Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Head and Heart: Surgical Precision and Genuine Empathy

       Last Wednesday I had my second cardiac ablation. (If you want to know about the first and details of the process, along with some reflection, here is a post written right after that: "My Cardiac Surgery and Education.") This was not totally unexpected, as the first one has between a 40-50% success rate.Two years ago, I was told the second one raises the success rate to over 80%. Now I'm told it should be over 90%. Six days after the procedure, I feel great and very optimistic.
       Just in the past year, the technology used to ablate the heart has grown immensely. The primary development has been equipping the catheter--remember, this is a miniscule tool guided to the heart through a vein, controlled via computer--with a pressure gauge. The upshot is that as the surgeon works on the heart by following a 3-D map on the screen, they now know not only where to cauterize damaged tissue, but also how much pressure to apply. Quite amazing! The technology allows the surgeon to exercise his skills as effectively as possible to cure the patient.
       You may recall the story about Ideo and their experience in examining hospital service from a patient's perspective. It wasn't pleasant, and it certainly is how I've always felt. This time I was in a different hospital, one committed to the latest technology, the best people, and patient focus. The previous paragraph captures the commitment to technology, and I know other hospitals have not purchased this catheter because of insurance restrictions. As for the people, every staff person was fantastic. They were cheerful and upbeat without being gushy, and they truly listened. They took their time explaining things; one nurse blew me away with his knowledge of electricity in the heart. Their entire demeanor oozed concern for the patient. Waiting time was minimal. The hospital was small, so travel time--whether on foot or on a gurney--was reduced. The patient rooms had giant windows for natural light, and the rooms were quiet. I suspect there was some sound-proofing, because I didn't hear all the usual noise from nurses' station. Also, there were no beeping monitors in the room. Everything was sent wirelessly to a monitoring station. The food was very good. Research had shown they could eliminate part of the procedure that was especially painful in recovery. Clearly someone had practiced some effective design thinking in creating this hospital.
       The entire experience has reminded me, once again, why the best schools educate the whole person. It's about scholarship, character, and connections. Subtract any aspect of one of those, and something essential is lost. In fact, we have to keep deepening our reserves of each. I mean not just those of our students, but our own. Then our students can learn to operate in all realms with surgical precision and genuine empathy.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear you are feeling good after the ablation. I recently read this article, and it made me wonder if cardiac patients are routinely screened for RBC magnesium and amino acid deficiencies. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-cohen-rph/abnormal-heart-rhythm_b_854619.html

Also, I heard about this book on NPR and thought you might enjoy reading it - "The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness" by Todd Rose

Mark Crotty said...

Hey, Anonymous (are you someone I know; your comment reads as if so),

Thank you for reading and commenting. I imagine I am screened for those; my doctors are soooo thorough. I'll ask my next check-up.

I've heard of that book and have it on my list. Thanks for the rec!