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Excerpted from Hands of Life by Julie Motz. Copyright 1998 by Julie Motz. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Everybody is proceeding briskly, if not exactly cheerfully, with his or her task, as if this emotional cacophony were not going on."

Julie Motz, Hands of Life, Part 3

In two minutes Dr. Oz is back, his hands dripping. A contraption like a miniature miner's lamp, with high-powered binocular spectacles attached, is strapped to his head. He dives into the surgical gloves the nurse holds out for him, and slips into the sterile gown, which she ties behind him. He positions himself on the right side of the body, with his back to a machine that powers the lamp's high-intensity beam.

Virtually nothing of the patient is visible except the gaping wetness of her chest. I deduce that there is a woman under all the draping from the wisps of hair that I can just barely see protruding from the sides of her cap. I take a deep breath and look into the blood-filled space. I have never witnessed a surgery before, but I feel fortified by having seen a video that Dr. Oz lent me a few weeks before, of a mechanical heart implant procedure. I was able to watch the whole thing without turning my head away once. Very promising for someone who could never stand the sight of blood, I thought.

While Dr. Oz uses a tiny electric torch to cut closer to the heart, I notice the resident holding something in the air that looks like a worm but that I know must be a vein. And then it happens--I hear, with what set of ears I do not know, the vein screaming in terror. The brain, shut down and furious, begins muttering "nobody told me about this, nobody told me about this, nobody told me about this," like a mantra. The heart, without blood or pulse, is moaning in confusion and pain.

I look around me. I check out the surgical nurse, passing instruments to the surgeons; the circulating nurse, moving between the sterile and nonsterile fields; the perfusionists, monitoring the heart-lung machine; the attending and resident anesthesiologists, busy writing notes; Dr. Oz and the surgical resident, peering into and poking away at the chest cavity. Nobody seems to notice a thing. Everybody is proceeding briskly, if not exactly cheerfully, with his or her task, as if this emotional cacophony were not going on.

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