Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Creating a Crani - Craniotomy from the OR to the Computer Screen

Things I thought I would never see - surgeons arguing about logistical use of the operating rooms while performing brain surgery.  Nothing like multi-tasking while picking apart someone's brain... literally.  This project is for a website that contains educational materials for the UIC hospital.  Each student in the class was assigned a specific surgery to illustrate.  I was assigned to explain a craniotomy, a fairly common procedure in the UIC OR.

This is the first time I've had to go into the OR for a specific surgery, which made getting in much more difficult.  Because we don't get a schedule the day before, I would get an email either late the night before or very early the morning of (before 7am), so scheduling in advance was not an option.  I only have class in the morning on Wednesday so I tried to stay flexible and be patient, two challenges for me.

I was tested even more when on the day I was able to get into a craniotomy there was a delay.  I got into the OR around 7 am and surgery commenced around 10:30 am.  And I'm going to let you in on a secret, there isn't nothing to entertain yourself with in the OR.  I basically stood in the hallway getting in the way of everyone for 3 and a half hours.  I was not pleased.  But I persisted, only sending a few angry texts, and was rewarded for my patience. 

The head nurse of the room had seen me wait it out for all that time and made sure I had the best seat in the house for the surgery.  Basically, I was elbow to elbow with the surgeons.  So much so I accidentally touched one of them, ruining there sterile environment.  Luckily, they are prepared with special attachable sleeves to fix my elbow bump.  I also was standing in front of the screens they used to magnify the brain, so I did some ducking.  But that nurse was not going to let them move me from my spot.  Basically, those surgeons were going to do that surgery with me as their third wheel or the patient was going to have to keep that tumor in his head (they completed the surgery).

 My sketches came out great, I've come a long way with my abilities to sketch on the fly in the operating room.  I had around 10 steps in mind at the beginning, but I needed to reduce down to 5 or 6 key steps.  I ended up having 5 steps, though one step is three illustrations.  I did the line work in Illustrator and brought it into photoshop to paint.  What took me the longest was the full layout of the steps.  Making sure the eye reads each step in the correct order and is oriented to the where in the body the step is taking place is more challenging than I initially thought.

In the end, I'm very happy with how it turned out.  I got to see brain surgery, check out books on how to do brain surgery, and then illustrate the heck out of brain surgery.  A good days work in the life of a medical illustrator.