Fla. medics learn anatomy and emergency treatments thanks to grant

Workshop, funded by a grant to expand pediatric medical education, used pig lungs, hearts, and tracheas for hands-on training

By Frank Gluck

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — A dozen sets of pig lungs, hearts and windpipes sat in bloody piles on the tables before the group of nurses, paramedics and other medical workers.

Three “oinks” coming from the loudspeaker injected a bit of levity into the gory scene and called everyone to attention as Lisa DeBoer resumed her presentation on porcine, and by extension, human anatomy.

Within minutes, fingers were probing their way through the hearts in search of chordae tendineae, tendons that connect heart muscles to that organ’s valves. DeBoer, a former medic, put it in terms everyone could understand.

“If you’ve ever heard that old saying, ‘Don’t pull on my heart strings,” well there really are strings in there,” she told the group. “So let’s all see if we can find those.”

About two dozen hospital workers and first responders attended this training session Thursday at Bonita First Station No. 4 in Bonita Springs as part of a grant to expand pediatric medical education.

DeBoer and her husband, Scott, a former flight nurse, operate the Indiana-based Peds-R-Us Medical Education, the largest U.S. company specializing in this kind of training.

The pig parts, retrieved from pork sausage producing Johnsonville Farms in Wisconsin, are the next best thing to human cadavers when it comes to this kind of training. That’s something few, if any, in the room would get to do unless they enrolled in medical school.

The parts are all checked by veterinarians, and the parts are cleaned to make sure they are not biohazards.

“This all would have gone to be dog food,” DeBoer said, motioning to the organs on the table. Instead, she said, they are being put to life-saving use.

Though the topic is serious, the tone of the daylong training program alternated between dryly technical to highly playful.

Oinks were periodically used to quiet the class. Some of the instruments were pig-shaped. And different lecture topics were broken up with humorous movie clips — a black-and-white scene with a mad scientist shouting “It’s Alive!” preceded the instruction on inflating the lungs. You get the idea.

Florida Emergency Medical Services for Children helped finance the training session in Bonita. Such training sessions normally run about $250 per person. Those attending Thursday paid only $20.

Selena Verdecchia, a respiratory therapist at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, said the session is the next best thing to closely examining a human body.

“It’s almost the same,” Verdecchia said. “It’s just a little bit bigger version.”

Lee County paramedic Dan Ceresa said the class was a good way for first responders to better understand how the body is put together. He said it’s something hard to find elsewhere in a classroom.

“It’s a great refresher of the anatomy,” Ceresa said. “You can see how structures are laid upon other structures. It just never translates from a textbook.”

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