Dressed in a classic schoolgirl plaid jumper, Olivia Davalos, 9, stood before her classmates and proudly proclaimed: “This is my dad. He’s a cardiologist. He’s a heart doctor.’’
For the next 30 minutes, Mrs. Denise Board’s fourth-grade class at St. Paul’s Catholic School in Colorado Springs got a lesson in cardiology from Dr. Jorge Davalos.
The doctor from UCHealth Memorial Hospital began by standing in front of a white board and drawing a picture of the human heart.
“Do you know how many chambers your heart has?’’ Dr. Davalos, a UCHealth Medical Group physician, asked.
He explained that the heart has four chambers, an aorta and four valves – a tricuspid valve, aortic valve, pulmonary valve and mitral valve.
“Does anyone know why it is called the mitral valve? You’re never going to guess,’’ he said.
The children laughed. “Have you been to church when the bishop is there? What’s the name of his hat?’’
One of the children answered enthusiastically: “The big hat.’’
“Yes, it is a big hat but the name of the hat is a miter hat. Someone looked at that valve and decided it looked like the bishop’s hat, so they called it the mitral valve.’’
Dr. Davalos gave the students a chance to listen to his heart through his stethoscope. He told the children that they’re listening for the sound of “the lub and the dub.’’
“What do you think you are hearing when you hear the sound of the lub and the dub?’’ he asked.
A very smart fourth-grader answered correctly: “The valves.’’
“Yes, that’s the sound of the valves opening and closing,’’ he said.
He showed the children a basketball-sized model of the human heart, and explained what happens when someone has a heart attack. He pointed to the network of blood vessels known as the coronary arteries that surround the heart.
“When you have a heart attack, it’s because one of these arteries is clogged,’’ Dr. Davalos said.
As if on cue, one of the kids asked: “How does it get clogged?’’
The question launched a discussion about healthy living and a few things the children could do to keep themselves healthy.
“Eat right and exercise so you stay healthy. Maintain a good, healthy weight and don’t eat junk food so you don’t clog up your arteries with cholesterol,’’ he said.
Then, with tongue-in-cheek, he asked the fourth-graders: “Who here likes to smoke?’’
One boy raised his hand.
“A lot of people we know and love smoke,’’ he said. “But we know that most people start smoking as teenagers, and smoking gets you hooked. It’s a bad thing. You’ll be teenagers in a few years, and I’m telling you not to start.’’
One student responded: “I think it smells bad.’’ And, another chimed in: “You can get lung cancer.’’ Smart kids.
Next, the doctor used a portable ultrasound machine to show the children what the inside of his carotid artery looks like. He put a gel on his neck and the tip of the probe and then placed the probe on his neck. The kids watched the screen, where a black-and-white image of the doctor’s carotid artery appeared.
One little girl asked: “Isn’t that how you see babies?’’
Dr. Davalos explained that the ultrasound helps doctors see babies, kidneys, the liver, pancreas, bladder and other organs.
One child was very interested in the gel that Dr. Davalos had applied to his neck.
“Are you going to have to take a shower?’’ he asked.
At the end of the fast-paced lesson, Olivia Davalos, told her father: “Hey Dad, guess what? I’m a student of the month.’’
A few minutes later, Olivia and three classmates headed down the squeaky-clean halls of St. Paul’s to pick up their certificates of achievement. They had joy in their hearts.