Heart Valve Surgery Patient In Fiji?
By Adam Pick on July 23, 2007
So, I’m on my honeymoon in Fiji… It’s been 19 months since my Ross Procedure.
Life couldn’t be better!!!
After an amazing wedding, Robyn and I are enjoying a wonderful resort in Savusavu called Namale. Our days are filled with Scuba, snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding, bowling (yes bowling), backgammon and… an endless supply of tasty food.
One night, Robyn and I are sitting around the Kava bowl meeting other honeymooners and enjoying Joe, the lead guitarist of the Namale band. Next thing I know, I’m speaking with Pettine, a delightful member of the Namale staff. Pettine has a contagious laughter and the warmest smile.
We share our backgrounds and somehow it comes out that I had heart valve surgery a few years back. Pettine looks at me with concern and says, “Noooooooooooooo. You? You look sooooo young! Heart surgery? Come onnnnn. Noooohhh?”
Pettine simultaneously points to her chest with both hands and queries me, “Ya mean the surgery with the scar down the middle of your chest?”
I nod my head up and then…. I nod my head down, “Yes”.
Pettine then gleaned a soft smile and said in a caring whisper, “Ya know… Mary, up at the front desk had that same surgery.”
Needless to say, the next morning I looked forward to meeting Mary.
When I finally saw Mary, she looked at me, I looked at her and we both knew that Pettine had prepared both of us for the heart-filled encounter.
Mary told her heart valve surgery story first. It was most amazing.
Mary, like most of the Namale staff, is from Fiji. Unlike most of the Namale staff, however, Mary suffered from serious, congenital heart valve issues relating to rheumatic fever. Specifically, her mitral valve was diseased.
As Mary told me, there were two occasions when Mary was on her deathbed. “Even the doctors prayed at the foot of my hospital bed. There was nothing else the doctors could do,” Mary shared with us as she giggled.
“The symptoms were terrible. I couldn’t walk up hills. I was always out of breath. And, I had two children that I had to take care of,” Mary explained.
Then, a vacationer in Namale from California heard about Mary’s heart valve condition. She needed a mitral valve replacement and she needed it soon. However, the costs of such a procedure were prohibitive.
Mary said, “We made a friend namely Edmund Antuna (Owner of the Heart Lung Machine) previously a registered nurse, who made the deal with the Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Centre Team – My cardiologist Dr. Devinine and my surgeon Dr. Gregory Misboch.
It turns out that Ed, a regular visitor to Fiji, Savusavu in particular, had already flown 2 patients from Savusavu, Fiji to the United States for similar operations. “I was going to be his third however, he had to work with the team at Saint Mary’s Medical Centre as they only dealt with Pediatrics and I was 21 years old at the time,” Mary told me.
Ed somehow, managed to get a favorable response from the Saint Mary’s team. The next thing, Mary was on a plane to California, ready for surgery and ready to begin a new life.
“I cannot thank and appreciate Ed enough for what he has done for me. If it was not for him meeting up with me, I would not have been where I am today – enjoying the company of my children, family and friends. I would go to the ends of the earth for Ed because of what his done for me.”
A little less than three weeks later, Mary was back in Fiji with an artificial, mechanical mitral heart valve.
Now, several years later, Mary is doing great!!! Her kids are doing well too.
“The mechanical valve clicks a little loud,” Mary said, “But, my sister loves it because I can never hide from her! My sister always knows where I am.”
Ateca Lepper says on August 29th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
It certainly is a very moving piece to remind us of what a great person Mary was. She came to my life through my children and she has always been like a daughter (so is her other sibling) to me. Her attitude towards life was just so inspiring for me who do not even have health problem, nowhere near what she went through in life. She will always be remembered for her smiling face and a kind heart. May she rest in piece.