Dead Patient Enters Operating Room - and Exits Alive

Tikia Hassan's aorta burst on the way to operating table and she was considered dead. In what doctors are calling a medical miracle, she has fully recovered.

Tikia Hassan's heart stopped beating even before she entered the operating room, where she was to undergo intricate heart surgery. The doctors at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa operated on her aorta, and in essence brought her back to life. The hospital staff dubbed this event a "medical miracle."

Tikia Hassan - a heart patient who came back to life

Hassan, a 44-year-old mother of four from the northern Israeli Arab town of
Cabul, was transferred to Rambam some two weeks ago from a hospital in Nahariya in critical condition. Her aorta had ruptured and eventually tore entirely. Blood had filled the membrane surrounding her heart it stopped beating entirely. All this before she ever saw an operating room.

Though the patient was medically defined as dead and had no pulse, the doctors decided to attempt the surgery anyway and to perform CPR while trying to repair the aorta.

According to Doctor Gil Bolotin, head of Rambam's department of cardiac surgery, this was a "very dramatic procedure, carried out only in very isolated instances, because the patient's condition was considered extremely severe to begin with."

At first the doctors massaged the heart externally. Then blood clots around the heart were removed and she was hooked up to a heart-lung machine that allowed the heart to begin beating again. The surgery also included a replacement of the aorta, as well as the replacement of a congenitally faulty heart valve.

The complex surgery lasted nine hours in total.

"I warned [Hassan's] family that she was very likely not to wake up, or wake up with severe and irreversible brain damage," Bolotin said. However, after a three-day coma Hassan awoke and quickly regained her ability to speak and function. She was released a week later.

"This was pretty close to a medical miracle," he said. "I left on vacation following the surgery and the doctors called me and told me with great excitement that the patient had woken up."

"The chances that she would wake up without any brain damage were very slim," he continued. "Now, after having made a full recovery, she will only be required to maintain her blood pressure and take anti-clotting medication, but she can resume a full and active life."

Meanwhile, the Sheba Medical Center in central Israel launched a new hybrid cardiac operating facility on Sunday. The facility is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world. It allows doctors to simultaneously perform heart surgery and angioplasty. Some 15 patients have been treated in the new facility over the last three weeks. On Sunday, the doctors performed heart valve implants combined with simultaneous angioplasty to open artery blockage.

According to Dr. Ehud Ra'anani of Sheba's cardiac department, "in the future it will be possible to conduct less invasive procedures following serious cardiac failures. Instead of completely opening up the chest to perform five or six bypasses, we will be able to perform one little bypass through a small incision, which will enable faster recuperation, while addressing the other blocked vessels with angioplasty.

There are only 20 such hybrid operating facilities in the Western world, the most cutting edge being in Germany and the U.S. The facility at the Sheba Medical Center is actually an operating room that was demolished and rebuilt from the foundations over the last three years – at a cost of $5 million. It includes an advanced video system which enables reception from 32 different sources, including monitors, cameras in the room and a camera on the surgeon's head.