By Sharmain Cornette
It was an all-Guyanese nurses team in the operating room last weekend when New York-based Guyanese doctor, Dr Gary Stephens, undertook more cardiac interventions at the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI), which is located in the Georgetown Public Hospital Compound.
Dr Stephens, who is head of CHI, and a team of cardiologists, arrived in Guyana last Friday. On the same day they performed open-heart surgery on 50-year-old Bibi Khalil. The next day they conducted the first local Myxoma Resection, a procedure to remove a tumour from the heart. The patient was Errol Smith said to be in his 40s.
According to Dr Stephens, the removal of the tumour was technically difficult and had to be undertaken with meticulous precision as it could grow back if the entire mass was not removed.
He said, “It is important that at the time of the resection that the entire mass be removed. It could be very friable with the tendency to break in pieces so that sometimes it is very difficult to remove the entire tumour.”
However, the resection procedure as well as the open-heart operation proved to be successful and the patients are recovering well at CHI, according to Dr Stephens who had cancelled his scheduled Sunday departure to ensure that his patients were indeed doing well.
During an interview with this newspaper, Dr Stephens regarded the weekend operations as ‘special’ pointing out,”This time around I wanted to see whether the local team could do the surgery.”
Since the commencement of CHI in 2006, the Cardiac Surgeon had expressed his desire to have the facility be operated by 100 per cent Guyanese personnel, a status he expects the facility to attain by early next year.
“The entire operating room staff, except for the person who operated the heart lung machine, was local…And I must say they have done an excellent job. I was impressed and I think we are well on our way,” the doctor boasted.
He however noted that the local nurses’ involvement has only been in the area of coronary artery bypass and not the valve open-heart surgery, which is a little more technical in nature. For this reason, he disclosed that he would bring his New York-based team for one more ‘valve run’ by which time the local nurses will be ‘up to speed’ with the procedure.
In addition to their exposure to the local operations, Dr Stephens said that the Maimonides Medical Centre in Brooklyn, New York, which is arguably ranked number one in cardiology, has agreed to help with the training of a few of the nurses.“They will go up there and get the additional training…Our anaesthesiologist was already there and the Centre has also committed to helping us train a local person to operate the heart lung machine. That person is expected to leave sometime next month,” Dr Stephens said. Simultaneous with the resection procedures, he disclosed that the team of cardiologists who had accompanied him had engaged in a period of aggressive stenting. Seven stenting procedures were conducted at the weekend.
“This time we were more aggressive in the number of patients we could stent…But there are some high risk patients you cannot stent unless you have surgical back up. This time a surgical team was here.”
And even as CHI gears for an all-Guyanese workforce, Dr Stephens revealed that the entity is actively looking to recruit another Interventional Cardiologist to supplement what is already being done.
Through Government’s bilateral relations with China, an Interventional Cardiologist is currently offering his assistance to CHI.
And according to Dr Stephens, efforts are being made to secure a similarly experienced person who can function independently.
“We think we are close to getting a deal with someone to be on the ground and strengthen our ability to handle people who have an emergency like a heart attack. If we get patients to the Cardiac Cath Lab within about 90 minutes, we can do the angiogram and stent them.”
And to boost the entity’s operations and in accordance with recent rules that have been implemented in New York, Dr Stephens said that efforts are being made to source a cooling system.
According to him, based on the new rules, if an individual has a serious heart attack and has profusion issues that person must be taken to a hospital with the ability to cool the body way beyond room temperature.
“We find that if we cool the patient’s body to 32 degrees it can help save that patient’s brain. So we are about to source that equipment in the event that we have to deal with someone with a massive heart attack, if a person faints or if they are in a coma we can cool their body and hopefully when they wake they will still have some brain function.”
Commenting briefly on the heart-related ailment of leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Robert Corbin, Dr Stephens pointed to the fact that had the political figure required an angiogram or a stenting procedure CHI from an infrastructural and personnel standpoint has the requisite capabilities.
“I think people have a right to choose wherever they want to go. Everybody makes up his or her own mind about the quality or standard of care that is available. But I can say that we do angiograms about three times a week and we can do more if we have to.”
According to the Cardiac Surgeon, the CHI has successfully undertaken more than 300 angiograms since its commencement.
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