We're a little crazy, about science!

Prepping for the experiment

Today’s the day, experiment number five. With lot of luck this will be the first full experiment we do for this protocol. It will hopefully mark a turning point for us since after four attempts we’ve yet to get a full dataset. However, I’m hopeful, but I’m also going in alone today.

Okay not completely alone, I’ll have some help, but for all intents and purposes, it’s my show to run and I’m calling the shots when it comes to the experiment itself. The surgeon is the ruler of the OR so I hesitate to designate anything for me other than the experiment since that’s my domain. Of course if I don’t move fast enough or I take too long to test something, well then the show will go on without us (and has in the past).

Since I have a few moments, I thought I would talk once again about the amount of work that goes into doing something like this. Even a normal experiment has a lot of prep time, but this is a whole other level of work, so extra time to get everything ready is needed. What does that look like? Well testing equipment, arranging equipment, getting it all ready for travel from our lab to the OR, basically all the things I can do before we go into the room. Let’s take that list apart one thing at a time though since there’s a lot that goes into each step.

Everything that can save us a few seconds in the OR will be done before we head over. Which means checking and rechecking our equipment to make sure everything is working properly. Testing the equipment means we record some data with it just to make sure it’s actually recording. This will not ensure that it works the way we expect it to once we hit the OR, but it will improve our odds (slightly). We also add any of the consumable stuff to the equipment. Some of the things we use require stickers or tape, things like that, so we add it before we head over.

There’s also things that we keep in the lab that are on hand for us when the experiment is actually in the lab, but since we need to bring everything to the OR we need to arrange the equipment so that we have everything we need. Mostly that involves taking things out of drawers, bringing extra of everything just in case, things like that. There are a few tricks to things, some cables get stored a certain way so they won’t tangle when I unroll them (something I recently taught to hospital-PI how to do). Not having to worry about unrolling cables saves us a lot of time since a lot of the stuff we’re doing is wired. There’s not a lot of room in the OR so we need to be close to the person, but not so close that we break sterile field, it’s a delicate balance.

Lastly we need to arrange and pack everything for transport. All our equipment lives on a nice little travel cart. A cart that is a huge pain in the ass to move around, but a cart with wheels nevertheless and it works well for our purposes. The problem with having a cart with wheels is that none of the things on the cart are secured to the cart in any way. There are straps (or rather a strap) to secure things, but that gets in the way of operation, so we need to put the equipment in such a way that the strap can be used. Walking across the hospital with a rather large cart feels weird, especially around patients and non-hospital staff, but we haven’t dropped any of the expensive pieces of equipment (yet) so I haven’t had to deal with that embarrassment (yet).

All of the stuff I just summed up takes roughly two hours or so. Which is almost twice the time it takes to set up a new experiment and almost four times the time it takes to set up an experiment we’ve already done. In short, there’s a lot of work that goes into getting ready, but once we’re in the OR we don’t have time to fix equipment or troubleshoot things. The staff and surgeon want to get on with the job they have to do, no one wants to hang around in an OR till late in the evening when they don’t have to.

That being said, I should get started on prepping the cart. The other catch to doing an experiment in the OR is that the start time is fluid. Sometimes it gets bumped up several hours sometimes it happens basically on time. It’s all a matter of luck, so we need to be ready.

Time to get my game face on.

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