Saved surgeon hopes to partner with Health City

An American surgeon whose life was saved at Health City in December after suffering a cardiac arrest was so impressed by the level of care he received – and by the hospital’s business model – that he plans to partner with the hospital to help grow its referral base and patient volume.

Dr. Leon Josephs, a vascular surgeon and the acting CEO of Reliant Medical Group in Worcester, Massachusetts, was exercising on the treadmill at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman gym on Dec. 1 when his heart suddenly stopped functioning and he collapsed.

Dr. Leon Josephs and Judy Josephs.
Dr. Leon Josephs and Judy Josephs.

Fast-thinking Ritz employee Caetano Barrato, assisted by other hotel employees, performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator to shock the surgeon’s heart. A visiting cardiologist, one of the hotel’s guests, also assisted in the resuscitation, and rode in the ambulance with Dr. Josephs as he was taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital.

Arrangements were quickly made to transfer Dr. Josephs to Health City, which has several surgeons and physicians specializing in cardiac care.

Dr. Josephs said there is “no question” that the care he received prior to arriving at Health City helped to save his life. “That part is a gift,” Dr. Josephs said. “We’ll always know that we were just incredibly fortunate that the right people were in the right place at the right time.”

Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, senior cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon at Health City, agrees, and said those who performed the first resuscitation on Dr. Josephs “did amazing work.”

“If any one of the links in the chain was weak, the outcome might not have been a good one,” Dr. Chattuparambil said. “One mistake could have cost him his life.”

Dr. Ravi Kishore, a senior cardiologist at Health City, said the type of blockage in Dr. Josephs’s main artery is often referred to as “the widow maker.”

When Dr. Josephs arrived at Health City, he was on a ventilator, unconscious, and unresponsive even to pain.

An emergency angiogram showed that one of the arteries was totally obstructed and the other two were more than 95 percent blocked, according the Dr. Chattuparambil.

Dr. Ravi Kishore, a senior cardiologist at Health City, said the type of blockage in Dr. Josephs’s main artery is often referred to as “the widow maker.”

After an angioplasty on the artery, the doctors determined the best course of action was a bypass operation.

The doctor waited 48 hours to perform the surgery, as Dr. Josephs was taking blood thinners that could have caused uncontrollable bleeding. The operation, which involved only one incision, took five-and-a-half-hours. Dr. Josephs was in stable condition throughout the surgery and was taken off the ventilator within two hours of the conclusion of the procedure.

Four days later, his health much improved, the doctor was discharged.

The Josephses returned home to the United States on Dec. 19.

Speaking from Massachusetts, where he is already back at work, the doctor said his recovery is “going great.”

“I’m back on the treadmill,” he said. “I was on for three miles today. I’m a lucky, lucky man.”

The way this medical emergency was handled, Dr. Binoy said, highlights how the Cayman Islands are safer for tourists who encounter medical emergencies than many other Caribbean islands.

“Any tourist who comes for a holiday, if they go through the same type of heart attack or have a stroke, they know that in our island now, we have a hospital that can take care of any of those things,” Dr. Binoy said.

He said he has even received calls from tourists with medical issues – one had an artificial heart, another, a lung problem – who are seeking assurance that if anything were to happen to them during their visit to the island, those issues could be handled by Health City.

Dr. Josephs said he would like to help the hospital expand if he can. The surgeon said he is already in talks with Health City about ways he and his company can partner with the hospital. He has had a conference with his company’s executive team about creating a program that would allow their employees to use Health City, and is also considering referring some of their patients to Health City for care.

The surgeon would also like to help get more patients to the hospital and help increase its referral base.

“There’s a message out there for the way Health City takes care of its patients, most importantly, but also the way it runs its business model,” Dr. Josephs said. “Whatever I can do to help them expand, I’m completely happy to do that.”