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article imageOp-Ed: Danny Williams could have had surgery in Canada

By Ken Wightman     Mar 3, 2010 in Health
London - This opinion piece is a little late but relevant nevertheless. Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams could have had his heart surgery in Canada rather than going to the U.S. I know. I had it done in London, Ontario.
When it was announced earlier this year that Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams was going to the United States for heart surgery a loud hue and cry was heard across the land. It seemed, at the time, to be a public repudiation of our Canadian single-payer health care model.
The conservatives in the States loved it, of course. It was bandied about on radio and television and in print as proof positive that the Canadian system was second, or maybe third, rate. If you're a monied Canadian and need hospital care, you go south, it was said.
Originally, Williams didn't say why he was going to Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. He would only say it was for heart surgery and that his doctors recommended that he go to the States for treatment. Williams answered his critics with, "It's my health, it's my choice."
And he is right. Williams is a millionaire. He is worth megabucks. He can afford to go anywhere he pleases for his heart surgery. And if I had the money, I might go to Florida. Slice me in Canada, cut me in the States, it is all surgery to me. But for recuperating, give me Florida. And Williams has a condo in the Sunshine State.
Williams was offered minimally invasive heart surgery in Florida but he could have received the same treatment here in Canada. I know because I had it done.
About seven years ago I was diagnosed with heart valve failure. My mitral valve was leaking severely. The doctors in London, Ontario, told me I needed surgery. At no point was the older, crack-the-breast-bone-open surgical approach considered. I was going to receive minimally invasive surgery done through a small incision starting under my right nipple and extending about three inches towards my side. The scar would not show as it would be hidden in the fold of flesh under the nipple.
Heart surgeon Dr. Alan Menkis performed the first repair of a leaking mitral valve done completely r...
Heart surgeon Dr. Alan Menkis performed the first repair of a leaking mitral valve done completely robotically in Canada.
CTS Net
The London Health Sciences Centre has a Da Vinci surgical robot available and my heart surgeon, Dr. Alan Menkis, was an expert in its use. He was itching to perform the first robotic repair of a mitral valve to be done in Canada and he was determined to scratch that itch. I was on the short list of patients considered for the honour.
I didn't make it. I was a jogger and in good shape. My arteries were clean. My heart, except for the leaky valve, was strong. But, someone else beat me out.
Then, on a Wednesday, I got a call from the hospital: "Are you available for heart surgery Friday?" It seems the fellow originally scheduled for the operation was ill, it was only a severe cold, but it was enough to put the kibosh to his operation. I was moved into first place. Yes!
Interestingly, the nurses all told me they'd have opted for the older operation. They agreed they would have had the chest cut open and the rib cage spread to reach the heart. Their theory was that this was the tried and true approach. It was the been-there-done-that of operations. The operation sounds vicious but it is actually quite manageable. It is quite ho-hum. My operation was fraught with unknowns in the opinion of the nurses.
Today, the argument over which approach is best still goes on. Macleans quotes Dr. Thierry Mesana, chief of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute's cardiac surgery division, and a leading international authority on mitral valves:
"The only real benefit is cosmetic. Many world renowned experts do not advocate it, in fact. It is done in Canada, but again, with caution."
So, I had the robotic surgery --- a misnomer, in my opinion, as the surgeon still performs the surgery, only it is done remotely sitting in front of a monitor and computer. One advantage of the robot is the rock steady 'hands' and another is the incredibly delicate stitching that can be done. But, minimally invasive surgery can be performed without the full blown robot involvement.
Am I glad I had the operation done robotically in Canada under our 'socialist' system? You betcha!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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