defend. A metaphor for my life in the future I guess, a lot of unmet challenges with unnamed players and unfamiliar playing fields.
So I finished up playing and headed home. I had run out of casual opponents and there weren’t any more pickup games to be had. Home was about eight blocks away, on Oak Street, in this quiet autumn university town. Yeah, it’s Indiana, the zip code is 47906. I say autumn, not because that was the season for today, rather, because it always felt like Fall here, the fading of all things green, afternoons politely excusing themselves a little bit earlier as each day passed, and that gentle sigh of relief greeting those with their own blissful intention, to indeed go gently into the good night.
Coming home was always a ritual. It required a skeleton key to enter it, (I always felt it would be an easy lock to “pick”) and once past the grand oak door, an almost Victorian yet avant-garde, museum quality living room presented itself with deeply red cushions, framed in oil soaked polished wood grains of the highest quality. There were artistic pieces of flair and decor made of crystal, onyx, or imported marbles that seemed as if they had been bargained for in an exotic land far away, that few people in this Midwestern town would ever have had the cultural fabric to conceive of, let alone actually explore or visit. Aside from decoration, the function of the many pieces of art lying about seemed to serve the same purpose as those mysterious yet sublimely stoic statues on Easter Island. They were obviously there for a reason, origin exotic, very imposing to the viewer, the true purpose and nature of their construction and intended message remaining open to speculation, and subject to the interpretation of the audience passing through that giant oak door that was now shut behind me.
As with any room waxing to express cultural and linguistic opulence, there were of course the countless prerequisite shelves filled with books both old and venerable, next to the new, flashy, and fresh. This was the early 70’s after all, and pop art was the wave and the rave with a new veneer, far too bright and opulent to suggest any sort of deep thought or meaningful depth, but it did pop- and was a lot flashier and sparkly than the autumn selections they were forced to share space with on the same stage. Shiny gloss covers are always sexier than old leather bound manuscripts. New shifts in lighting, vibrant colors, metaphorical shapes on the cover of books, record labels, and magazines were attractive changes that were very appealing to the magpies of our generation. The old, shared space with the new on our shelves, in our house, but in general that was not the trend.
Mutti greeted me, but seemed preoccupied with all things departmental and professorial, so I sidestepped her to take a shower and get ready for work. “Mutti” is German for mother. I was born in Germany, and although not as fluent as I should have been (as it was my first language), at my age and stage of development, my reasoning was childishly simple and rational: a byproduct of survival by means of cultural assimilation and plausible denial. I wanted to be accepted, so I dumped the language.
When I first arrived to America at the age of six, I was exposed to American TV shows, a very popular one named “Combat”. This was a weekly series on World War II with a very cool American squad fighting Germans on a seven day cycle, integrating the usual man versus humanity themes into it, to illustrate the horrors as well as the immorality of war in general, but the Germans in particular, always ended up being the fulcrum upon which these lessons were based. Germans still had a nasty legacy, there were tons of shows and movies that involved the active killing or overcoming of the Teutonic hordes, so yeah, it wasn’t really cool to be German. They were always gone at the end. They might have been depicted as good and brave fighters, but consistently, they were always dead fighters. That theme got kind of old and repetitive for me, I knew I was German, and I connected the dots, because all children have an amazing ability to connect dots, regardless of how they are shaped or colored. It’s what kids do. Dots are easy, following crumbs is a little bit riskier.
I learned English very quickly, and tried to discard my Germanic heritage as fast as I could shed it without revealing my cultural shame and need to “fit in” to Mutti. To put it mildly, she would have been seriously pissed and gone off on one of her trademark scathing diatribes. She had been on the losing side of a seriously messed up war, as a beautiful teenage debutante. The proof is in the pudding, and here, an enemy of the state as she would have been labeled a mere 20 years’ prior, was one of the first female PhDs not only at Purdue, but in the academic world in general. Had Mutti sniffed or gleaned any sort of hint of my willfull desertion from Teutonic cultural pride, there would have been hell to pay- and I sure as heck didn’t want to learn how to spell “excoriate” at that tender age. Precocious yes, stupid no, but even though I couldn’t spell the term yet, I could easily conceptualize and predict the end result if that particular rooster got out of the hen house! Off to work and out of the house. Salisbury street- here I come!