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National Hospital Abuja conducts heart surgery on Twitter

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By tweeting the details of an operation that was performed on a young girl live on Tuesday, the National Hospital, Abuja, may have expanded the meaning of open-heart surgery.

In a total of 13 posts, including two photographs and a short video, the hospital management ensured that every stage of the operation, from the beginning to the end, was relayed to its followers on Twitter.

The surgical operation, described as a ventricular septal defect repair, was conducted on an eight-year-old girl with a hole in the heart from birth.

For the online community, what matters is not the technicality of the surgery but the hospital’s decision and courage to broadcast a serious medical situation of this nature live on Twitter.

At a point, somebody wanted to know what the hospital would have done if the operation had resulted in the death of the patient.

Yet, filled with suspense, the tweets had continued. The tweets read, “Happening now: open-heart surgery. Live at the Trauma Centre, National Hospital, Abuja. The procedure is a repair of a hole in the heart. The patient is an eight year-old girl and the ailment is congenital – she was born with it.”

Those who saw the first tweets after they hit the cyberspace were, perhaps, not so sure that the posts were not meant to be a joke, especially since the Twitter handle was not verified.

But more tweets soon followed, saying, “The surgeons are draping the patient in preparation for surgery.” This was accompanied with a photograph showing a hospital bed, the surgeons and the patient.

The tweets revealed what the doctors were doing at every stage of their assignment and the condition of the patient. And there was a four-second video to show that the repaired heart was fine.

The rest of the tweets were mostly scary and educative at the same time.

“The surgeon is performing a median sternotomy – opening the chest of the patient. The patient is about to go on a bypass. The bypass machine is a temporary replacement of the heart before it is stopped.

“The bypass machine creates a new route for blood to circulate so that the heart can be stopped. The surgeons have connected the tubes successfully and the patient is now on a bypass,” they said.

The hospital also continued, “The surgeons are trying to put a purse string around the right superior pulmonary vein. The corrective procedure is still being carried out on the heart and everything is going on fine.

“The heart has been stopped and the bypass machine continues its functions. Now, a cannula has been inserted into the RSPV. This is to completely drain the heart of blood.”

At this point, it posted a video showing the patient’s heart and wrote, “The heart has been started successfully and being tested. The patient has been taken off the bypass machine and the heart takes over. The patient is being closed up.”

While the online engagement was going on, some tweeters prayed for the successful restarting of the heart just as they admired the experts. Others kept reflecting on the consequences of the adventure.

Tweeting via @ambitionistin, one Dream said the process was “beautiful” to watch. Another tweeter, Bibi Jones, described the tweets as an “expensive” joke from a serious hospital.

With 61 posts, so far, the hospital is relatively new on Twitter. Much of its following, which stood at 660 on Wednesday, joined its Twitter community after the sensational tweets from the theatre.

Its first tweet – “Hi, the Twitter page of the National Hospital, Abuja, is now live” – was published on April 22, 2015.

But, despite its age on the micro-blogging site, its tweets on one of the most sensitive jobs of a surgeon have earned the hospital a reputation as one of the most daring Nigerian institutions on social media.

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