This is one of my favorite episodes of Grey's because it's so creatively done. The entire thing is filmed in a documentary style, complete with dramatic narration, focusing on how the surgeons are coping six months after a mass shooting at the hospital. Several were held at gunpoint at different times, some lost friends, and some were forced to wait with patients they could not save, while the patient died. This will be the first time, I'll be detailing three scenarios in a single episode for disability representation:
A patient, known simply as, Zack, is paged to the hospital because he has been matched with a new pair of arms. Four years ago, Zack lost his arms in a logging accident and they have been searching for a match for him for two years. His wife, Nora, talks quite a bit about all the ways she adapted and helps her husband with everyday tasks. Zack is played by actor John Lacy who is not an amputee. Though not surprising to me, it is a little disappointing.
The scene above is quite graphic as it contains quite a bit of the arm transplant surgery itself, but toward the end, you can see Zack with his new arms.
Tracheal Tumor/Tracheal Transplant:
Nine-year-old Lily Price is admitted to the hospital with difficulty breathing due to a recurrent tracheal tumor, blocking her airway. She soon has to be intubated, and pediatric surgeon, Alex Karev, goes from being annoyed by her tendency to blast preteen music from her room, to taking her under his wing. He even keeps an eye on her while her mother is stuck at work, three hours away. Eventually, fellow pediatric surgeon, Arizona Robbins, comes up with the idea to grow Lily a trachea with a mixture of her own cells. We later see her operation was a success, due in large part to Dr. Karev all but living at the hospital for months, to be sure the trachea was growing all right in the lab, remained irrigated, etc. Lily later invited Dr. Karev to come and speak to her fourth grade class.
This is one of the few situations where I can understand not having an actor with a particular medical complication, as Lily's type of tumor was extremely life threatening. I've always liked this aspect of the episode, because Dr. Karev really looks out for Lily. He even urges the documentary camera crew to back off when she is upset she can't bring her I-Pod into the MRI machine with her, as seen below:
While obviously focused on the patients, Grey's Anatomy has always been about how they affect the surgeons. As stated earlier, the entire episode takes place just six months after many of the surgeons were held at gunpoint. At this point in season 7, we can gather than several of them have been diagnosed with PTSD. In particular, when plastic surgeon, Jackson Avery, gets trapped between two sets of doors during a false triggering of the hospital's new security system, he is instantly nervous and his attention is on how to get out, and not on his patient, who codes while trapped with him. Avery is forced to do CPR, all the while calling to a fellow doctor, "I need to get out of here!" and "I need to get out now!" When the doors are finally opened and Avery is free to leave, he cannot seem to stop himself from continuing CPR. Afterward, he angrily kicks over a cart in an empty room, and blankly addresses the camera, saying, "It's been hard. I lost some friends that day."
I have always loved all of the complex ways the show has portrayed the effects of PTSD on multiple people. It does not present the same all the time and I really appreciate that. Throughout the entire series, the writers do an incredible job portraying this particular aspect. Though I was not able to find a full clip of Jackson trapped between the doors and performing CPR, you can see a small clip at :20 in this promo for the episode. (The promo is so good!)