Opening a heart to save a life

Dr Venkataraman (left) with Mr Wiser at his check-up six weeks after the procedure (Photo: Ashok Venkataraman)

On a recent Sunday afternoon, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine alumnus Dr Ashok Venkataraman, now an Attending Cardiothoracic Surgeon at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Oregon, US, met with a particularly memorable case when a man was rushed into the emergency room with a barbed wire lodged in the middle of his heart.

The man, 62-year-old Mr Wayne Wiser, was mowing his orchard when he came across a piece of barbed wire. In an unfortunate series of events, the wire was pulled into the mower and became a projectile that went into his rib cage, moved through one of his lungs and ended up in the centre of his heart.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. And will I ever see anything like this again? Probably not,” said Dr Venkataraman.

The only option was open heart surgery which required Dr Venkataraman to open Mr Wiser’s chest, stop his heart and open its chambers, before carefully removing the piece of barbed wire.

“The projectile had entered a precarious central-most location of the heart, and it was a miracle that the patient had not died on the way to the hospital. Performing such an emergency operation and having a good outcome required an entire team of skilled healthcare providers working together in unison,” Dr Venkataraman recalled.

Miraculously, thanks to Dr Venkataraman and his team, merely a few weeks later Mr Wiser was back to mowing his orchard after being cleared to resume normal activities.

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