“I Was Cured by Endovascular Procedure “
Gary Gray’s minimally invasive surgery at St. Dominic’s Hospital did more than avert what could have been a serious health problem. It changed the course of a 38-year military career.
How It All Began
Sgt. Gray, a full-time reservist with the Mississippi National Guard, was diagnosed with an abdominal aneurysm during routine care for an unrelated condition. By the time the artery wall was weak enough to require surgery, Gray was under the care of Dr. Huey McDaniel, a Vascular Surgeon at St. Dominic’s.
At one time, a condition such as Sgt. Gray’s required major abdominal surgery and months of recovery. McDaniel is an expert in the use of devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 that shorten the time for surgery to 45 minutes and for recovery to just days.
The Turning Point
Almost all of the 60 aneurysm repairs Dr. McDaniel completed in the first half of 2010 were done using minimally invasive techniques. Although he seemed like a good candidate, Gray wouldn’t know whether he had proved eligible until after he shook off the anesthesia from the surgery.
There was a lot riding on the outcome. As a full-time reservist, Gray, 57, needed medical clearance that indicated he was ready for military deployment. Discovery of the aneurysm already forced him to miss a deployment to Kosovo. Either surgery would protect his Guard status and restore his medical clearance eventually, but a minimally invasive process would allow Gray to accompany his battalion to Iraq at the end of the 2010.
The minimally invasive approach requires a small incision in each thigh, allowing physicians to thread parts of a fabric sleeve through arteries to the weakened vessel in a patient’s abdomen. The sleeve takes the pressure off the aneurysm, which shrinks over time.
“Are we able to do the minimally invasive approach on everyone? No, we are not,” Dr. McDaniel says. “But we have techniques for making people eligible for minimally invasive surgery who wouldn’t otherwise be candidates.”
Gray’s surgery was without complications, and the worst part that he remembers is the several hours of staying perfectly still afterward. But at least he was comforted by the knowledge he would be leaving with his battalion as planned.
Recovery and Life After Open Heart Surgery
The first thing I did after I woke up was feel my stomach. When I didn’t feel any [incision] there, I thought, “All right, I’m good to go.”‘
Dr. McDaniel, who himself has completed a tour of duty in Iraq, is pleased to confirm Gray’s readiness for duty. “He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be able to do what he needs to do.”