Upper Schoolers Observe Live Heart Surgery at Morristown Medical Center

By: Jessica Smith
Upper School Science Teacher

Surgeons at Morristown Medical Center pulled back the operating room curtain on Nov. 18 for my Upper School Human Anatomy & Physiology students, who watched a live quadruple bypass surgery performed on a 59-year-old patient with severe coronary heart disease.

In class, we study human body systems in depth — how they interrelate, how they maintain homeostasis and the impact of disease. This was a rare opportunity to see how what we learn at Lincoln Place manifests in the real world and speak with professionals who grapple with these ideas every day.

The OR was equipped with three cameras showing the room, staff monitors and surgery so that we could watch from a theater at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. The cameras also had microphones so we could ask questions and hear what was going on.

We watched surgeons open the chest cavity, harvest veins and arteries that were used to increase blood flow to the heart, redirect the heart’s blood flow to a heart-lung machine and more. The highlight of the day was seeing the beating heart itself!


My class had a lot to say about the experience when we returned to Lincoln Place. Two of their written reflections are below:

“This was honestly my favorite school trip I’ve been on throughout my high school career. I was telling some of my international family friends and they were shocked that the school had arranged to take a group of students to see a live procedure — especially one as complex as a coronary bypass. I had gotten a couple of short video clips and I was just re-watching them all day on Friday. I even chased around Mr. Moyano and Mr. Fernández trying to get them to watch it too, but they didn’t have the stomach to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience through and through, although I thought I wouldn’t be able to sit through the surgery without needing to cover my eyes or leave the room. Thankfully, Grey’s Anatomy has helped me build up a tolerance to seeing blood and body cavities (yes, yes, I know it’s all fake in the show). I also was not expecting veins and arteries to look the way they did. Obviously I wasn’t expecting to see just red and blue lines like in all the diagrams we’ve seen, but if the surgeons hadn’t been harvesting them, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between flesh/muscle and the blood vessels.”

“I always thought these surgeries were very serious and there was no talking and the lights would be off and everything would be super strict, but I was surprised when they all seemed very calm and casual and they were talking to us and it was really weird especially because the life of a man was in their hands.”