Sounding concerned but businesslike, Mrs Persad-Bissessar, yesterday afternoon updated Newsday. She said, “He has been admitted to St Clair Medical Centre this morning (Tuesday). He will undergo surgery tomorrow morning.”
Nine specialist doctors will perform the surgery, Newsday learnt, led by Italian Dr Giovanni Teodori.
After feeling unwell last week, Dr Bissessar had an angiograph to examine his heart during which blockages were found in the web of blood vessels that lie on the surface of the heart. The vessels are known as the coronary arteries.
Newsday understands that Mrs Persad-Bissessar has altered her schedule so as to be at St Clair Medical near her husband as he has his surgery.
Speaking last night to Newsday, she said, “I always put God in front, and now I pray for him (Dr Bissessar).”
Persad-Bissessar said she has been blessed to have a husband who has been supportive of her, even when the tide was against a woman being a political leader. “He has been my rock and my strength,” she said. “I trust in God. I think God has given me a person in my life who has made me who I am.” Asked for details of the surgery, Mrs Persad-Bissessar referred Newsday to Education Minister, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, who is a gynaecologist.
Dr Gopeesingh issued a statement that said, “Please be advised that Dr Gregory Bisessar is scheduled for Coronary Bypass Surgery tomorrow, Wednesday June 22, 2011 at approximately 8:00 am at St Clair Medical Centre.”
He later told Newsday that Dr Bissessar will enter the operating theatre at 7 am and be out by lunchtime. He said there are two “occlusions”, or blockages, in the Dr Bissessar’s coronary arteries to be bypassed.
Rather than do a mere angioplasty– in which a tiny balloon is inserted into an artery and inflated so as to push aside any blockage– Dr Bissessar’s surgeons will go around, or bypass, the blocked section of the affected arteries.
A bypass to each of these two blockages will be created using respectively the
Internal Mammary Artery (taken from the chest) and the Saphenous Vein (taken from the leg), said Gopeesingh.
Dr Bissessar’s surgery is being done by Caribbean Heart Care Medcorp (CHMC) Limited, based at St Clair Medical Centre.
The main surgeon is Dr Teodori, a colleague of CHMC director/co-founder Prof Gianni Angelini, who is also Italian. Dr Teodori leads a team of two other cardiac surgeons, two anaesthetists, two intensivists and two profusionists.
The intensivists specialise in intensive care, while the profusionists take care of the profusion of body fluids circulating.
Gopeesingh said the surgery would be done with Dr Bissessar’s heart still beating (known as “off pump” surgery), as opposed to the alternative practice of stopping the heart for surgery and re- starting it afterwards.
Dr Gopeesingh told Newsday St Clair Medical Centre has a “very good track record” and a very low death-rate for its heart surgeries. It has done more than 2,500 operations, he said. He was optimistic, saying so far there are no indications of anything likely to give rise to complications, although warning that, “In all surgeries, it’s not over until it’s over.”
Dr Gopeesingh said, “The Prime Minister is very concerned but very optimistic.”
He said the Prime Minister accompanied her husband to the hospital to admit him, then left to hold two meetings, but had then returned to him just before 4 pm.
Gopeesingh said Dr Bissessar is very upbeat, saying, “His spirit is very good.”
He said Dr Bissessar has been well-informed of the procedure by his own standing as a medical doctor.
Asked how Dr Bissessar’s health is otherwise, Gopeesingh said, “He has extremely good health. He has been exercising and he stopped smoking several years ago.”
Asked about online articles saying that this surgery can release “debris” (such as plaque and bits of blood cells) into the circulatory system that can cause brain damage, an unfazed Gopeesingh said, “Only if there are complications.”
Another source told Newsday that if today’s surgery goes according to plan, Dr Bissessar could expect to then spend two days recovering in intensive care, while a fuller recuperation would take two to three weeks, especially for the cut in his chest to heal. He would be able to get up and move about during this recuperation period.
The source said that while surgery must never be considered to be routine, bypass operations are in fact “done all the time on anyone”, and that TT’s surgeons generally do a good job. Mishaps may occur in surgery, said the source, but everyone goes into the operation theatre expecting and hoping for the best outcome.
The support of loved ones is important to heart patients, said the source, saying that such family-members would help the patient if they themselves keep calm, rather than being stressed.
The CHCM web-site said Dr Teodori has performed 5,178 surgeries over the past 15 years. Born in Florence in 1954, he is said to be one of Italy’s leading heart surgeons, and a pioneer in off-pump coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.
Between 1991 and 2008, Dr Teodori lectured as a professor at the Universities of Florence, Chieti, Turin and East Piedmont in Italy. He has operated at both the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and the St Clair Medical Centre.
He is a reviewer for the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, and his work in CABG surgery is featured in 60 peer-reviewed publications, plus 100 abstracts and papers, presentations at scientific meetings and chapters in medical texts.
Dr Teodori’s wife, Mauricette Samoun, is a cardiologist.