One of the things that Unspun has learned from this bypass saga is that while the bypass operation itself is important, it is actually the post-surgery care that is just as important. Get bad aftercare and you’re stuffed in more ways than one. One of my friends tell me this horrendous story of a patient who had his lungs collapse, a steel pin holding the sternum together come loose and all sorts of unnecessary suffering her uncle went through because of bad aftercare.
I first heard of my heart surgeon would-be from my cardiologist, who’s no light weight in repetitional terms the Malaysian medical profession himself. In his opinion if I had to have heart surgery, and I did, then I should seek the best heart surgeon in Malaysia and that is Datuk Dr Rozali Wathooth from the Sime Darby Medical Center (they changed the name in a fit of rebranding but everyone else still calls it the Subang Jaya Medical Center). As a cardiologist, he said, he’s seen Dr Rozali’s grafts and they are all very good and lasting. he even ventured that one of Dr Rozali’s grafts should last me at least another 20 years, provided, of course, that I take care of myself in terms of diet and exercise.
The cardiologist also said that Dr Rozali was very fussy about which cases he took on, but he was quite confident that he would take on my case. That was abut two months ago and my trip to Malaysia was a short one.
What happened thereafter was a rushed attempt to meet up with Dr Rozali for my first examination with him. We managed to secure a Saturday morning meeting but was sent to the wrong hospital by the cardiologist’s secretary. That laid the ground for my first meeting with Dr Rozali. Once we (the missus was with me) we frantically called Dr Rozali’s office and tried to reschedule. The secretary said that Datuk would wait for us.
When we finally got there we met up with Dr Rozali, a 60+ slightly built man who’s calmness and geniality seemed like oases in our agitated state of having to rush about. He then examined me. What struck me about the examination was his thoroughness and insistence on doing things, even the simple things like taking your blood pressure, himself instead of delegating it to a nurse. He was also thorough in getting my medical history and debriefing me on what to expect.
That set the ground for my bypass operation, originally schedule for June 13 but was, as explained in an earlier posting, delayed to June 17 because of a fever. I checked in to the hospital a day before and was examined by Dr Rozali who also spent about an hour counselling me and my wife of what to expect during the operation and after.
This was followed by briefings from the anesthetist and the ward nurse, then we were sent up to the ICU for another briefing. I found that these briefings helped a lot because they made you prepared for what was to come.
The operation itself was dramatic (see Bypass IV) but it was nothing to me because I was out cold from the general anesthetic. When I came to my wife, sister and her boyfriend was there together with Dr Rozali.
Over the next few weeks Dr Rozali was to exhibit such a level of care, understanding, compassion and humility that I was swept away.
It seemed that he was always there at the hospital, making personal visits to me and other patients at least twice a day. In all our conversations he just seemed so understanding, caring and unperturbed that you felt better after taking to him, no matter the level of pain you felt.
He was also very strict about not taking chances with his patients. For some reason, probably a residual effect of the aspirin I was taking (but stopped a week prior to he operation) I had a tendency to bleed. Dr Rozali was very careful to keep the two tubes leading from my sternum to drain the “bad blood” from the operation scars for four days until the flow ebbed to an acceptable volume. It was only then that I was discharged from the ICU.
During my time recovering in the hospital I managed to speak to some of the nurses, some of whom had been with Dr Rozali for years. The head of the cardiac ward, for instance, speak of Dr Rozali in glowing terms. She said that he was so dedicated to his job that he has been knon to sleep at the ICU beside the patients. Also she said that Dr Rozali was exceptionally patient. All her nurses could call him at any time of the dy or night and he would answer in his unflappable calm manner. “He has never scolded a nurse or even been impatient with them, no matter what they called him on.”
This made him accessible to his patients at all times, something that Unspun tested when the aspirin he was taking caused him to have some hemorrhoids. All I had to do was to call the cardiac ward and leave a message with the nurses and Dr Rozali would call back soon after to listen and advice.
Two days after discharge Dr Rozali called Unspun to see if th rash he developed because of an allergic reaction to some medication was clearing up. And he called up direct, without a secretary to patch me through. I remember thinking to myself then: “How many top notch doctors would be that unpretentious and carign to do that?”
These and many other instances leads Unspun to agree with my cardiologist that Dr Rozali’s probably the best heart surgeon in Malaysia (Incidentally, a classmate of mine who also had to have a bypass operation more than a year ago did his homework more thoroughly than Unspun in seeking a heart surgeon. Aided by his sister who’s a doctor he made many inquiries and all answers seem to point to Dr Rozali as the best surgeon if you have to have a heart surgery. He went to Dr Rozali and now swears by him).
Dr Rozali has been at the forefront of cardiac surgery in Malaysia for a long time. A friend of mine in The Star in the 1980s remembers covering a story of how Dr Rozali performed the first open heart surgery in Malaysia then. Since then he’s gone on to perform hundreds of heart surgeries, reputedly with a 100% record of success. He also sits on the board of doctors for the Institut Jantung Negara, Malaysia’s premier heart center. That means he gets called in when VVIPs, such as former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, needs to have a bypass.
The information you can get about Dr Rozali’s achievements are abundant but what makes him so special as a a man and a doctor is the level of care, compassion, experience, expertise – and humility that he brings to his job. This sets him apart and makes Unspun, like his classmate, swear by Dr Rozali if you have to have a bypass. You’d never have a better heart surgeon anywhere else, IMHO.