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George K., Robotic Heart Surgery
George K., Robotic Heart Surgery

Life Changing Is ... A Partnership with Patients

George K., Robotic Heart Surgery

“From the time I had the discussions about the appointment, to the time of the surgery, to the post-surgery, everything was positive. Everybody was very supportive."

As a martial arts instructor who's married to a UPMC physician assistant, George values being an advocate for your own health. So when an EKG taken before his knee replacement surgery showed an abnormality, he took his heart care into his own hands.

During his recovery from knee surgery, he saw a video that emphasized the importance of getting a calcium score for his heart. His score was 1,200 — a very high score that indicates a high risk of heart disease. He had three blockages in his heart and would need surgery.

The local surgeon consulting on his case wanted to perform open heart surgery, but George preferred a less invasive procedure.

"As an athletic person, I didn't like the idea of my sternum being cut," says George, who began to explore other options.

George had had his knee surgery done robotically at UPMC East. He hoped to have a robotic procedure on his heart as well. So, he contacted Johannes Bonatti, MD, the director of Cardiac Robotic Surgery at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. Dr. Bonatti is an internationally recognized expert in robotic heart procedures.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a miracle that I was able to get in with Dr. Bonatti," George says.

George, who lives in Altoona, met with Dr. Bonatti virtually in preparation for the surgery.

He says Dr. Bonatti was very personable and willing to take his wishes into account. At George's request, the surgical team didn't place stents into his heart on the day of the surgery. He'd read a study saying medication could be just as effective.

“From the time I had the discussions about the appointment, to the time of the surgery, to the post-surgery, everything was positive," George says. "Everybody was very supportive."

Within weeks of his surgery, George felt healthy enough to start working out again. He regularly sprints and lifts weights and is also back to teaching martial arts.

Since his surgery, George has also shifted to a more protein-centric diet.

"I'm blessed," he says. "That's the way I look at it. It's God's grace, and it's great surgeons. Great people, great staff."

George values his well-being, taking the time to research, ask questions, and look for alternatives. And he says UPMC was a willing partner in his health, respecting his wishes.

"If you don't ask any questions and you're not knowledgeable, you get what you get," he says. "So, you've got to have a little bit of understanding of what you're going to be going through. But I couldn't be happier with the approach."

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means working with our patients to find the best path forward.

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