When Nassef Matoshaleh, and his wife, Wafaa, left Cairo, Egypt, early this year, their two sons weren’t certain their father would return. But George and Michael, both pharmacists like their parents, prayed the trip to the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center to treat their father’s ascending aortic arch aneurysm would bring him back home.
And it did.
Nassef and Wafaa explored a handful of hospitals in the world — including in the U.K., Germany, France, Canada and the U.S. — to perform surgery on Nassef’s ascending aortic aneurysm. The two did extensive research and, with the help of family friend and U-M doctor Rafat Rizk (specializing in gastroenterology and internal medicine), decided Dr. Michael Deeb, a renowned specialist in the treatment of ascending aortic aneurysms, was the right doctor for them.
What is an aortic aneurysm?
An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of the aorta, which can occur in the chest (thoracic aneurysm) or abdomen (abdominal aneurysm). Aneurysms overstretch and weaken the wall of the aorta, which can cause it to burst. If the aorta bursts, it can result in serious bleeding that can lead to death. Risk factors for an aortic aneurysm may include age, gender, smoking, high blood pressure, connective tissue disorder and a family history of aortic aneurysms.
Nassef had a family history of sudden death including his father at age 65 and and brother at age 42. With his aneurysm measuring 6.5 centimeters, he was at significant risk and in need of surgery. According to his wife, Wafaa, “We wanted to make sure the surgery was done in a place where they do it often and with good results.”
The “symphony of life”
Dr. Deeb and his team had both going for them. “U-M gives me a complete team for comprehensive care,” says Dr. Deeb. “We’ve had expertise since the late 1990s. Because we’ve been doing this for a long time and we do it every day, we’re able to accomplish this quite efficiently and effectively,” he says.
Nassef and Wafaa agree. “The U-M team worked like an orchestra – everyone knew what to, when to do it and how to do it,” says Wafaa. “They all worked together to get out the most beautiful symphony you could ever hear. It’s like the symphony of life.”
According to Dr. Deeb, Nassef had an ascending thoracic aneurysm measuring about 6.5 centimeters that went up into the arch and “presented the patient with quiet a few problems. He was at a significant risk for a catastrophic event.
“I tell my patients to think of the aorta as the interstate highway and you’re in New York City. You’re riding the highway at high speed and if there’s a problem or incident, it’s going to be a major problem or incident because there are many more cars driving at a very high speed. It’s the same thing with the thoracic aorta, especially the ascending aorta, where this patient had his problem.”
Three operations in one
The U-M team also discovered that Nassef’s aortic valve was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. “Another surprise,” says Dr. Deeb, “was that his tricuspid valve was leaking very badly” and needed repair.
“We had three operations in one,” says Wafaa of the successful nine-hour surgery, after which Nassef spent only four nights in the hospital. The couple urges anyone with a similar condition to seek treatment at the U-M Frankel CVC. “We’re going back home together,” Wafaa says, to two sons who are forever grateful for their father’s renewed health.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.