Broken Hearts

Broken Hearts
My home has been a place of healing for many broken hearts, both literally and figuratively. My younger sister had two open heart operations before the age of two. I was three years old, and I tried to be the best big sister in the world. I thought that if I loved her enough, her heart would heal itself. My brother was three and thirteen when he had his heart surgeries. This time, I was older and much more fearful, but my brother is the proud new owner of Vinny the Pulmonary Valve. Thus, two hearts have healed quite literally in my home.
The figurative healing in my home sets it apart from many others. I have learned the importance of love and support in the face of trouble by watching my mother, the backbone of a local parent support group. Families need to know they are not alone, that I, too, was scared to see my brother gasp for breath after running up a flight of stairs.



I have seen more aspects of the personal side of medicine than many people my age. I understand first hand the comforting effect a friendly smile and reassuring confidence from a doctor has on both patients and families. My family history is what sparked my interest in medicine, but my own experience has held my attention in recent years.



Eager to gain hands on experience after high school, I volunteered at Strong Memorial Hospital conducting a clinical study of patient referral patterns and shadowing a pediatric cardiologist. I watched a child?s fearful face turn to an expression of amazement as he listened to the sound of his own heart. The little boy was so fascinated that he hardly noticed as Dr. Harris completed the check-up, expertly assessing reflexes, color, peripheral pulses, and responsiveness in the moments before the novelty of the sound wore off. Stethoscope in hand, I searched gingerly for the sound of the boy?s leaking valve but was not in time. The smile faded, and I lost my chance. I felt an immediate sense of awe at Dr. Harris?s swiftness, skill, and compassion toward the fearful little boy.



The following summer I was a University of Rochester Summer Research Program scholar, doing my first laboratory research. I studied surface deformations of the chick embryo myocardium during normal and experimentally altered ventricular growth, learning the frustration of research obstacles and working to overcome them. I was rewarded by having my work included in the final report.



The program also gave me the chance to attend rounds, shadow physicians, attend conferences and lectures. The most fascinating afternoon of the summer was an autopsy conference of a still-born baby. The pathologist explained the procedure he went through to determine how they baby died. He worked slowly and meticulously, showing us how he pieced together the puzzle that lay before him. As I watched, I realized that the problem solving and analytical thinking skills I have learned as a physics major will help me greatly in future medical work.



I have spent a lot of time working with and learning to communicate with young kids because of my interest in a career with children. For two full summers, I worked as a camp counselor at an overnight camp for ages 7-15. In the two-week sessions I became their surrogate mother guiding, teaching, and enjoying the spirit of my campers. Throughout high school, I worked with children as a dance teacher at a local ballet school.



My love of dance led me to compete in collegiate level ballroom dancing starting in the fall of my freshmen year at Carnegie Mellon University. Ballroom dancing is one of the few areas of dance in which partnership and working together are keys to success. Though I have become very good at following the lead of my dance partner, I sharpened my own leadership skills while serving as vice-president of the Carnegie Mellon Ballroom Dance Club.



In college, my desire for a career in medicine has grown stronger. The fear I felt just two days before my brother?s surgery, taught me to be strong. I was miles away from my family, yet I had one last exam before I could join them. When I was finally by their side, it was three hours into his surgery, and all we could do was share our feeling of helplessness. Now, when I lean my ear against my brother?s chest, the ?lupp-swish? of Vinny the Valve reminds me of the fear I felt that day, but the fear is far from over; Vinny will need replacement within the next ten years.



Medicine has always been a part of my life, and I am exhilarated that the chance for it to play a new role has finally arrived. In the seventeen years since my sister?s first surgery, I have learned that love alone is not enough to heal a heart, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to learn the rest.

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