Heart sur­geon Yves d’udekem on job pres­sure. HOW I MAKE IT WORK...

PAE­DI­ATRIC HEART SUR­GEON DR D’UDEKEM OP­ER­ATES ON BA­BIES AS YOUNG AS TWO DAYS OLD. HERE, HE OPENS UP ABOUT THE ENOR­MOUS PRES­SURES OF HIS WORK

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Joe Hildebrand - Stel­lar picks

Igot into car­diac surgery be­cause I wanted to help peo­ple at the worst stage of life. When you’re work­ing on the sick­est pa­tients, you can make the big­gest dif­fer­ence. My main in­ter­est is ex­treme con­gen­i­tal heart dis­ease. Some ba­bies are born with mal­formed hearts or only one pump­ing heart cham­ber. In the past, these pa­tients would die at an early age, but now there is an op­er­a­tion called the Fon­tan by­pass (named af­ter Fran­cois Fon­tan, the French sur­geon who first per­formed it), which redi­rects blood to the lungs by by­pass­ing the heart.

Be­fore pa­tients un­dergo the Fon­tan pro­ce­dure be­tween the ages of three and five, they need a num­ber of other op­er­a­tions. The first is usu­ally done soon af­ter birth, some­times in the first few days of life. Work­ing on ba­bies, there is a high level of pre­ci­sion – half a mil­lime­tre will make a dif­fer­ence. The pres­sure is enor­mous be­cause no two pa­tients are ex­actly the same, so you have to be in­no­va­tive. With the pres­sure also comes in­tense emo­tion.

There are some pa­tients you can’t help but bond with. When you op­er­ate on them the first time, they stay for a few months and you see them ev­ery day. By the third op­er­a­tion, you know their par­ents’ first names and you’ve seen the kid grow up. The weight is there – you want to go fur­ther for them.

I have five kids of my own. I need to dis­con­nect my chil­dren from what I do in theatre. I’m a soft guy, but when I’m op­er­at­ing I’m in the zone. You have to have the right mind­set and be very calm and re­laxed. Be­ing stressed is not good in the op­er­at­ing theatre.

The hard­est part of my job is break­ing bad news to fam­i­lies. I try to use those low mo­ments as in­spi­ra­tion. Some­how the suf­fer­ing is good be­cause it is the drive that makes you im­prove things. If pa­tients are dy­ing too of­ten, I will try to find a so­lu­tion for them not to die. That’s why I started my clin­i­cal re­search project, the Fon­tan Reg­istry, at the Mur­doch Chil­drens Re­search In­sti­tute.

The reg­istry col­lects data from all the pa­tients who have had the Fon­tan op­er­a­tion in both Aus­tralia and New Zealand; it’s the largest data­base in the world and it lets us de­fine the out­comes of pa­tients in the long run. I want the ba­bies I op­er­ate on to live as long as pos­si­ble and to have a good life.

Get your Greek on with mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tions of tra­di­tional dishes at AL­PHA. In Syd­ney; al­pharestau­rant.com.au.

Dis­cover unique crafts and col­lecta­bles at the ETSY MADE LO­CAL mar­kets. Nov 19, var­i­ous lo­ca­tions; etsy.com/au.

Out Thurs­day in cin­e­mas na­tion­wide.

Yves’s tips for work­ing un­der pres­sure

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