O.B.C. comes to Obici

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In the Obici Hospital emergency room Tuesday afternoon, Heather Watson performed her first surgical operation.

Her small hands shaking, her glasses fogging up from the heat, Watson slowly &uot;threaded&uot; a needle driver, a hook-like needle used to suture up incisions. As her patient lay there unconscious, Watson tied up the wound, and took a huge breath of relief.

It might have been harder had she been working on a real person.

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One of the 26 youngsters taking part in the hospital’s Occupations Basic to Caring (OBC, appropriately enough!) summer program, Watson had just stitched together a pig’s foot. Nearby, her classmates simulated laparoscopic surgery and learned to dress for an operation. Later, they’d head to the radiology and wound care sections to learn even more.

&uot;That was a lot more work than I thought!&uot; Watson said.

The program, in its first year of inception, helps the kids, many of whom volunteer at the hospital, learn the procedures of Obici work. Earlier in the camp, they watched a doctor perform an ultrasound, saw a man drink barium in a gastrointestinal exam and placed an IV into a mannequin’s arm. Over the next few days, they’re scheduled to explore an ambulance and the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital’s Nightingale rescue helicopter, learn first aid and CPR, and even journey to the morgue, where they’ll get a quick crime scene investigation on body identification.

On Monday, the teens sat in a wheelchair and had their eyes covered, forced to operate it through commands to simulate what it’s like for the visually-impaired.

&uot;It was hard,&uot; said Skylar White. &uot;I ran right into a wall. I’ve really learned a lot. I didn’t know where all the stuff was in the hospital.&uot;

Surgical assistant Kevin Edwards helped the &uot;trainees&uot; learn about laparoscopy, a minimally-invasive form of surgery that uses small incisions, rather than having to cut through several layers of skin, fat and muscle (the technique is used in such procedures as appendectomies and gastric bypasses).

&uot;Laparoscopy helps patients heal faster and get back to work,&uot; Edwards said, as his pupils used prongs to pick up paper clips, nuts and a plastic cup. &uot;This is to get kids interested in medicine; they might start thinking that it’s something they want to do, and with the shortage in the medical field, we need all the help we can get.&uot;

After Taylor Brown walked through the steps of becoming surgically attired – putting on enough robes to cover nearly her entire body, including her shoes and head, washing and drying with special soap before pulling on tight rubber gloves – she did her own surgery on the hoof.

&uot;I feel bad for the patients – that looks like it would hurt!&uot; she said. &uot;But I thank the doctors, because now I know what they have to go through.&uot;