Unique 'Bucket List' Wish Puts Woman In Surgery Room
84-Year-Old Witnesses Heart Surgery
Pat Studebaker, outfitted in full operating gear, fulfills a lifelong wish of viewing a complex surgery.
Photos courtesy of WRTV6 Indianapolis
POSTED: 8:14 am EDT June 17, 2011
UPDATED: 9:41 pm EDT June 17, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS - An 84-year-old woman with a unique bucket list request fulfilled a lifelong dream of witnessing a heart surgery at an Indianapolis hospital this week.
Pat Studebaker, outfitted in full operating room gear, watched Thursday as a doctor and his team performed a complex double-valve heart surgery at St. Francis Heart Center.
"I got to see a doctor hold a heart in his hand. That was amazing," she said afterward. "It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen."
The opportunity was made possible by Never Too Late, an organization that grants wishes for seniors.
Studebaker said she'd always dreamed of being a nurse, but the timing of her marriage and life got in the way.
During the five-hour surgery, Studebaker sat nearby, watching what was happening on a TV monitor as the doctor explained the process, step by step.
"That was real interesting because, otherwise, I would not have known if he hadn't explained it to me," she said.
Operating room nurse Kathy O'Reilly said the surgery team was inspired by Studebaker's curiosity.
"I saw the eyes of a child. She was just enthusiastic, she was curious, she was alive. It was beautiful,"' she said. "I have seen people 60 years her junior passing out. She was so alive and excited."
Studebaker said afterward she never thought she'd realize her dream of witnessing such a complex surgery.
"I didn't think it'd ever come true. I was so glad when it did, and I'm extra glad now that I saw everything," she said. "I met an awful lot of nice people today and the doctor was very nice. I don't think I can thank them enough."
O'Reilly said it's not uncommon for the heart center team to perform four to five similar surgeries a day. Still, she said it was refreshing to see the magic through another person's eyes.
"I loved watching her and watching (the doctor) at the same time," she said. "It's a pleasure to see the heart every single day."
Never Too Late has granted the wishes of more than 2,230 seniors, according to the organization's website.
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