Rock Hill class watches heart surgery #045; live

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Biology students at Rock Hill High School got to the heart of anatomy with a distance learning project that transported them into the operating room.

Through the marvels of modern technology, 52 juniors and seniors in Joy McComas' anatomy classes joined five other schools across the state last week for a live look at a three-hour open heart surgery.

Doctors at Mt. Carmel West Hospital in Columbus performed the five-artery bypass on an 84-year-old woman while the students went along for the ride and had the opportunity to ask questions.

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"This was absolutely phenomenal because it reinforced what we were learning," McComas said. "It is unlike anything they get a chance to see. It gave them an educational experience that most students never get."

Completely interactive, the students were able to ask questions directly to the surgical team.

"Distance learning really makes it come to life for the kids. It allows us to have lessons from other teachers and professionals we would never see," she said. "It was like a field trip right there in our own school."

Senior Cassy Chaffins plans to major in biology in college and hopes to attend medical school, so she said this was a good learning experience.

"I really liked it because it wasn't like watching a movie. We could interact and ask questions," she said. "People in the room were talking to us."

Chaffins said she was amazed at how they were able to stop the heart during the surgery, but still keep the patient alive.

"Once you get in there and started watching it, you are in there really close," she said. "I had never seen anything like that before."

Senior Evan Huddle said that the entire process was interesting, especially when they took a bone saw and cut open the patient's sternum. Although it was graphic, "it did not bother most of the class," he said.

This project was the second time McComas has used distance learning to give her students a more hands-on education. She also plans to allow the students to watch a knee-replacement surgery later this year.