The room is almost silent, except for the hum of machines connected to the faceless man. One to control his vital signs, one to breathe through him and another to keep his blood circulating while his heart is stopped. There are ten other people in the room besides the man on the table: the surgeon, the head nurse with three assistants, two nurses who control his vital signs on the monitors, the anesthetist and assistant, and a 21-year-old nursing student, standing at the head of the faceless man, watching every moment of that open-heart operation.
Savannah Valeria is a student at the University of Missouri, in the fall semester of her third year of nursing school, which is said to be the most difficult semester of all. Almost every night, Savannah spends her time studying her notes and learning about another disease, and when she is not studying, she is working in one of the local bars, Harpo’s, as a waitress.
Some days, she says she loves what she does, other days, it is difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed, especially after a night at the bar. But what keeps her going, she says, is that in just a year and a half, she will finally be able to do the job she has wanted to do for so long.
When Savannah was in middle school, her life revolved around watching crime programs and murder mysteries, always trying to solve one case after another before the one hour episode ended. 48-Hours was her not-so-secret addiction; she spent hours and hours watching the different criminal cases.
For a while, she was sure that she would become a pathologist and perform autopsies for the most difficult cases. Through a family connection, she followed a pathologist, asked questions and decided that it was not the job for her. But she did confirm that he wanted to work with living bodies. In high school, Savannah applied for and was accepted in what was called the Medical Academy, where she spent four years learning about various professions in the medical field, participating in shadow days at the local hospital, working in the laboratory and obtaining an advantage over hundreds of other nursing students.
Now, in the middle of the most difficult semester of her university career and with the practical experience provided by her clinics, Savannah is sure that her passion is nursing.
The hum of the machines is interrupted when the surgeon looks at Savannah, smiling under his mask.
“Are you ready?” He asks, with a saw of bones in his hand, which will be used to cut the man’s sternum, and she smiles back, praying to God not to faint. “Ready,” she replies.