Release Date: 11/8/2011
Physician suffers ruptured aneurysm, beats overwhelming odds
Bartolome Kairuz, M.D.
Bartolome Kairuz, M.D. started his morning as usual on Thursday, Sept. 22, unaware of the overwhelming odds that he would not survive the day.
There were no outward signs: Dr. Kairuz is 80 but looks 10 years younger due to his healthy lifestyle and eating habits (though he does confess to a weakness for cookies). Professionally, he has dedicated himself to a family medicine practice at St. Anthony’s for the last 45 years.
While working out at a South County gymnasium with one of his patients, Dr. Kairuz suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, the third-leading cause of death in men age 60 or older. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, if the rupture occurs outside a hospital, the mortality rate approaches 90 percent; other estimates place the mortality rate as high as 95 percent.
He credits the care provided at nearby St. Anthony’s Medical Center, coupled with his overall physical health, with saving his life.
“It was first-class all the way,” said Dr. Kairuz’s wife, Jane Ann Kairuz, R.N., a nurse in the practice of Kairuz & Santos Family Medicine. “Within an hour of reaching the medical center, he was in surgery. The care he received has gone beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed.”
Dr. Kairuz experienced back pain so severe it caused him to black out for a time. His patient asked the gym staff to call 911. When Dr. Kairuz reached St. Anthony’s Emergency Department, Cardiologist Dilip Patel, M.D., ordered a CT scan that revealed three abdominal aortic aneurysms, one of which had ruptured.
“They asked me who I wanted for surgery, and I told them (vascular surgeon) Dr. Brian Peterson and his dad (Dr. Gary Peterson),” Dr. Kairuz said while visiting his office recently. “Within 15 to 20 minutes, I was in surgery. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be talking to you.”
Dr. Kairuz spent eight days in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. His family credits the care of floor nurses Karen, Sharon, Kim, Tracy, Tyler and Marie; the nurse managers, who encouraged Jane Kairuz’s frequent visits and who invited her to spend the night; SICU doctors Kenneth Stein, M.D.; Nimish Nemani, M.D.; and Todd Pritz, M.D.; Nephrology specialist Nicholas Gourtzelis, M.D; anesthesiologist Matthew Noble, M.D., who visited repeatedly; George Thampy, M.D., a family friend and diabetes specialist at St. Anthony’s, who visited every day to provide support and prayers; and Jaime Santos, M.D., Dr. Kairuz’s primary physician.
“I know it sounds melodramatic, but they just saved his life multiple times in the SICU,” Jane Kairuz said. “I was there, watching it happen. I think he lived because, one, he had a wonderful medical team that moved immediately; and, two, he was in such great physical shape.”
Also invaluable with their support were the nurses on the floor, the family said, and the staff from the office of Kairuz & Santos, including office manager Bonnie Edmonds.
After two days in Acute Rehab, Dr. Kairuz returned home, where he continues his recovery. He is on leave from his practice but hopes to return soon. He visits frequently, though, greeting the staff, patients, and support canines at the practice. The three professionally trained Shih-Tzu and poodle mix therapy dogs, who work tirelessly to put patients at ease, are Chase, Jett and Truman. The canines visit patients at a local long-term care facility on weekends, and attend periodic refresher courses through CHAMP (Canine Helpers Allow More Possibilities).
Somehow, it’s fitting that Dr. Kairuz received a new lease on life at St. Anthony’s, because his roots with the medical center extend to the old St. Anthony’s Hospital at Grand Boulevard and Chippewa Street. When the new medical center was opened on Kennerly Road, he moved his practice as well: Dr. Kairuz’s office became the first internal medicine practice in St. Anthony’s medical office building A.
“They can’t get rid of me,” he chuckled.
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