Updated 04/02/2011 08:22 PM
Doctors Team Up to Give Woman Second Chance
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Sometimes in life, and apparently in medicine, it pays to be at the right place at the right time. That's something a local cardiologist and neurosurgeon discovered when they unexpectedly teamed up to help a Wayne County woman with a rare heart condition and make medical history at the same time.
"Really I felt like the oldest 32 year old around,” said Jamie Arliss, 32.
Arliss chalked up her fatigue to the long hours she worked as a nurse, in fact, that’s what she was doing when she underwent a routine test on her heart as part of her training.
"Mine was the most abnormal," Arliss said.
Arliss had a large and rare tumor stealing blood from the left side of her heart.
"The size of a left ventricle is about four centimeters inside. This was three and a half centimeters," said Dr. Christopher Cove, assistant director of the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The tumor wasn't cancerous, but it was growing. With no way to remove it, doctors were considering a heart transplant.
"I was presented this by the transplant surgeon who asked me if there was anything else that could be done. I really was stumped," said Cove.
Cove was baffled until he decided to ask a neurosurgeon to take a look, who by pure chance was temporarily sharing a workspace near Cove.
Dr. Babak Jahromi was certainly familiar with this type of tumor and a treatment method where the surgeons carefully block off the tumor's blood supply.
This technique had never been tried on a growth in the heart, and for good reason.
"The brain is a static organ they do it under general anesthetic the patient is not moving. The heart is beating 60-70 times a minute," said Cove.
These two doctors were confident they could do it, and mapped out a detailed plan to do so.
“That still doesn’t prepare for the first moment when you sort of look at each other and say ‘well, here it goes,’” said Jahromi.
Surgery took four hours but by combining expertise in cardiology and neurosurgery it was a success.
"It's no longer growing. In fact the portion that was growing outside her heart is no longer seen on an MRI," said Cove.
It's a breakthrough created in part by luck but mostly by courage.
"I think it was waiting so long to have something I wasn't scared anymore I just wanted to feel better," said Arliss.