‘Straightforward’ for the surgeon, but ‘amazing’ for the patient
Sturgis St. Peter appreciates history. He’s a native of Barnstable village and his family roots in the village go back to 1637, two years before the incorporation of the town of Barnstable.
But he also appreciates technology – like a rocket-quick jet ski or the developments in heart surgery that saved his life.
Before we get to that, let’s go back to Thanksgiving 2015.
“I had a wicked cold, but that’s normal that time of year,” he said. “That time of year, you say, ‘I’ll tough through it. Be a guy.’”
But he still felt lousy at Christmas time and well into the new year. In February, he saw a doctor and was told he had a sinus infection.
“They gave me some medicine for that and I started to spring back, but then I started going downhill again,” he said.
In April, he went to the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital.
“They did a more thorough examination and found out that I had a sinus infection. I also had pneumonia in both lungs and a very bad case of the flu.”
Further tests revealed that he also had a torn mitral valve.
“I didn’t need stents,” he said. “I don’t have a cholesterol problem. All my plumbing is very smooth. It was just this one weird valve that was torn.”
In Steps Dr. Dan Loberman
The mitral valve regulates the “inflow” for the left side of the heart, and also prevents the blood from flowing backwards when the left ventricle (the main pumping chamber of the heart) contracts. If, for some reason, there is stenosis (narrowing) or regurgitation (leakage) of the mitral valve, it might need surgical repair or replacement. Traditional mitral valve surgery requires a mid-line chest incision of about 8 inches, but a minimal invasive approach, through a 2-inch incision in the right side of the chest might be appropriate for a selected group of patients.
St. Peter recalled what happened when Dan Loberman, MD, a cardiac surgeon at Cape Cod Hospital, who is also affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told him about the planned course of treatment.
“Dr. Dan Loberman came in and said, ‘I’m going to take good care of you. I’m going to do this process that’s called the mini mitral valve surgery. Instead of doing an 8-inch midline incision in your chest, we just make a small cut underneath your right breast and use some micro tools.’
“‘So that’s cool,’ I said.”
The operation was performed on May 10, 2016.
The Cape Cod Hospital cardiovascular surgical program has been affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston ever since the program was started in 2002. The partnership has allowed the Hyannis hospital to expand its cardiac surgery services to include the latest procedures using cutting edge technology.
Surgical repair for severe mitral valve regurgitation is the gold standard in cases of redundant mitral leaflets (myxomatous valve disease), according to Dr. Loberman.
“It brings these patients to the general population survival curve. That’s where he is now.
“For other pathologies, we might need valve replacement. That too, can be done through a minimal invasive approach.”
St. Peter was an appropriate candidate for the mini mitral repair surgery, which has several advantages, he said.
“The length of stay after the mini approach is a bit shorter and there is less use of blood products,” said Dr. Loberman. “Overall patients recover a bit faster. They don’t have as many post-surgical restrictions as they have with median sternotomy.”
At that time, Dr. Loberman had performed the procedure about 50 times at Cape Cod Hospital since May 2015.
A Smooth Recovery
St. Peter’s surgery was “straightforward,” Dr. Loberman. “He recovered completely and well,” he said. “His echocardiogram after the operation showed perfect function of the valve, without any leakage and his incisions healed beautifully. He came back after a year, very happy and satisfied.”
St. Peter, 67, is a building contractor.
“I felt so good that about two months after the surgery I went out and bought a 70-mile-per-hour jet ski,” he said. “I’ve been terrorizing people ever since. I still do my high-speed go-kart racing. I’m still very physical, swinging a hammer. I’m doing better now than I did 10 years ago.
“If heart surgery is this slick, I’d do it again a heartbeat. It was one of the best life experiences I’ve ever had. It’s amazing technology. I’m super impressed.”
St. Peter has high praise for the nurses on North 3 at CCH who cared for him during his stay. And for Dr. Loberman.
“I like the guy a lot. It’s a darn good thing we’ve got him on the Cape.”