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Perfusion Life: Confronting FEAR

Editor’ Note:

It’s a late Friday night and I’m listening to my dogs bark outside at God knows what – just because we live on a house on a hill, somewhere deep in northern Michigan. I’m sure the barking is due to critters roaming our woods, and its something I usually don’t get to experience often because I’m always on the road as a contract perfusionist.  It’s been exactly 6 weeks today that I have been home, away from my profession as a contract perfusionist, but gratefully- I am together again with my wife and four children.

My schedule has been changed around a little bit, but that does not hold a candle to any of the serious impact on other families here in my state and throughout the country.

As a perfusionist, paralysis is probably the worst thing that we encounter – if and when confronted with an unexpected or seriously scary situation. I consider myself, not in a state of paralysis rather more like treading water, and everything that implies when you see the shore, but you can’t quite get to it.

In our profession, we typically are the providers for our families, and have a significant impact on our livelihoods, way of life, and absence of fear of failure. But these are abnormal times, and subsequently there is absolutely nothing that is guaranteed any more – other than the inescapable and persistent anxiety all of us are experiencing as we watch with a certain sense of hopelessness the messages that are delivered by the media suggesting something that cannot be denied. Our people are dyeing. Every single day, it becomes abundantly clear that we have no clue as to the persistence of the scope of the Covid 19 epidemic.

I’ve always been an optimist and still remain – but I find myself sitting on the sidelines – with an incredible medical resume/skill set, that remains underutilized under these circumstances, and makes me feel guilty because I am not on the front lines, I am not making a difference, I am not sharing the risk that so many of our hospital personnel are dealing with, all due to the fact that currently – open heart surgery is only available if we are talking about a serious intervention or event. All elective cases are on the back burner but it’s only a matter of time before that stable of non-emergent cases starts to catalyze into an urgent or semi-emergent open-heart operation.

As perfusionists we invest 100% of our clinical expertise to help promote a positive outcome for our patient population where more often than not, the predicted mortality and/or morbidity is at 3% or lower. Clearly we all understand the undeniable fact that Covid 19, based on empirical evidence- puts any infected person somewhere in the 10% range, which insinuates a diagnosis of Covid 19 represents a potential for a negative outcome at least three times higher than what our patients put themselves on the line for – when trusting us with putting them on cardiopulmonary bypass.

The only factor that would mitigate the 10% number would have to be the postulation that we have perhaps two or three times the numbers of infected people that we currently are registering, obviously diluting the mortality/morbidity down to a more negotiable or acceptable blueprint.

Just for the record, ostriches are not allowed.

10% or greater is an unimaginable number of Americans dying so suddenly and clearly before their time.  I pray it doesn’t happen.


Pump Strong

Frank 🙂

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