TURLOCK — A group of fifth-graders learned all about the complexities of the human heart and how it can be broken Monday morning.
The Walnut Elementary School students were part of a field trip to learn about cardiovascular health at Emanuel Medical Center. The two classes of about 60 students were part of the Discovery Math Science Magnet program and got a firsthand look at how patients suffering heart attacks and other cardiovascular emergencies are diagnosed and treated by the hospital's doctors and nurses.
The students were led by instructors Dave Sutton and Bret Sutterley, who teach the math and science magnet fifth-grade classes. The students are learning about the body and its pulmonary and cardiac systems as part of their curriculum, so the field trip fit perfectly.
"When they can see it, touch it, hear it or feel it, it gives them a whole different feeling," Sutton said. "This is incredible. The information they are getting is wonderful."
The students started at the emergency bay and got to see an ambulance and hear an emergency medical technician discuss how cardiac patients are helped as they come in. Then they toured a trauma room, where patients go to be diagnosed. Finally, they saw the cardiovascular catheterization lab, where patients with arterial blockages are taken.
Students learned about the signs of a heart attack, what causes arterial blockage and how it's better to pack almonds than a candy bar when going on a picnic.
One of the students is the son of Emanuel interventional cardiologist Dr. Oussama Dagher, who helped set up the tour.
Students used to come through the hospital regularly for tours, but a combination of health concerns and budget cuts have made visits such as Monday's rare the past few years, said spokeswoman Pennie Rorex.
Among the items making the biggest impression was the cardiovascular catheter, which doctors showed the students along with corresponding coronary angiograms. Seeing the long, flexible catheter wire which doctors insert in the groin and and is worked up to the blockage was enough to have some students swear to healthy lifestyles.
"I was pretty freaked out by that," said student Damin Rawlins. "You have to exercise and eat healthy."