The first lecture in ME4253 had us watch a 48-minute open-heart surgery.
It’s not as gory as one might think, or maybe it’s just me. Maybe Dr. John DiMoia’s quirky sense of humour during the first HY3252 lecture put everything else in dull perspective. If a lecturer introduces the course with theme music from ‘The Exorcist’ (think demons, dum-dum-dum-tummm), and later, showcases the infamous ‘Chestburster’ scene from ‘Alien’, what else do you expect from its spectators?
Back to the open heart surgery video: The patient was an elderly woman with a clotted coronary artery, which is the artery that supplies nutrients to the heart. Without nutrients, obviously the heart will die, and subsequently, the patient too.
There was no way to unclog it, and the only way possible was to create another passageway for the blood to flow into the heart. Plumbing at its core technique – Unclog or replace. Because there are no good synthetic alternatives to the coronary artery, the best option was to find a similar tissue type in the patient’s body. This meant taking a peripheral vein at her thigh. So, an open-heart surgery usually requires the skills of at least six surgeons, three at the thigh and another three poking and suturing the heart.
But, I’m running away with myself again. The whole point of watching the open heart surgery was to inspire us, the engineering students. That’s right. To inspire us.
We, engineers, created all those machines and surgical equipment that made medical advancements happen.
Without the heart-lung machine, surgeons cannot stop the heart long enough to replace the coronary artery. Without the materials used to develop the hemocompatible cannulars (a medical jargon for tubes), surgeons would not be able to direct the blood away from the heart. Without the clamp and vices, a clean, fast surgery would not be possible.
Prof. Teoh, further illustrated on the two most successful medical devices in the market: The coronary stent, and the vascular graft. And, he said, who invented them? Engineers, of course.
I am not pushing aside the contributions of clinicians, microbiologists (in another universe, I might have been a virologist stumbling my way through the deep recesses of the treacherous jungles), biochemists, biotechnologists and many others (in fact, taking HY3252 is somewhat of a tribute to these unsung heroes), but the fact is, in a world where safety is a way of life, the innovative engineers are here to stay.
“Engineers are very good in engineering safety.”
– Prof. Teoh in ME4253 lecture 2010/11 Semester II