- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - Hammond High School students had a rare opportunity to see open heart surgery performed live at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn recently.

The students are taking the Principles of Biomedical Science class as part of the Biomedical Science Curriculum, a Project Lead the Way class. Teacher Jacqueline Brasseur, who has been teaching the PLTW class for five years, said she had been on the waiting list for the live open heart surgery for a year. Students from Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin were able to watch the surgery.

The program, called “Live from the Heart,” is offered through the hospital and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. It allows students to watch the surgical team perform an open heart bypass procedure, and ask questions about the surgery, get tips on keeping a heart healthy and even find out about careers in the operating room.

The doctors explained to students that when the arteries become blocked, blood flow to the heart muscle and the rest of the body is severely restricted. This means the heart has to work much harder to maintain proper blood flow. The arteries become blocked by the buildup of plaque, which consists of deposits of fats, inflammatory cells, proteins and calcium material along the arteries’ lining.

Doctors also explained that when the arteries become blocked, they can do bypass surgery, which calls for them to use veins from other parts of the body, providing an alternative route for blood to flow to the heart muscle.

Like the PLTW Principles of Biomedical Science classes offered in high schools across the state, Hammond High’s class allows students to explore concepts in biology and medicine to determine factors that led to the death of a fictional character named Anna Garcia, Brasseur said.

At the beginning of the school year, the students found what appeared to be a woman with white pills scattered around her, along with a syringe and drops of blood.

The students spend the school year investigating what happened to Garcia, including reviewing her autopsy and medical history; one scenario could be that she died of natural causes — hence the opportunity to watch live open heart surgery.

The other three classes offered as part of the Biomedical Science Curriculum are the Human Body System, Medical Interventions and Biomedical Innovation.

Brasseur said students dissected a sheep heart to learn the blood flow and prepare them for the live operation. “They have been very excited and as word spread about the live surgery, other students wanted to stop by and see it,” she said.

Brasseur said she had 110 students watching the procedure, including a group of Eggers Middle School eighth-graders.

Hammond High School senior Elena Salamanca asked doctors where they get the veins used to provide an alternative route for blood flow. In this case, doctors told her, they took the veins from the man’s legs. Salamanca has her sights set on forensic science and wants to be a medical examiner.

Junior Dorian Deloney asked what happens if the vein used goes bad. Doctors said it would have to be repaired, meaning more surgery.

Seniors Francisco Hernandez and Ivan Romero said watching the live operation has only intensified their desire to be physicians. Both want to be primary care physicians, and Hernandez said he also is interested in cardiology and neurology.

“This is a great opportunity. It’s intriguing and informational. It motivates me even more to become a doctor,” Romero said.

Hernandez said he’s never had an experience like this before, and it “raises questions as well as inspires me even more to become a doctor.”

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Source: The Times, https://bit.ly/1OjYxg0

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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