Nigerian Very Reverend Professor Samuel Uwhubetine Erivwo experienced occasions of breathlessness for five years before being informed of the need for a heart operation. His son, a doctor by profession, chose to send him to Singapore for surgery when it became clear that his father needed urgent attention.
Professor Samuel had his first experience of breathlessness during his son’s wedding five years ago and had difficulty climbing a short flight of stairs. Thereafter, he experienced similar attacks and was prescribed medication to cope with the discomfort.
During his church’s Easter retreat this year, Professor Samuel again experienced breathlessness. He was unconscious for two hours and was eventually sent to a local hospital for treatment.
Professor Samuel was then referred to a specialist in the capital city and prescribed drugs which he later learnt was similar to previous medications he had taken. They controlled and suppressed symptoms, but would not cure his condition.
On further probing by Dr. Polycarp Erivwo, Professor Samuel’s son, the specialist revealed that Professor Samuel would require an operation.
Within ten days of being discharged from hospital, Professor Samuel had another attack.
Dr. Polycarp saw the urgency in the situation and made queries on treatment options with friends in Europe and South Africa.
Upon suggestion by his brother in Malaysia that their father sought treatment in Singapore, Dr. Polycarp contacted the National Heart Centre. The Global Patient Services Team at the National Heart Centre tended to his queries and allayed any doubts that he had.
Professor Samuel was no stranger to Singapore as he had visited the city on a few occasions on gospel missions. Coupled with positive feedback from friends, Dr. Polycarp decided to send his father to Singapore for treatment.
Dr. Polycarp elaborated, “The healthcare facilities in Singapore are excellent and cost of surgery is affordable. The high number of surgeries that the National Heart Centre in Singapore had performed was our deciding factor. It is also the only hospital in Singapore approved for heart transplants.”
The National Heart Centre's Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery crossed the 15,000 mark in its number of cardiac surgeries in 2002. It is the only approved centre in Singapore for heart and lung transplants.
Transport and accommodation arrangements were arranged by the National Heart Centre’s Global Patient Services Team. Father and son arrived late in the evening a few days later. An appointment had been scheduled for the next morning.
A senior consultant from the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery examined Professor Samuel and diagnosed him with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve. Valvulopasty – heart valve replacement – surgery was necessary to relieve symptoms and enable Professor Samuel to lead a better quality of life.
Professor Samuel underwent a successful three-hour open heart surgery on a heart-lung bypass machine. Doctors replaced his aortic valve with a mosaic bioprosthetic valve.
Post-operation, Professor Samuel was warded for two days in the intensive care unit and transferred to a regular ward for the rest of his stay in hospital.
Visibly happy with the success of his operation and positive experience at the National Heart Centre, Professor Samuel gave two thumbs-up to the staff of the National Heart Centre.
“The doctors, nurses and staff at the National Heart Centre were all excellent and if I singled out anyone, it would not be fair to the others. They were all so good to me during my stay. There is nothing negative.”
To that, his son added, “I didn’t have difficulty understanding what the doctors were going to do when we met them before the operation. Their explanations were very clear and my father and I fully understood the procedure.”
“The reception during our stay in the hospital had been good. There weren’t any hitches and my father was very well taken care of. We didn’t encounter any problems.”
The National Heart Centre is the national referral centre for cardiovascular disease in Singapore. It provides comprehensive preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiac services to local and overseas patients. The Centre also specialises in managing patients who are at a higher risk for future cardiovascular disease due to the presence of multiple cardiac risk factors or a history of known cardiovascular disease.
National Heart Centre is the first and only local institution in Singapore to have the heart and lung transplant programme.
The National Heart Centre is a member of Singapore Health Services.
What is aortic stenosis?
Aortic stenosis is the narrowing of the aortic valve of the heart. This prevents the valve from opening fully and blocks the flow of blood. Without treatment, heart failure may develop.
What is an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)?
Electrocardiogram is a test to measure the electrical activity of the heart. Information obtained from an electrocardiogram can determine different types of heart disease. A cardiologist may also be able to find out if parts of the heart are enlarged or overworked. There is no pain or risk associated with having an electrocardiogram.
What is valvulopasty?
Commonly known as heart valve surgery, valvulopasty repairs or replaces diseased heart valves. Heart valve surgery is open-heart surgery done while the patient is under general anesthesia. Heart valve replacement is normally recommended when there is narrowing of the heart valve (stenosis) or leaking of the heart valve (regurgitation). Replacement heart valves can be natural (biologic) or artificial (mechanical).
The success rate of heart valve surgery is high and increasing. Heart valve surgery provides symptom relief and prolongs life.
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