The Bougainvillea Clinic celebrated another monumental and historic occasion in cardiac care in the BVI as its team successfully performed the territory’s first open-heart surgery on November 16.
While this represents a first in the BVI, it is the third such nation in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean to perform the surgery. Experts in the medical field say Barbados and the US Virgin Islands have also done it.
The patient is a young girl who underwent the surgery to replace her aortic valve.
According to the lead surgeon on the operation, Dr Rodger Miller, the patient’s aortic valve had to be replaced because it was preventing blood from leaving her heart.
He said they had to replace the valve with a new one to resume normal heart functions. The surgery, according to Dr Miller, took more than four hours. He said there were no complications and the patient is recovering in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Bougainvillea Clinic.
Dr Miller was assisted by Dr Sunil Stephenson — a senior cardiothoracic surgeon visiting from University Hospital of the West Indies in Jamaica. Head of Anaesthesia, Dr Craig Stoutt was also present to assist.
Dr Miller said it was an important moment for cardiac surgery in the territory.
“Even though we are a small country, we can achieve big things,” he stated.
Dr Stephenson further said the historical operation was a long time in the making and he jumped at the opportunity to participate. He said the operation required experienced medical professionals, especially the ICU nurses. And as a result, he poached a few nurses from Jamaica to ensure everything went smoothly.
Meanwhile, Angela Williams, the Clinic Manager, expressed her gratitude for the medical team which was able to save the young child’s life.
“It’s a pleasure to stand before you today to say we did it. We did it under constraints but we were successful and I am proud of my team,” Williams said.
The owner of Bougainvillea, Dr Heskith Vanterpool, said the success of the surgery was mainly because of the tremendous efforts of his team at the medical facility.
He thanked the administration, the nurses, the doctors, the ICU team, the auxiliary staff and clinic drivers for the work done to ensure the day went smoothly.
Vanterpool also expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the National Health Insurance (NHI) team for covering a significant part of the operation’s expense and also for their commitment to assist with the development of cardiothoracic surgery in the Virgin Islands
in the future.
Dr Vanterpool further said the procedure would have been considerably more expensive if it was performed in the United States. He said the cost would be around $100,000-$150,000 but he is grateful the life-saving surgery was performed locally at a reduced cost.
“I was quite surprised by the things that I saw, the kind of emotions that it generated. Particularly when the heart completely stopped. There was no breathing for about one and a half hours but the perfusionist (operator of the heart-lung machine, which is an artificial blood pump) did a masterful job. When the patient came back to life, so to speak, that was a very emotional time,” Vanterpool added.
The Bougainvillea Clinic is not new to pioneering medical procedures in the territory. Back in 2019, Dr Vanterpool noted his facility had made another massive leap in the Virgin Islands
’ medical sector as a medical procedure conducted by doctors to cure the Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW) — also called abnormal heart rhythm.