Friday, January 18, 2008

once upon a pig...

today was my group's turn to participate in the arterial physiology lab, a.k.a. "pig lab". they're anesthetized, treated kindly, tons of veterinarians in the room, etc etc, so there was no worry of inhumane treatment or anything. going into the lab, i was excited because we'd be working with living tissue, learning how to cardiac massage and defibrillate a heart, and picking up some suturing skills. however, going into the lab room, i realized that i didn't have any idea of how it was going to be.

ok, let me interject here and say that though i do love animals, the idea of doing an animal lab never crossed my mind as being "gross" or whatever. also, i do have a "discomfort" of things that are blood, but i had been mentally preparing myself, etc, so i was expecting the best case scenario.

we get to our pig, and it's really cute. i had envisioned this big stinky ugly hog, but this was a cute pink pig with only a little piggy smell. nevertheless, i was still excited to "dig in". i made one of the skin incisions for the femoral artery access and helped dissect through the pectineus muscle. my group was working very nicely together, so that made it all the more pleasant. i was feeling fine at this point.

we get to the "experiment" part, and it's basically studying the effects of injecting various medicines (like adrenaline) used during "code" situations. (a code is where the patient's heart has stopped and you have to "bring him/her back to life".) but seeing how all those drugs worked on the pig, i just got so sad. when we would increase the heart rate, you could put your hand on the chest and just feel the heart POUNDING in there. it wasn't inhumane, since the drugs' effects wear off VERY quickly and they were really knocked out, but it just made me feel bad on some deep level.

finally we got to crack the chest open and see the lungs and heart at work. i didn't want to really touch anything, but i did the cardiac massage and defibrillation because today may be the ONLY time in my medical career that i do something like that. now i can mark that off my list, i suppose. and whenever i did the defibrillation, the pig jumped a little (because of the electric shock) and i jumped a little too (since i'm extremely skittish). evidently that was really cute and everyone laughed at me, alas. i was just trying really hard not to pee on myself, since there was a BEATING HEART like RIGHT THERE, BLOOD ON MY GLOVES, and here i was holding these ELECTRICAL SHOCK PADDLES paranoid that i would SHOCK MYSELF!

so the important things that i gathered from this experience are:
  1. it's very important to know how the drugs you give a patient are going to act, and they may not act in the way that you think they are.
  2. incisions don't bleed as much as you think they would.
  3. touching a beating heart is really weird, and i do NOT recommend it for people like me.
  4. i didn't enjoy the lab like i thought i would, in fact i'd rather not go through that experience ever again. (however, i really appreciated the valuable learning experience. like i said, some of the things i got to do, this could be my only time to do them. a catch-22, perhaps.)
  5. i highly doubt that i will become a surgeon.
who knows, maybe i'll change my mind about things, but all i know is that i could not wait to get out of there today, but there were a good number of people still hanging out learning how to suture and studying the pig anatomy, etc. it's so weird...i really enjoyed gross lab, but learning things on a living creature really just freaked me out in a way. however, all is not lost.

oh, and earlier this week i shadowed a pediatric medical geneticist (pediatrician with a fellowship in med gen) and i LOVED IT. so there is hope for me in finding a career! once i get a few more shadowing sessions in i'll write my opinions about it.

1 comment:

The Anonymous Therapist said...

Live pig lab...that sounds really neat. In RT school we got to do dissections of some organs from sheep, but a live animal lab...how cool!