Friday, May 25, 2007

She Held that Pig's Beating Heart in the Palm of Her Hand

No, really -- she actually did!

Elisabeth works for a medical device company. She sells little do-dads like stents, catheters, filters and such. They're made out of stuff like titanium and to the untrained among us, they could just as easily be slipcovers for pencils as ridiculously expensive lifesaving devices. Part of becoming a good salesperson is understanding -- really understanding -- how these devices work and knowing how to implant them during surgery. One of Elisabeth's main responsibilities is to accompany surgeons during procedures specifically so she can consult and guide them regarding the specific device being used. The best way to do that is to actually have completed the procedures herself. So on a regular basis, she trains as a "surgeon" at a research facility in Portland, using heavily sedated pigs as patients. Yup, PIGS. Because apparently the structure of their organs closely resemble the structure of equivalent human organs.

Unfortunately, the pigs don't make it through the day. (I know -- I had a problem with this too; I really had to remember that the dying pig could save my father's or husband's or child's life.) They are so heavily sedated and so poked and prodded that at the end of training they are given a lethal injection. So yesterday after having medical devices implanted into it all day, the pig was given the lethal injection and Elisabeth asked if she could hold the heart.

And there she stood with a beating heart in her hand. She said the experience was almost surreal and she was completely taken by what was happening. It was a strong beat at first and then slowly it just faded away... and when it stopped completely and had been still for a long moment, Elisabeth squeezed. And it started beating again! It beat for another minute or minute and a half at that point! I guess her squeeze was like a form of CPR.

Elisabeth has always been like a sponge with any new experience, skill or piece of knowledge. Even as a toddler, she was up for anything, asked a gazillion questions, and had a very keen (and sometimes exhausting) sense of curiosity. Nothing at all has changed!

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1 comment:

Dixie said...

She has my respect. I'd have run screaming like a banshee!

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