Boy on work experience creates code to save heart attack victims

The Evening Standard reports that work experience often involves little more than tea-making or watching office workers glued to their screens. But one schoolboy put his placement at Barts Heart Centre to much better use — by helping devise an award-winning system to save heart attack victims. 

Ben Wald, 16, came up with the idea of surgeons “writing” a patient’s medical history in code inside their chest after observing open-heart surgery at the hospital, where his father Professor David Wald is a cardiologist.

Ben, an A-level student at Dulwich College, suggested that the surgeon could leave a “message” inside the patient’s chest to indicate the number of heart grafts and their location. 

He and his father devised a coding system, which involves tying the wires that close the sternum, or breastbone, in a certain way. 

“I could see that perhaps you could use these wires and sculpt them into something that could tell the cardiologist 10 years down the line what had happened at the original operation. 

The code last month won a prize for innovation at the Society for Cardio-thoracic Surgery. The concept will be presented at the British Cardiovascular Society annual conference in June. 

 

Patients who undergo a coronary artery bypass have their heart “re-plumbed” with veins or arteries taken from elsewhere in their body, creating a new pathway for oxygenated blood.

These grafts only show up if the cardiologist manages to identify their origins during the angiogram and inject a dye which lights up under the X-ray. 

 

Alex Shipolini, a cardiac surgeon at Barts, said: “This is unique idea that solves a common problem. I have used the code and it’s easy to apply. The challenge is now making this code routine and we are talking to surgeons across the country to do so.”

Read more Boy on work experience creates code to save heart attack victims

Was your work experience time as useful as Ben’s? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter ~ Tamsin

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