When a surgeon became a Covid-19 patient: “I had never faced the reality of death”
Pushing the boundaries of surgery
Dr Emond in 2008 had drawn Dr Kato away from the University of Miami, for his rare expertise in intestinal transplants and so-called ex vivo operations for cancer, in which the surgeon cuts the abdominal organs to reach the hard-to-reach places. reach tumors, then sew up the organs. More importantly, Dr Emond saw in Dr Kato a willingness to push the boundaries of what could be done surgically to help patients.
“He brought his culture of innovation,” said Dr. Emond. “And his personal ability, his ability to work long hours, to never give up, to never give up, no matter how difficult the situation, to perform operations that many would consider impossible.”
During her first year at Columbia, Dr Kato and his team successfully operated on a 7-year-old girl, Heather McNamara, whose family had been told by several other hospitals that her abdominal cancer was inoperable. The operation, which consisted of removing six organs and then putting them back in place, lasted 23 hours.
More and more patients across the country and around the world began to seek Dr. Kato for operations that other hospitals could not or did not want to perform. He had also started traveling to Venezuela to perform liver transplants in children and teach the procedure to local surgeons, and he created a foundation to help support the work there as well as in other countries of the world. Latin America.
As Dr. Kato’s colleagues struggled to save him, a waiting list of surgical patients clung to the hope that he would soon be able to save them.
Gradually, Dr Pereira said, there were signs of recovery.
“You come early in the morning to see it,” he said. “The halls of the hospital are empty and everyone is looking at each other, scared and anxious. You walk into the intensive care unit dreading bad news, and the team gives you some sort of hope that he might be better.
Dr Kato spent about a month on a ventilator and a week on ECMO. Like many people with severe Covid, he was plagued by frightening and vivid hallucinations and delusions. In one, he was arrested at the Battle of Waterloo. In another, he had been deliberately infected with anthrax; only an Antwerp hospital could save him, but he couldn’t get there. He saw the white light that some people describe after near death experiences. “I felt like I was dead,” he said.