In 24 hours, three lives saved thanks to teamwork at the CVC 

March 18, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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To say operating rooms at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center (CVC) can be hectic is putting it mildly. But one day in January, the ORs became even more in demand as several teams of surgeons and support staff were faced with performing three lengthy and complex cardiac operations in one short 24-hour period.

The three patients presented with the exact same condition: Type A aortic dissection. This condition is often life threatening because it causes a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, the main artery which supplies blood from the heart to the body’s organs and tissues. Yet, all three patients survived to be discharged home with no significant in-hospital complications.

What made these three difficult procedures even more complex was the timing — requiring teams to double shift and overlap scheduling in the ORs.

Despite this, and other pandemic-related challenges, the 40+ surgical staff and many other support members relied on their core value of teamwork to get them through the day, evening and early morning hours.

‘We’ll get it done’

The first procedure was scheduled from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., the second from 7:30 p.m. –  12:30 a.m., and the third from 11 p.m. until 7:30 a.m.

“Team members multi-tasked, problem-solved, took on extra responsibilities, stayed beyond their shifts and helped each other,” said Karen Kim, M.D., assistant professor of cardiac surgery and a member of the team that day. “I never heard anyone say, ‘No, we can’t do this,’ or ‘we don’t have enough of this or that.’ All I heard from everyone was, ‘No problem, we’ll get it done.’”

The CVC averages about 60-70 Type A dissections each year, but doing three in 24 hours happens perhaps once every other year.

Such a feat took the dedication of many highly skilled people including: surgeons, anesthesiologists, anesthesia techs, residents, fellows, nurses, surgical/scrub techs, OR physician assistants and perfusionists. There were also behind-the-scenes staff who clean instruments, restock equipment and turn over the rooms; all the team members in the ICU and the step-down unit who take care of these patients after their operations; and the outpatient nurse practitioners, medical assistants and nurse clinical coordinators who help patients return to their functioning lives. All in all, an estimated 200+ team members were involved in saving these patients’ lives.

Additional COVID-19 challenges included some short staffing and concerns about scheduling. Despite this, everyone went above and beyond to offer life-saving treatment to these three patients.

Consistent, exceptional care

This type of exceptional patient care is not uncommon at the CVC, according to Gorav Ailawadi, M.D., Helen F. and Marvin M. Kirsh Professor of Cardiac Surgery and chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery.

“Michigan Medicine has among the best-published Type A aortic outcomes of any cardiac program,” Ailawadi said. “The team in the Frankel CVC, including surgeons, physicians, nursing and all our staff, has an incredible dedication to serve patients in the state and across the region. We have great pride in working together for a common goal of saving patients’ lives. We have developed tremendous respect for the incredible expertise among all members of our team.”

Kim agreed: “Outcomes for repair of Type A dissection at Michigan Medicine remain among the best in the nation because we have a highly experienced and skilled ’Aortic Team’ that continues to analyze, research and innovate ways to improve the care of patients with aortic dissection and aortic disease.”

It is impossible to list all the names of those involved in this almost Herculean feat, but key members working within the OR on that day are listed below:

Cardiac surgery

Cardiac surgeons: Bo Yang, M.D., Shinichi Fukuhara, M.D., Karen Kim, M.D.

CT surgery house officer: Tessa Watt, M.D.

Cardiac surgery OR physician assistants: Thuy Le, Daniel Byrd, Liyu Xing

Thoracic surgery

Thoracic surgeon:  Rishi Reddy, M.D.

General surgery house officer: Joceline Vu, M.D.


CVC OR nursing:  Ryan Bowles, Shannon Nitchie, Michelle Johnson, Young Chang, Lori Lovett, Ann Schneider, Gloria Schaible, Chelsea Doezema, Kellie Proctor, Elizabeth Michaels, Donna Kleine, Amanda Kennedy, Karly Clews, Laurie Bowen

CVC OR surg techs:  Samantha Gotterson, Nathan Prenkert, Jordan Blaies, Brandy Hendershot, Waynishia Mitchell


Cardiac anesthesiologists: Bryant Wu, M.D., Jordan Fennema, M.D., Ian Gannon, M.D., Lauren Richey, M.D., Kim Burcar, M.D., David Garcia, D.O.

Anesthesia house officers: Shannon Neville, M.D., Samuel Dettling, M.D., Stella Vu, M.D., Chelsea Halsted, M.D., Andrea Bouwhuis, M.D., Kory LaPree, M.D., Yilun Wang, M.D., Stella Yoon, M.D.

Anesthesia tech: Nicolas Fernandez-Castillo


Perfusionists: Phong Cao, Rocco Polito, Michael Aquino, Patrick Prasch, Chris Douglas, Greg Kline


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