‘Matters of the Heart’ dissected by students at Wenatchee Valley Museum

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An exploration of the heart was underway at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center on Saturday morning as local students and medical professionals braved the winter conditions for the Matters of the Heart Dissection Lab:

“We are here to dissect a pig heart with some young people with the idea that we’re going to try to teach them how the heart works and what circulation is about, hoping to get them interested in a healthcare field of some sort,” said retired Confluence Health Internist John Gill.

Gill has a personal connection with the local heart lab, as he had a heart transplant nearly two years ago.

“I went into heart failure starting in March, probably February of 2012, gradually went into more and more heart failure,” Gill said, adding that he spent years receiving treatment until he could get a viable heart for a transplant.

“The heart was just magic for me, I feel 15 years younger now and I can do anything I could do before, except I got older,” Gill said. “So I’m a little stiff but that’s alright.”

Gill shared his story with the students who attended the dissection lab, and explained how the structure of the heart can impact people’s lives.

“I think a lot of young people especially, but it’s true of a lot of people, they have this sense that they can’t do something like this, that this is science and it’s too complicated for them to handle,” Gill said. “This gives them confidence that they can learn this kind of information and that they could then become whatever they want to become.”

At the beginning the of the lab groups of students circled around each pig heart set up in the gallery of the museum, following the lead of the instructor at each table.

“When they first start out they’re very shy, and they don’t want to do anything,” Gill said. Each local medical professional showed the students the structures of the heart and how to navigate the muscle, eventually passing the scalpel to the students.

“We let them start cutting and feel what it was like to cut tissue, and they got more and more interested in doing that and really weren’t shy at all once they got going,” Gill said.

By the end of the lab students were excited to get their hands on the hearts and navigate through tissue in an organ they may never otherwise see in person.

“These kids in general are just a great deal of fun,” Gill said. “It was really fun to watch them gain confidence and learn from all of this. They’re really very pleasant and fun to deal with and this is a real privilege for me.”