Natalie Dunn

NEW LEXINGTON — Her world may be confined to a small community, but one New Lexington High School senior has big aspirations after witnessing two open heart surgeries as part of her school’s program giving her the opportunity of shadowing medical professionals.

Juniors at New Lexington High School go through a program that examines various types of professions in and around Perry County. By the time they are seniors, teachers and counselors help them get their feet wet by shadowing different types of professionals in the region.

Natalie Dunn is a senior at New Lexington High School and hopes to pursue a career in the medical sector. Her plan after high school is to attend Ohio University in Athens to study pre-medical classes. The thought of studying the medical field started at a very young age when she saw what her sister was going through in her own battles with illnesses.

“Growing up, my sister, she’s had a bunch of medical problems,” Dunn told The Perry County Tribune. “So I’ve always been in the hospital with her.”

Her older sister has an extensive history with several debilitating diseases. Over Christmas last year, her sister dealt with another medical issue having to ultimately get a heart valve replaced.

Dunn’s parents, Allen and Carla Miller, have also worked in the medical field, which made her comfortable in what some would feel is uncomfortable situations. Allen previously served as a paramedic giving Dunn an insight into how bad aspects of his job could get along with the good.

“I’ve been around it my whole life and I absolutely love it,” Dunn stated.

Dunn was preparing for a competition in the school’s agricultural department before she was able to shadow a medical professional. Her topic in the competition involved animal organs in humans making her curious as to how the process is done in a surgical environment.

“I wanted to experience, firsthand, an organ surgery just so I could get some general background knowledge,” Dunn explained.

With the school’s connections, Dunn was able to observe physicians assistant Grant Brame who works at Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster. She observed two open heart surgeries with the medical professional during the last week of October as well as another time in early November of last year.

During her shadowing, she witnessed a diabetic patient getting much needed help. Dunn explained that the patient’s veins in and around the heart were not “very reliable.” The patient had blockage in her veins prompting Brame and his team to reroute other blood vessels in her chest.

Dunn had never witnessed an operation like what Brame was conducting, but nothing seemed to faze the bright-eyed student who was more interested than anything else. She added that she was calm because of her family’s medical service history as well as her sister’s medical journey. Talking with her father previously helped her calm her nerves as well.

“He told me what to expect… it really calmed me down a lot,” Dunn explained. “I was just so overwhelmed with how amazing and intricate everything was.”

The second surgery she witnessed in early November involved an aortic valve replacement. She never realized the intricacy of how something like an aortic valve could be replaced. She recalled how the doctors operating used sets of strings to make sure the aorta would be visible for the procedure.

“It’s just really, really cool to watch because it looks really complicated but they make it look so easy,” Dunn commented. “I love learning about it that’s for sure.”

After witnessing the two surgeries with Brame present, Dunn is even more confident that this is the path for her. From her experience, she feels comfortable working and researching in hospital type settings. Dunn got really familiar with what Brame, as well as other medical professionals do to help patients, expanding her knowledge before hitting the campus at Athens.

Dunn’s hope is to become a physician’s assistant after witnessing what Brame was doing in procedures.

“In the end I just want to be happy and watching those surgeries makes me very, very happy,” Dunn said.

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