Living Well: Surgeon brings game-changing technique to Baptist Health

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Baptist Health is the first hospital in the state performing a new minimally invasive heart surgery.

Three days post-op Ray Cole is talking, raising his arms and even walking. Seeing the progress, it’s hard to imagine he’s recovering from getting a pump put in his heart.

“This is unbelievable,” Cole said.

It all started a few months ago when he went to the hospital in northwest Arkansas and was given two options.

“Stay at the hospital and go to hospice and just die,” Cole said. “He gave me six months. Or we could try coming to Baptist Health.”

Cole said it was a no-brainer. He packed up, drove to Little Rock and checked into Baptist Health. A week later, he was given the green light for surgery.

“I cannot tell you how pleased and happy I was,” Cole said. “It was like clouds opening up.”

His procedure would be a little different. Typically putting in a pump requires a surgeon to open the entire chest, but cardiothoracic surgeon Bryan Barrus and his team of doctors developed a new way, one that had never been done in the state of Arkansas.

“Going in between the ribs, one here on the left side and one on the right side to connect to the heart here and the aorta here,” Dr. Barrus said.

It’s minimally invasive and Dr. Barrus said that’s a game-changer for patients.

“It decreases your length of stay between 30% and 50%,” Barrus said. “Your chance of dying decreases and the recovery decreases from taking up to six months to more around two months.”

Now as Cole takes each step forward in his recovery, he can’t help but to think back to just a few months ago.

“I thought I was going to go home and eventually go to hospice, say goodbye,” Cole said.  

He’s thankful he chose the second path, the one leading to more time.

“I’ve got a new lease on life,” Cole said.

Dr. Barrus recently transferred to Baptist Health from Rochester where he developed the new technique.

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