I had the best time on my five week transplant surgery rotation. I started off nervous every single day and was always worried about what questions I would get asked during rounds and if I would know the answer or if I would be able to actually help anyone or if I was presenting my patient correctly. This anxiety made me work so much harder outside of the rotation and I learned so much about post op complications, surgeries, and disease processes in general.
I will always remember assisting on these major surgeries, seeing the incredible patients and following them after surgery, the selfie a patient wanted to take with me after visiting her after her liver transplant every day until she went home, and holding a beating heart in my hands before it was off to be transplanted to another person. I was extremely fortunate to be assigned this specialty for my surgery rotation.
Assuming there were no donors in the middle of the night or early that morning (it happened any time and any day, but usually every third day), my day would begin at 5 a.m. I tried to get to the hospital by 5:45 or 6:00 a.m. so that I had enough time to research my patients that I had been following each day, and learn about some of the complications they might be having.
We had time every day where we rounded on patients with a particular attending. That time was in the morning for pediatric rounds and the afternoon for adult patient rounds.
While one attending was rounding with a team of transplant surgery pharmacists, dietitians, students, residents, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, the other attendings were usually in surgery. Surgeries varied in duration based on the type of surgery and the complications that could arise during surgery. A simpler surgery could be 1-2 hours and a long surgery like a liver transplant could be eight or more hours.
I would come home at different times depending on the day. If surgery went into the evening I could come home after supper, sometimes students stayed into the middle of the night. I was worried initially about late hours but every time I worked "late" I had an awesome experience and didn't regret it.
When a donor operation occurred, the surgeons, resident, and a student would travel by plane or car to operate and bring the organs back to the patient in our hospital.
This rotation allowed me to be very hands-on and I was able to actually assist during surgeries, which was very cool. I saw many very sick and terminally ill patients and also had the chance to see patients go home healthy. I am so thankful for those who choose to donate their organs, the surgeons who dedicate so much time to help extend the lives of others, and the patients and their families who inspire so much hope.