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Life-Saving Surgery & Multidisciplinary Care Provide Russian with Fourth Chance at Life

For any parent, there is no distance too great to travel if it meant their child could have a rare fourth chance at life. Such was the case for Oleg Massaev, who recently traveled with his 20-yearold son, Sergei, from their native Russian city of Petrozavodsk to Winthrop- University Hospital, where an outstanding team of specialists carried out a life-saving operation that could add decades to Sergei's life.

Born with aortic valve stenosis, a life threatening congenital heart defect in which the aortic valve narrows causing the heart to work harder to pump blood, Sergei underwent his first open-heart surgery in Russia at the age of two. But during childhood, Sergei's condition worsened and in 2000, at the age of 10, he came to the United States for a lifesaving operation thanks to the generous efforts of Sea Cliff-based nonprofit organization, Russian Gift of Life.

"In its 21 year existence, Russian Gift of Life has helped save the lives of over 1,000 Russian children born with treatable heart defects," said Michael Yurieff, Executive Director of the organization. The vision of the Russian Gift of Life is to help save the lives of as many Russian children born with treatable heart defects as possible by funding pediatric heart surgeries, supporting medical missions to Russia to develop children's heart centers, and continuing to sponsor a unique matching grant program that is helping to revive a tradition of giving in Russia.


Oleg Massaev with son Sergei, who recently underwent a life-saving operation at Winthrop.
Sergei underwent his first surgery in the U.S. at New York University (NYU) Medical Center to repair a ventricular septal defect. But after only a year, Sergei's condition declined again and he returned to New York for a second surgery. Last year, his condition deteriorated again and his father, Oleg, once again reached out to Russian Gift of Life for help.

Sergei's complicated case came to the attention of Russian Gift of Life Board Member Alexander Hindenburg, MD, Attend - ing Medical Oncologist at Winthrop, who brought it to the attention of his colleague Scott Schubach, MD, Chair man of Winthrop's Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

"I was more than confident in our ability to take on such a challenging case," said Dr. Schubach. "With our highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art facilities and multidisciplinary team of specialists who are leaders in their fields, Winthrop was a natural choice for treating Sergei's complex aortic condition."

Through a multispecialty team approach, drawing upon the expertise of various Winthrop surgeons, hematologists and other specialists, Sergei's case was carefully evaluated and assessed. Sergei underwent comprehensive testing under the direction of Kevin Marzo, MD, Chief of Cardiology, and Carlos Montoya, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiology.


Despite being a very high-risk surgical candidate, as this would be Sergei's fourth time undergoing surgery, he was taken to Winthrop's operating room on October 22, 2010 under the direction of Dr. Schubach, along with his colleagues cardiothoracic surgeons John A. Goncalves, Jr., MD, and William Kokotos, MD, where both his aortic and mitral valves were replaced with mechanical valves. Although the cardiac portion of the operation went well, Sergei developed intra-abdominal bleeding, which required exploration with the assistance of George Hines, MD, Winthrop's Chief of Vascular Surgery. The days and weeks following the surgery were very difficult – Sergei returned to the operating room twice so that doctors could re-explore bleeding in the abdomen before ultimately closing it.

Despite the magnitude of the procedure and the ensuing complications, Sergei made a dramatic recovery thanks to the world-class care he received from an outstanding team of doctors, nurses and physician assistants in Winthrop's cardiac and surgical intensive care units.

"Sergei's remarkable recovery is a testament to Winthrop's ability to successfully manage such a complex case while delivering the best possible results to the patient," said Dr. Schubach.

The compassionate and state-of-theart care delivered by Winthrop's expert team as well as Sergei's perseverance in the fight for his life certainly paid off. A post-operative echocardiogram revealed excellent function of both of the newly placed valves and no intra-abdominal problems related to his intra-operative bleeding, and Sergei was discharged from Winthrop on November 18, 2010.

As he continued on his journey towards a full recovery, Sergei and his father were fortunate to stay in The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, where they were visited daily by Mr. Yurieff and Arkadiy Bogatyryov, Winthrop Cardiovascular Specialist and native of Russia who not only played an important role in Sergei's care, but developed a special bond with the boy and his father during their time at Winthrop.

"From translating from English to Russian and explaining medical issues, to bringing them home-cooked Russian meals to comfort them during the long hospitalization, I was more than happy to help Sergei and Oleg in any way possible," said Mr. Bogatyryov.


Sergei Massaev (above, front row, fourth from left) and his father Oleg (back row, second from left) developed special bonds with Winthrop's cardiac team and all of the caregivers in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit on 4 North.

Just days before the father and son began their long journey back to Russia, Sergei and Oleg returned to Winthrop to express their heartfelt thanks during a special Thanksgiving luncheon that the Hospital hosted in their honor.

"I was really struck by how caring the doctors and all the staff at Winthrop are. It was obvious to me that apart from being very professional, everyone truly cared about me," said Sergei through a translator. "We thank God that we found The Russian Gift of Life and were able to come to the U.S. and that the doctors here at Winthrop saved my life."

"As a member of the Board of Directors, I am proud of the way that Winthrop-University Hospital stepped up to take on such an exceptionally difficult case," said Theodora Hooton, who was involved in the early discussions regarding Sergei's case. "I am thankful to all of the members of the Winthrop team, especially Dr. Schubach and Dr. Marzo, for the tireless hours of care they provided to Sergei, and it gives me great joy to know that it turned out to be such a success."

Today, Mr. Bogatyryov remains in close contact with Sergei and Oleg via telephone and a popular social networking website, and is happy to report just how remarkable the young man is doing.

"Sergei is walking three miles a day and feels great! He is truly grateful for the care he received at Winthrop that has changed his life," he said.

For additional information about cutting-edge cardiac services at Winthrop, call 1-866-WINTHROP.

Vol. 21, No. 1
Winter/Spring 2011

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