Into the Operating Room
One of the first nontraditional healers allowed in an operating room with Dr. Oz, Julie Motz harnesses the body's own energy to help patients survive risky operations, such as heart transplants and cancer surgery.
When I first walked through the doors of the department of cardiothoracic surgery of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in upper Manhattan, the department had a suite of elegant offices in one wing of the seventh floor of the center’s newest building with patients recovering from its highly technical and remunerative surgeries occupying another. I treated some of these patients, using the energy that flows through my hands to help them heal the terrible and awesome things that have happened inside their chests.
For a while, just to be doing such healing work, and to have it be effective in the highly mechanized and computerized realm of academic medicine, where machines extend life beyond anybody's wildest dreams, was mysterious and challenging enough. But then I found myself obsessing about the operating room. If I could be effective after surgery, what might I accomplish if I could run energy into these open and wounded bodies while the transformation under the surgeon’s knife actually occurred?
I didn’t bother to think about the fact that this has never been done before—the idea seemed so natural, such an obvious extension of what I was already doing. I didn’t bother to think that what I’m doing already seemed odd enough to the nurses and the attending cardiologists on the unit—and even to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the surgeon whose patients I treated.
I thought about scalpels and saws cutting through unresisting flesh and bone, and pieces of anatomy being removed and rearranged, and the surrender to this invasion that the patient must endure. I thought about the energy in the room—the collective passions of surgeon
and patient, each needing this process to succeed, but for different reasons.
The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced I belonged there.
Dr. Oz had a coronary bypass scheduled, so we went down the escalators to the operating-room suite together. He punched in the code that allowed the door to the surgical inner sanctum to open.
He led me to the racks where blue scrub suits, masks, shower caps, and shoe coverings were stacked, handed me a selection, then disappears behind a door through which I heard men’s voices and laughter, as if someone had just told a joke. I entered the one marked “Women’s Dressing Room,” with the paraphernalia of the profession clutched against my chest.
I met him between the two dressing rooms. He showed me how to pinch the top of my mask so it stayed up on my nose. I followed him through a series of passageways and a set of swinging doors into the cube of unnaturally bright and beeping space—the operating room.
To my surprise, the surgery was already well under way. Dr. Oz often does not “open” for himself, unless it is one of the trickier cases, like a mechanical heart implant, or a
transplant involving a patient already on a mechanical heart. The preliminary work—in this case, painting the body with betadine, a disinfectant the color of dried blood, draping the sterile blue cloths around the area of the incision, cutting into the chest and sawing open the sternum, and opening the leg to remove the veins that would take over the work of the coronary arteries—have already been done by a surgical resident.
I expected to just take a quick look around, introduce myself, and leave, but Dr. Oz motioned me to stand at the head of the patient, as he disappeared through a set of swinging doors opposite the ones through which we entered. Stepping in front of the anesthesiologist, I realized I was expected to watch the surgery—something I hadn’t counted on.
In two minutes Dr. Oz was back, his hands dripping. A contraption like a miniature miner’s lamp, with high-powered binocular spectacles attached, was strapped to his head. He dove into the surgical gloves the nurse held out for him, and slipped into the sterile gown, which she tied behind him. He positioned himself on the right side of the body, with his back to a machine that powered the lamp’s high-intensity beam.
Virtually nothing of the patient was visible except the gaping wetness of her chest. I deduces that there was a woman under all the draping from the wisps of hair I could just barely see protruding from the sides of her cap. I took a deep breath and looked into the blood-filled space. I had never witnessed a surgery before, but I felt fortified having seen a video Dr. Oz loaned me a few weeks before, of a mechanical heart implant procedure. I watched the whole thing without turning my head away once, very promising for someone who could never stand the sight of blood.
While Dr. Oz used a tiny electric torch to cut closer to the heart, I noticed the resident holding something in the air that looked like a worm which must have been a vein. And then it happens—I heard, with what set of ears I do not know, the vein screaming in terror. The brain, shut down and furious, muttered, “Nobody told me about this, nobody told me about this, nobody told me about this,” like a mantra. The heart, without blood or pulse, moaned in confusion and pain.
I looked around me. The surgical nurse passed instruments to the surgeons; the circulating nurse moved between the sterile and nonsterile fields; the perfusionists monitored the heart-lung machine; the attending and resident anesthesiologists wrote notes; Dr. Oz and the surgical resident, peered into and poked away at the chest cavity. Nobody seemed to notice a thing. Everybody proceeded briskly, if not exactly cheerfully, with his or her task, as if this emotional cacophony was not going on.
I wondered if I was going crazy, but then I thought about all the messages I had received from people’s bodies over the years working as an energy healer. This ability to tune in and hear or feel what was going on inside is one of the reasons people come to me for healing. But this was different. I had never heard a part of a body scream, mutter, or moan before.
What struck me at the moment was how totally unprepared the body seemed to be for what was happening. No one had warned the vein that it was going to be removed from its cozy, familiar position in the leg, with sluggish venous blood oozing comfortably through it, to take up duty as a coronary artery, sustaining the fast, throbbing flow of arterial blood.
No one had told the brain that muscles would not respond to the frantic messages it sent firing down the nerves, or that it would have to nourish itself for an hour or more on chilled blood treated with a special chemical to keep it from clotting in the machine. No one told the heart that it must lie quietly for a while, during which time its whole reason for being, the movement of blood through the body, would be taken over by an external device. And no one thanked the body, either in parts or as a whole, for its courage in undergoing this ordeal.
Julie Motz, author of Hands of Life, is an internationally known energy healer who pioneered the practice of energy healing in the operating room with patients undergoing surgery. Working side-by-side with surgeons in hospitals nationwide, she discovered the profound emotional journeys that underlie the path of disease.