Local 5th graders learn the systems and medical practices
1. Fifth-graders, working alongside professionals, try to stem the tide of fake blood.
2. Dr. Tiffany Willard, trauma surgeon at Memorial Hospital.
3. Trauma patient needing help breathing and maintaining a pulse.
4. "Now let's try to sew up the incision."
5. "Stick your fingers in there and see if you can determine what is causing the continued bleeding."
6. All systems working together.
Photos and story By Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
You could cut the excitement in the room with a scalpel.
Six weeks of learning the various systems of the body. Specialization in one of those systems. A renowned local trauma surgeon with instructions for you, at your fingertips. All the trappings of the Trauma room.
The couple of dozen, or so, 5th graders could barely contain themselves.
In what could become a bedrock foundation — or at least a good start in their medical career — the fifth-grade medical students at Discovery Canyon Campus (DCC) Elementary answered question after question (correctly) on systems of the body. Dr. Tiffany Willard, a trauma surgeon at Memorial Hospital, guided their new-found expertise toward understanding how it all works together at Discovery Canyon's makeshift operating room last week, on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22.
About 42 minutes into that discourse, one young 'doctor' spoke of that excitement and anticipation.
"I really just want to get started," she said.
Willard, guiding the 5th graders in the same manner as the medical student residents and trauma professionals accompanying her from Memorial Hospital, finished her real-world example.
She was careful to make sure the experience was as genuine, and hands-on as possible as she related real life and death situations from the trauma room. Her first-hand experience suggests that drugs and alcohol account for a large percentage of trauma cases she sees everyday.
“Now is the time to at least start talking about making good choices and being safe. Taking care of your bodies,” Willard said.
But plenty of trauma treatment experience was part of the drill. Shoulder-to-shoulder with medical residents, wielding real "sharps," as they cut into, poked around in, and stitched up wounds to try to stop bleeding. They administered chest compression, ventilated, and tried to stabilize their patients.
The fake blood flowed. And appeared on gloves, and masks, and a shoe or boot — here and there.
"It's made of water, and little cornstarch and food coloring," Willard explained when asked by her students.
Still, the sight of such copious amounts can make you a little 'green,' faint, or dizzy.
What is hardest thing she has to do? Yet the most important.
No, it is not the gore.
"I love blood and guts. It's what I do for a living. I like being able to help." she said.
"Talking with the parents or loved ones when something bad has happened," is most important, however, says Willard, and the proper way to do that was even part of the lesson.
"Introduce yourself, shake hands, strong grip, single pump, eye contact. Direct, but with empathy. No judgement," were some of the instructions and practice.