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Solving the complex puzzle of aortic disease

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Dr. Kong Teng Tan, Dr. Thomas Lindsay and Dr. Maral Ouzounian
(L to R) Dr. Kong Teng Tan, Dr. Thomas Lindsay and Dr. Maral Ouzounian are part of the surgical team that selects and performs individualized procedures for patients with aortic problems. (Photo: The Globe and Mail)​​

Nazmoon Griffith points to her chest and abdomen to illustrate the surgeries at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) that repaired her aorta, the main artery that carries blood throughout the body.

Perched on the seat of her walker in her Toronto studio apartment, she traces lines vertically and diagonally across the front of her body.

"They cut here," she says, as if unzipping a zipper, "and here. And here."

Mrs. Griffith adds: "Then again here. And here."

The 73-year-old native of Guyana, who came to Canada in 1968, says she doesn't remember much these days. And she wasn't concerned about the details of the procedures, the months of days and nights in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), the blood transfusions, the post-op stroke, dialysis and time on the ventilator.

Her 31-year-old great-niece, Melissa Rahaman, a member of the Canadian military, talked with the doctors and explained the procedures and risks to her.

"My aunt doesn't have the most education," says Ms. Rahaman. "She didn't really understand what was wrong with her. I had to keep track of everything. I did a lot of my own research."

She also found the surgical team leader, Dr. Thomas Lindsay, Division Head of Vascular Surgery and the R. Fraser Elliot Chair in Vascular Surgery, to be "super approachable. I didn't feel nervous about asking him questions. He was very reassuring, and he was really involved, checking on her every day."

Dr. Lindsay, in turn, appreciated Ms. Rahaman.

"Sometimes the patient is blissfully unaware," he says. "Her niece was invaluable. When problems arose, we made sure to talk to the niece, as well."

Even the fact that the case was one of the first of its kind in Canada and involved a large, highly skilled and creative team meeting and planning six months in advance of the first operation was of no great relevance to Mrs. Griffith.

What does impress her, though, is how she was cared for.

"They treated me so well," she recalls. "Everybody knows me, almost like family."



PMCC Magazine 

The third annual Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) magazine published by The Globe and Mail focuses on why Canada's premier cardiac centre is known for being “the heartbeat of innovation.” The magazine explores the PMCC model that supports the creation, development and evolution of innovative ideas into action – making “today's idea, tomorrow's practice.” It also examines the impact that a culture of innovation has on the way cardiovascular care is delivered now and into the future.​

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