Suture lab: stitching up pig feet

A student suturing up the foot of a pig. (JJ Valdez)

By JJ Valdez/The Skyline View

A student suturing up the foot of a pig. (JJ Valdez)

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Wendy Contrenas is used to working with needles. However, she is usually sewing fabric, not flesh. Contrenas is one of several students who attended a free sutures lab April 15, in which students were invited to learn how to make medical stitches.

The event was hosted by the Health Career Club with the intention of showing students that working in the medical field not only provides practical knowledge, but can also be fun.

“I’ve never done this before,” Contrenas said. “I’m having fun.” Contrenas is currently looking to work in the medical field, which is why she was interested in the lab.

The students practiced stitching up wounds on pigs’ feet rather than working on humans. They were taught the various ways one could stitch a wound up and which of these ways would be best for certain types of wounds.

“Anything is possible,” said Alice Erskine, instructor of Skyline’s surgical technology program and an adviser to the Health Careers Club. “They might even be a surgeon someday.”

Erskine said she had two primary goals for this event: (1) to teach students that the Health Careers Club offers fun activities such as this, and (2) to instill confidence in students who might be interested in a medical career.

“I would hope that everyone knows how to do this, but I hope nobody has to use it,” said Jose Sanchez, secretary of the American Medical Students Association.

Sanchez aided Erskine in helping students with their stitches while sharing his personal experiences with badly done stitches. While serving in Iraq, Sanchez severely cut his thumb. Instead of a trained medic giving him stitches, an untrained comrade of his did and ended up injuring his thumb more than helping.

Sanchez said he wants students to learn how to suture, as he said it’s better for students to have the knowledge and not need to use it, rather than not have it and need it.

Erskine said she purchased the pigs’ feet at a local grocery store. The other tools and materials were largely donations from San Mateo County hospitals and extras from Skyline’s own medical program.