They say it’s all in a day’s work. TCU alum and Cook Children’s Medical Center Sarah Patzke Shaabani, ’14, RN was one of 25 medical professionals who recently helped perform the delicate operation of separating conjoined twins, a first for the Fort Worth pediatric hospital.
“I was both honored and nervous because I knew how much trust these surgeons were putting in me to be one of their nurses during this procedure,” recalls Shaabani. A separation surgery of this magnitude was a first for Shaabani.
In preparation for the procedure, the surgical team conducted several simulations; role-playing the surgery and meticulously thinking of and planning every small detail from the equipment and medications needed to how the beds would be positioned in the operating room and how they would move one of the patients after the separation. To practice the positioning of the patients and skin preparation, they attached two baby dolls, and the team was split up into two teams complete with color coordination – green and purple – to avoid any confusion.
“It was a great opportunity for the team to share their ideas and come up with solutions others may not have thought of,” she said.
Shaabani explains that the simulation meetings held in preparation for the surgery were very similar to the ones she had to conduct as a nursing student at TCU.
“Practicing in the simulation lab as a nursing student gave me the confidence to practice my skills before performing them on a human patient, allowing me to be prepared for any type of situation,” she said.
Shaabani is grateful to continue growing her skills and staying current on the latest treatment methods through advanced certification opportunities such as Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) offered at Cook Children’s Medical Center.
“The surgery went extremely well, and we are all so proud and honored to have been a part of this special miracle; our team worked so well together and are like family,” said Shaabani. “But even though the surgery was a success, these babies have a long road ahead of them. Please be in prayer for them and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team that continues to care for them.”
Sarah has been a nurse for over eight years, immediately joining the medical staff of the emergency department at Cook Children’s after graduation and eventually moving to the oncology medical and surgical floors.
“It was a wonderful opportunity but realized it (the emergency department) wasn’t for me,” Shabaani said.
It wasn’t until a friend from nursing school encouraged Shaabani to join her in the operating room (O.R.) that she found her calling. She has been working in the O.R. going on six years, the first two working with adults and the last four years with children. Her specialty is general surgery, and she has assisted in everything from appendectomies and lymph node biopsies to complex abdominal and thoracic surgeries.
“I absolutely love it, and I am so excited to go to work every day,” she said.
Shabaani says the most important thing that nurses can do is to take care of themselves first.
“Read a book, bake cookies, do whatever brings you joy,” she said.
With the demands of the job, nurses experience extremely high levels of stress, trauma, depression and suicidal thoughts. The pandemic only exacerbated these symptoms.
“You will not be prepared for the extremely difficult situations that nursing can bring without taking care of yourself,” she said.
To any nursing student that may not know what direction to take, she recommends narrowing down what it is they truly love about nursing. For her, it was her love of science and interest in anatomy and physiology which made the O.R. the perfect place. For others, it may be caring for the patient at the bedside or being in an office environment.
“The great thing about nursing is that there are so many paths you can take,” explained Shaabani. “You can keep trying different ones until you find your passion as I did.”