Heart Work From the Heart: Interview with SunMed Perfusionist, Abdul Rashid Abdul Raup

30 September 2022

In conjunction with World Heart Day this September, let us discover more about this relatively unknown medical profession that has a crucial role in major heart surgeries.

Meet Abdul Rashid Abdul Raup, our Senior Perfusionist who has been with us since the inception of Sunway Medical Centre in 1999!

In his role, he often works closely with cardiac surgeons, anaesthesiologists, nurses and other members of the cardiothoracic team during heart surgeries.

To understand more about what he does and what he often has to go through as a perfusionist, we met up with Rashid to hear what he has to share!

What does he do as a perfusionist?

During major cardiovascular surgeries like heart transplants, coronary artery bypass surgery and cardiac valve replacements, the heart must be stopped to allow the surgeon to operate.

As a perfusionist, one of his main responsibilities is to operate the heart-lung machine during such major cardiovascular surgeries, which will take over the function of the heart and lungs that have been stopped and keep oxygenated blood circulating throughout the patient’s body.

As he operates the machine, he is also in charge of continuously monitoring and maintaining the blood pressure, blood gases, haemoglobin levels, temperature and the patient’s other vital signs. This requires a lot of concentration and focus, and a misstep can potentially cost the patient’s life.

Surgeries will often take between 4 to 6 hours. And even after that, his job is not done yet.

“After a major heart surgery like this, we usually have to stay back and be on standby. Anything can happen within the two hours after surgery,” he shares.

“When complications happen, there is a chance that the patient may have to be opened back up for surgery again.”

Other than being in the OT, he can also often be found at the Cath Lab and Intensive Care Unit (ICU), assisting with procedures with special equipment like the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and Intra Aortic Balloon Pump (IABP) machines that help support the heart.

How did he get into this field?

He graduated with a diploma as a medical assistant and started his career at the Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM). While working there, he heard that the hospital was looking for a pioneer team to run its new cardiac unit.

Feeling up for it, he took the challenge. He underwent a year’s training at the Institut Jantung Negara (IJN), and the rest of it is history.

What are the common challenges he faces on the job?

With the patient’s life on the line, Rashid admits that being a perfusionist can be stressful and sometimes difficult.

“You need to have the skills, as well as the ability to stay calm and confident throughout the entire duration of the surgery. Being able to respond fast is crucial on this job - you need to be three steps ahead of everyone,” he explains.

The nature of the job also means that he often has to stay late and spend long hours at work. He will often be called back to the hospital after work hours for emergencies.

Are there moments on the job that brought him immense satisfaction?

Despite the stressful nature of the job, he expressed that he loves doing what he does because of its unique responsibilities.

“Once the patient opens their eyes and there are no signs of a chest infection or other complications, I feel a great sense of satisfaction,” he said.

Does he have any advice for anyone interested to pursue this career path?

“Having the right attitude as a perfusionist is very important. The patient must always be your number one priority, and that means you need to give your 110% always. Also, never stop learning!”

We have certainly learnt a lot about the important role perfusionists play during heart surgeries. Once again, thank you, Rashid, for your “heart” work and commitment to serving patients who undergo major heart surgeries and procedures here at Sunway Medical Centre!