Excerpts from: Heart Surgery in America: A Collage of Triumphs & Pitfalls



Editor’s Note:

This book is NOW over 90% written-

The title of the book is “The Tips of Spears- An Inside Look At Heart Surgery in America”

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 an Excerpt from the book 🙂

Training Up:  A Collage of Triumphs & Pitfalls

So having decided that I was going to become a perfusionist, the next thing on the menu was defined in an academic program that would accept me as a student to learn my future trade. This is easier said than done. There were many perfusion schools in the mid-1980s, and the ones who did exist typically only accepted 2, 3 maybe five students per class. At that time, the academic footprint was approximately two years, and in some cases did not require an undergraduate degree for admission. So I sent out applications, one in particular was to the Texas heart Institute which oddly enough, required a course in Texas history as a prerequisite for admission to the program. If that isn’t slanted to get some good old Texas boys into their hallowed curriculum, than I’m not sure what it is.

I think at one point, I had five different applications percolating at the same time, each with its own particular endnote, that would result with bad news and rejection. The scrub sinks of the many operating rooms that I greatest in San Diego California, were to become my own private confessional where I would have to reveal the sad news to the many surgeons that had confidence in me and had encouraged me to go in this direction. It wasn’t really that I was disheartened, as by this time I was quite aware that most things in my life that would have any sign of goodness on them were to come at a price, and nothing would ever be easy. However, I always believed in self destiny and the ability to make things happen in my life based on God knows whatever spirit or soul was guiding me as a mentor. I was pleased there was an angel somewhere hovering in the periphery of my haphazard ricocheting approach to life. It wasn’t that I was reactive, it’s more like I didn’t have the brains or the blueprint to be proactive. Believing in yourself can only get you so far, but without a roadmap you’re pretty much dead in the water and lost in the woods when it comes to finding and fulfilling your professional dreams.

So after year of trudging through the bog and slog of sending out applications, and waiting for responses, I discovered that right here in my very own neighborhood, and the loveliest city called San Diego, there was a brand-new perfusion program that was now in its second year and accepting applications. I spoke with a man named Harry who was the director of the program, and on multiple occasions would call them back to discuss seating availability for his program as well as my deep interest in becoming a perfusionist. Don’t forget now, that I still had yet to watch a perfusionist in action, and was totally clueless as to the depth and breadth that the occupation entailed. I knew in my heart of hearts, that perfusion would be a challenging and stressful field of endeavor, but I was personally convinced that I had what it would take to do well and excel in the field. My mindset with the following, I might not necessarily have been the best, but when I walked into any situation that was clinically emergent, my conviction was that if in that one moment in time you couldn’t consider yourself “the best”, they must will leave and let someone else do the job.

In the summer of 1989, it truly was the best times and the worst of times. I got into a severe accident where I fractured my orbital rim, and needed surgery to fix it. It was an accident of my own making, and I paid for it. In mid July, I was scheduled to work a shift as a surgical first assistant at 1 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, when I got a phone call that morning from Harry, the director of the Grossmont College perfusion program. He casually let me know that one of the students in the class starting in August, had decided not to attend and therefore a seat in the class had opened up, and was I interested in filling the seat.

This was my “does a bear shit in the woods moment”, and I’m not exactly sure what I told Harry in terms of the answer that I gave him but it was undoubtedly a very emphatic yes as I was pretty delirious and ecstatic as I somehow punched out my affirmation that I would be attending class in August. That was to be three weeks away and all of a sudden my life went from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat, something that I didn’t realize then would be the calling card for this profession. I hung up the phone and felt that oddly transcendent feeling of calm when you know in your heart of hearts, that your life has just changed in a very serious way.

I was sharing an apartment with a friend of mine in Mission Beach and the college I would be attending was approximately 20 miles to the east of me. It also had to be 4 miles away from the hospital that I was working at – as a first assistant in the operating room which was a godsend and incredibly convenient and made me realize that possibly there was divine intervention at work because clearly I had to work while I attended class or else I would not have away to sustain myself financially.

2 thoughts on “Excerpts from: Heart Surgery in America: A Collage of Triumphs & Pitfalls

Leave a Reply