NY Med

ABC News: Having Heart Surgery Is Like Flying

by Columbia Surgery on July 10, 2014

On July 10th, Dr.Michael Argenziano, Chief of Adult Cardiac Surgery wrote a guest post for the ABC News Blog on why he became a heart surgeon:

I’m a cardiac surgeon. I’m lots of other things, of course-a husband, father, and Little League coach-but I’ve spent the 30 years since high school graduation essentially working toward one goal, to become the best cardiac surgeon I can be.

Cardiac surgery appealed to me because it was a chance to make a real, measurable impact on the lives of people every single day, helping people out of literally life-threatening situations. As much as I enjoy this, it is the impact that these operations have on their extended families that is most gratifying. I am reminded of the importance of human life every day when I walk into the family waiting room after performing surgery, to find as many as dozens of people, usually from multiple generations, waiting on pins and needles to learn if their family member is going to be OK. Having endured illness and death in my own family, I can never forget that what for me is just one of hundreds of operations I perform each year, for that patient and family is one of the most significant and terrifying moments in their lives. I consider it the ultimate privilege to be trusted with that patient’s life.

When Dr. Mehmet Oz and I met Mr. Carratala, the nervousness, uncertainty, and fear that this street-toughened police detective felt was palpable in the room. He, like most of us, was used to being healthy and in control of his life and surroundings. But he had suffered the unimaginable-a stroke-while on vacation, and in a whirlwind of doctor’s visits and invasive tests learned that he harbored a life-threatening defect in his heart. An abnormal hole in the wall between two of the heart’s chambers had allowed what would normally be a harmless speck of clot to cross over to the left side of his heart and be pumped to his brain.

We explained that although he would need open-heart surgery to close the hole and prevent another stroke, we’d be able to do this minimally invasively, through only a small incision between his ribs. This small consolation seemed to calm and reassure him, although I think what really made him and his family feel better is that we told them that the problem was fixable, and showed confidence that all would be well. Dr. Oz likes to say that the most important role of a physician is not as a healer, but as a teacher (the word “physician” means “teacher”), and I have to agree. I enjoy explaining complicated heart problems and how I’m going to fix them to patients as much as I enjoy actually doing the work. And I understand that one of my most important jobs is to take the burden of anxiety away from the patient by taking control of the situation.

I like to tell patients that having heart surgery is like flying on a commercial airliner. The risk of disaster is quite low, but that’s not because flying an airplane is easy. It’s because the pilot and his team are highly trained professionals, who repeatedly pull off the miracle of getting a 100-ton metal tube to fly in the sky without incident. That’s what heart surgery is like – you’re doing freakish things with a person, connecting them to complicated machines, stopping and opening the heart, making repairs, then starting it up again – and everyone expects it to go smoothly every time. And my kids ask me why I lost my hair…

People often ask me if I like my job, if the rewards are worth the tremendous effort and dedication. The answer usually depends on how my last patient has done, so that day the answer was yes.

Michael Argenziano, M.D., is Chief of Adult Cardiac Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, where he is also Director of Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery and Program Director of the Residency in Thoracic Surgery. He received his M.D. from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and completed his training in cardiothoracic surgery, mechanical cardiac assistance, and surgical electrophysiology, all at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. He is married to Maria Rodino, a Columbia-trained endocrinologist, and they have six children, the oldest of whom will be attending Columbia in the fall and plans to be a heart surgeon himself. Argenziano now appears on ABC News, “NY Med.”

Read the original posting here.


“To Be or Not to Be”… an Organ Donor

by Columbia Surgery on August 28, 2012

Arundi Mahendran, MBBS preparing an organ for transplant

Arundi Mahendran, MBBS, MRCS, MSc is a transplant surgeon and accomplished singer. Originally from London, Dr. Mahendran completed her general surgery residency at University College London and a fellowship in abdominal transplant surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. A recent episode of NY Med followed Dr. Mahendran as she collaborated on a living donor liver transplantation in which one brother donated a portion of his liver to the other. In this opinion article, Dr. Mahendran challenges followers to engage in a different kind of discussion when it comes to organ donation.

Organ donation is hot stuff! Slogans and advertising yell, “Organs save lives! Register as a donor now!” But surveys show that the majority of people who choose not to be donors have either not thought about the question or are deterred by uncertainty as to what the process means for them.

As a child, I was pretty stubborn. I did not respond well to being told what to do, nor how to think. I was hellbent on figuring things out for myself.  Therefore, this article is not designed to tell you that you should become an organ donor.  I simply ask that you think for yourself and consider the following question:

What does it mean to YOU to be an organ donor?

People become donors for various reasons; some do it because they’ve seen a friend die while waiting for a transplant, others because they want to give back to society. There are donors who describe it as doing God’s work, and yet others who will do it to save the life of a loved one. What would your motivation be, if you chose to be a donor?

NY Med has featured both living donor transplantation (in which a living person donates a part of their liver or one of their kidneys) and deceased donor transplantation (in which organs are donated based on the person’s prior decision to donate, or the family’s decision). Now ask yourself, what would you do if your dad needed a new kidney?  How would your family respond if you were involved in a fatal accident? Would you (and they) consent to your organs being used to help people? What makes you and your family reluctant? You may be asking why I insist on posing such morbid questions at readers who are neither sick nor dying! The simple reason is that engaging with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers in an open and frank environment allows you to be thoughtful about the facts and clear about your motives. This is far preferable to the middle of the night scenario, when a loved one suddenly passes away or is declared brain dead.  To make this decision, when you are utterly devastated by loss and wracked with grief, is extraordinary to me. Why not think about these issues when you are healthy of mind and body, and able to discuss your wishes with those closest to you?

Organ Transplant Container

What deters potential organ donors? The first issue is fear about their fate! People worry that in the event of a life threatening condition, health professionals will not work hard to save their life if they’ve already signed up as an organ donor.  The truth could not be farther from this fear, I can assure you. Doctors and nurses involved in your emergency care are dedicated to fighting for your life; that is their primary goal, always. In addition, they have no association with the transplantation services whatsoever. Some people are concerned that they may be too old or unhealthy to become donors. But anyone can choose to be an organ donor, there is no age cut-off. If a potential donor had a medical condition, it does not necessarily exclude them from donation. Doctors will make that call at the time of death. People with strong religious beliefs may worry about going against religious teachings by agreeing to donation. Engage with your faith leaders and seek guidance on how organ donation is viewed within your belief system.

The number of people waiting for a transplant in the United States is tantamount to the entire population of Berkeley, California (100,000). While there are many substitute therapies like dialysis and special drugs, these treatments are not a panacea.  The only definitive treatment for end-stage organ failure is transplantation; without it, people die. So, I return to the first question I posed: What does it mean to YOU to be a donor? Don’t be put off by the myths and misconceptions surrounding organ donation.  Ask questions, demand answers, do the research and discover your opinion on organ donation.

Make an informed choice that you are comfortable with, but do think about the question. This is all any fellow human being can ask of you.

For more information on becoming an organ donor, please visit: http://nyp.org/services/transplantation-surgery/organ-donation-facts.html 

Stay tuned to hear more from Dr. Mahendran and connect with her on Twitter at @ArundiMahendran or on her Facebook page.

Related Links:
Orchestrating Surgery with NY Med’s Dr. Mahendran: Part I
Orchestrating Surgery with NY Med’s Dr. Mahendran: Part II


Orchestrating Surgery with NY Med’s Dr. Mahendran: Part II

August 20, 2012

TweetA recent episode of NY Med followed Arundi Mahendran, MBBS, MRCS, MSc, a transplant surgery fellow at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, as she collaborated on a living donor liver transplantation in which one brother donated a portion of his liver to the other. In this interview, Dr. Mahendran describes her experience in the transplant […]

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NY Med “Stars” Share Their TV Experience

August 16, 2012

TweetColumbia Surgery Blog Talk Radio recently featured Tomoaki Kato, MD, Chief, Division of Abdominal Organ Transplantation NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and Anthony Watkins, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Department of Transplantation at NYP/Columbia, who also have appeared on the national television documentary NY Med Listeners asked the two physicians a range of questions, from […]

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Heart Transplant Q&A

August 13, 2012

TweetAfter cardiothoracic surgeon Hiroo Takayama, MD, PhD, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, was featured on the television documentary series NY Med recently, audience members tweeted several follow up questions. Dr. Tayakama answers these questions, regarding a heart transplant, below. Question: What was that icy looking liquid on the container that carried the donor heart? Answer: […]

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Living Donor Transplantations in NY MED

August 3, 2012

Tweet Previously on NY Med, we have seen cameras intimately follow both doctors and their patients as they went through the arduous and sometimes frustrating process of transplantation and surgery. The show has become a platform to highlight awareness of the organ donation shortage and how it affects so many waiting for a transplant. The […]

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“Lights, Camera, NY MED”

July 24, 2012

TweetMedical school does not traditionally prepare doctors for public speaking, let alone become television personalities. They do not offer an “Acting 101” elective in medical school. Yet the NewYork-Presbyterian doctors featured on the ABC hit series “NY Med” probably would not need that class even if it were available. “NY Med” is real-life in the […]

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NYPH is #1 hospital in NY City, # 7 in Nation, According to US News & World Report Survey

July 23, 2012

TweetNewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is the best hospital in the metropolitan New York area, according to the U.S. News & World Report annual survey, published March 29, 2011. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is the best hospital in the metropolitan New York area, and ranks seventh in the nation, says the 23rd annual U.S. News & World Report annual survey, […]

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Orchestrating Surgery with NY Med’s Dr. Mahendran

July 17, 2012

TweetDuring the premiere episode of NY Med, viewers were introduced to Arundi Mahendran, MBBS, MRCS, MSc, a transplant surgery fellow at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and an accomplished opera singer. In this interview, Dr. Mahendran provides a glimpse into her experience as a fellow and what it was like to be involved in the […]

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Highly Anticipated Documentary Series NY Med Premieres Tuesday, July 10 at 10:00 PM/ET on ABC

June 21, 2012

TweetFollowing the award-winning success of Boston Med and Hopkins comes the highly anticipated documentary series, NY Med, premiering on ABC Tuesday, July 10 at 10:00 PM/ET. For a full year ABC cameras were granted unprecedented access as they captured the lives of the medical staff and patients inside NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. From Dr. Anthony Watkins’ journey […]

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