Inflatable organ provides tours during visit

Susquehanna Health employees took a journey to the center of the heart on Friday.

The inflatable AmeriHeart – some 20 feet tall – beat in the Susquehanna Tower lobby for two hours as staffers traveled through atriums and ventricles.

It’s the first time the AmeriHeart has stopped in Pennsylvania, and the public can check it out today at the Lycoming Mall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the Family Health Fest.

Deb Bierly, a registered nurse in the heart and vascular department, gave tours through the heart. She pointed out symptoms of a broken heart, like endocarditis, “a vegetation in the heart that’s totally abnormal,” and a hole in the ventricular septum.

“This is normally a solid wall,” she said, stepping through ribbons draped between the left and right ventricles. “And we’re going backwards compared to the flow of blood right now.”

Members of the electrophysiology and paramedic departments were also on hand to show off some of their hardware that keep hearts beating.

“We’re real proud of our balloon times,” Andrew Mattocks, a paramedic, said. “We get to work on standing orders, so we can completely bypass the emergency room with some of our tools and get people into the catheter lab quickly when they need it.”

The Magic School Bus-worthy experience was planned by Susquehanna Health’s communications department to raise awareness of its heart and vascular unit and celebrate the arrival of a da Vinci robot that the hospital will use to perform urology, gynecology and cardiac surgeries.

Dr. Michael Lazar will start at Susquehanna Health full-time on May 13. He’s a cardiothoracic surgeon at Penn State Hershey and specializes in robotic procedures.

“This is the most advanced model, with four arms,” Lazar said. “With this we can make a two-inch incision rather than cutting through the breastbone. We’ll have people back in action in two weeks.”

People who completed the walk-through appeared impressed by the gigantic model of man’s most important machine.

“I’ve learned I don’t want to have a heart attack,” Natalie McCormick, of South Williamsport, said. “I’ll stick to the chicken and not the beef like I’ve been doing.”