As the 2017 recipient of the Ali Sacco '05 Internship, Sydell Bonin '18 spent two weeks at Children's Hospital in Boston, shadowing the physicians and staff in the Cardiology Department. Below is her account.
My very first day interning in Boston Children's Hospital taught me that the only constant of my two weeks there would be change. Despite my planned out days, as it happens, emergencies don't stick to a schedule. On the first night, instead of leaving my patient rounds as I was supposed to at six, I wound up hearing a helicopter land on the roof and watched as a girl was transported to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and put on a BIPAP machine. I had been trying my best to stay out of the way, but Dr. Allan wanted me to have the full experience, so I ended up scrubbing in and stood beside her bed until 10, as she slowly returned to a stable state.
Sydell with Dr. Marshall
The rest of my days had this same pattern of inconsistency: halfway through a routine meeting with other cardiologists about the week's cases, blue lights flashed and alarms rang. Dr. Marshall flew out of the room, and I followed her to the Catheterization Labs to watch her intervene and perform an emergency placement on a four month old undergoing a heart malfunction during a common procedure. So, in addition to my regularly scheduled rounds in the CICU, going to clinic appointments with patients, and watching catheterizations, I also sought out all of the action I could. On my last day, I wandered away from the B team's rounds of CICU patients and saw an open-heart procedure happening a few rooms down. I was introduced to a nurse on the case, and was shocked to be invited to watch from inside the room. I was given a stool to stand on at the head of the bed, and was three feet above two doctors and four nurses as they stitched a covering over a pacemaker directly onto the boy's beating heart. For the next hour, I watched as they sutured and sewed his sternum back together, and was even given the job of carrying syringes from person to person in the room. This kind of incredible task was so routine for the doctors, but I felt so lucky just to watch for two weeks.
View from the control room of the catheterization lab
While I really enjoyed observing operations and learning how to examine different x-rays and imaging, my favorite parts were getting to know the doctors and patients. Dr. Marshall, who I spent the majority of my time with, can only be described as a superhero. At Boston Children's, she is the Chief of the Division of Invasive Cardiology, Director of the Pulmonary Vascular Recovery Program, and the Chief of Cardiac Catheterization. With all these titles, and one of the most important jobs I can imagine, she makes time for every person, from the newborns, to her team, to the parents, and even for me.
An x-ray of a pericardium and heart, pre-operation
I thought that for everyone working in a field with the possibility of such bad news and dire results all the time they must grow inured to some of the pain that comes with pediatric cardiology. Clearly, I was wrong. It was never easy to watch parents find out that their infant was showing signs of pulmonary vein stenosis, which would be fatal, or that the oncology team was coming to check for cancerous lumps post heart transplant. But for all the hardships and sadness, Boston Children's was never depressing. The sadness never equaled the joy that the whole unit felt when a septal valve defect closed on its own, or when a child came back from an exam for their first time perfectly healthy. Thank you Dr. Marshall, Dr. Allan, Sam, Boston Children's, Mrs. Sacco, and Ali. My heart has been changed.