From Baptist Health South Florida
7 min. read
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: March 9, 2023
Disponible en Español
Written By: John Fernandez
Published: March 9, 2023
Disponible en Español
Betty Zeitouni-Kechek, 68, is from Panama City, Panama. Jeanine Pereira Berheinm, 77, is from Managua, Nicaragua. They have one significant commonality: They are enjoying their lives with their families after both of them recently underwent a minimally invasive, heart bypass surgery pioneered by Joseph McGinn, Jr., M.D., the chief of cardiac surgery at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.
And they both traveled to South Florida to have the surgery performed by Dr. McGinn and his team.
Dr. McGinn is internationally renowned for pioneering the “McGinn Technique” that allows heart bypass surgery to be performed without requiring the splitting open of a person’s chest and stopping of the heart. The surgery – known as MICS CABG (minimally invasive cardiac surgery coronary artery bypass graft) involves an incision, about 2 to 3 inches long, made in the chest between two ribs, avoiding muscle and the need to break any bones.
Compared to open-heart surgery, MICS CABG also allows for a much smoother and faster recovery, which makes it possible for patients to travel to South Florida from other states and other countries to undergo the procedure.
“We get many international patients and we see patients from all over the U.S.,” said Dr. McGinn. “We’ve seen patients from the Caribbean, South America, Central America, and all of the states. Traveling anywhere to have heart surgery can be a very precarious situation because when you have the big, old incision, you're in a lot of pain. You don't want to be getting on a plane, especially if it's going to be more than a couple hours of flight time. So, if you're going to travel any distance to have heart surgery, it's going to have to be minimally invasive (MICS CABG) -- almost by default.”
The McGinn Technique at the Institute has improved bypass surgery so much that Dr. McGinn and his team often draw national and international patient referrals, as well as attention from surgeons seeking to learn more.
Both Betty and Jeanine ultimately were assisted by Baptist Health’s International Services in setting up initial meetings with Dr. McGinn and making appointments with him and his team at the Institute. An interventional cardiologist in Panama City who is very familiar with the work of Dr. McGinn made the referrals.
“Other surgeons in the U.S. or globally may have a complicated patient, but they don't want to do open surgery,” explains Dr. McGinn. “But the No. 1 referral is usually the Internet. Most of the patients who come my way find out that they need heart bypass surgery and they go see a surgeon who tells them they need open-heart surgery. Then they go home with their family and they Google ‘less invasive’ or ‘minimally invasive’ and then I get a call a couple of days later. That's the most common way we get patients.”
In the cases of many travelers and locals who undergo MICS CABG, the door opens for other needed procedures or surgeries – without any life-threatening cardiovascular side effects, explains Dr. McGinn.
“This is a big advantage for patients who come to us with other ongoing health issues -- with hip replacements being the most common one,” said Dr. McGinn. “Having blocked arteries in the heart would make them at high risk for anything else, especially some sort of surgery. With bypassed arteries done in a minimally invasive bypass procedure, they're at low risk or no risk for a cardiac death or a cardiac complication.”
Believing that she had not shown any telltale signs of heart trouble, Betty was surprised one day last November by unusual pain and discomfort after eating a salad – and it did not seem like typical indigestion.
Recalls Betty, mother to three sons and grandmother to nine kids: “One day, I was eating a cabbage salad and I got a lot of gas. Gas in my belly, pain in my hand and arm. But I never had chest pain or shortness of breath. I only had pain in my arm and stomach gas. My daughter-in-law was with me, and she was asking me if I had pain or shortness of breath -- and I was saying no, I don’t have any of that. I took a pill to calm down and it went away.”
Said Dr. McGinn: “She had some arm pain, which is one of the possible symptoms you get from having blocked arteries.”
The next day, Betty had an appointment with her cardiologist in Panama City “because I go get checked every year.” She told him she had stomach pain and some arm pain, and he told her that an EKG (electrocardiogram) just done on her was not normal. The next test she undertook would show something very concerning: coronary artery blockage.
“He them told me I needed to have a scan, so I went and got a scan and he found that I had about a 60 percent occlusion in my artery. He said I needed a cardiac catheterization because it could be 60 percent or 80 percent,” she recalls.
She then went to get a second opinion from Jonathan Rubin, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Pacifica Salud in Panama City, who is a friend of her son, Solomon. Dr. Rubin is very familiar with the work of Dr. McGinn at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.
“After the catheterization, the doctor told me I needed to see Dr. McGinn because I had an 80 percent occlusion in my main artery. That was about four months ago. He told me to go to the Institute. He said Dr. McGinn had a minimally invasive technique and gave me the names of a few people he knew that had been treated by him.”
An introductory Zoom call was set up with Dr. McGinn, and she was then scheduled for surgery at the Institute. She recalls: “My son, my niece and I were on the call. Both of them are fluent in English. He explained everything to us and how he would do the procedure. I really thought he was great -- and since he was so well-recommended -- I really went with my eyes closed. I had no doubts.”
“It went very well,” said Betty, referring to her surgery. “After the procedure, I didn’t feel any pain. When I left the hospital, I felt very weak. I had no strength to walk or to get up. I was uncomfortable, but I was never in any pain. And I was told that little-by-little I’d regain my strength.”
And that’s exactly what happened. “Thank God my recovery was very good and very fast,” Betty said. “I could’ve had a big problem if my condition wasn’t treated on time. “
Jeanine’s Story from Nicaragua
Jeanine resides in Managua, Nicaragua, but she also lived in Panama City for many years. She keeps very busy. She’s a clinical psychologist, a jewelry designer, and an art gallery owner. She has six children, 16 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
“My husband died of lung cancer because he was a heavy smoker,” she recalls. “And, since I was a passive smoker and also smoked occasionally, I had a lung checkup done and a thoracic scan. I had it done as a preventive measure, not because I felt any symptoms. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t have lung cancer.”
The end result: Her lungs were fine. But something else was brought to her attention from the testing.
“They told me I had atherosclerosis in the aorta (the main artery that carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body). So, I went to another doctor to get a second opinion and that doctor told me that I did have coronary artery disease. She referred her to a cardiologist in Nicaragua. And that doctor told me I had five calcified arteries.”
She flew to Panama to visit her children and one of her son’s best friends is the interventional cardiologist, Dr. Rubin, the same physician who referred Betty to Dr. McGinn.
“Dr. Rubin performed a catheterization in Panama and told me I needed a triple bypass. He referred me to Dr. McGinn as he had referred other patients to him before. He told me that nobody else would be better suited to perform the procedure.”
Jeanine also had her first appointment with Dr. McGinn Over Zoom. “Dr. McGinn’s staff was very attentive,” she said.
Said Dr. McGinn: “She had a very strong history of elements that would contribute toward that kind of diagnosis -- like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol. And she had prediabetes. She had all the elements of having a blocked artery.”
“My immediate recovery was very good,” Jeanine recalls of her stay at Baptist Hospital Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “I was in the hospital for five days. And ten days later, I was driving.”
Jeannine explains that her experience at Baptist Health was nothing like the misapprehension some of her friends had about healthcare in the U.S.
“In Latin America, there is a misconception that if one goes to the U.S. for medical treatment, you get treated like a number. But I could not have been better treated at Baptist Health. I was treated with so much warmth, attention and professionalism.”
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