Surgeon finishes operation despite heart attack
March 27, 2009 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Contenders for this year's Badass of the Year award will have a tough time topping Italian surgeon Claudio Vitale, who completed a delicate brain surgery despite having a heart attack during the procedure. He pushed himself to complete the surgery when he realized that his patient was unlikely to survive if he halted the operation.
posted by baphomet (46 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
After finishing the surgery, the doctor had an angioplasty operation to treat his attack, left the hospital, stopped at the cafe for an espresso and a couple Nazionalis, then proceeded home to his mama's for a baked ziti.

lol heroic Italians.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:00 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's awesome. Eponysterically awesome, even.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:49 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Italy he's a badass; In America, despite his success, he'd get sued.

And his insurance would be denied.
posted by sourwookie at 1:53 AM on March 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


Did he also do his own angioplasty?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:55 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


The BBC article says he suffered an "angina attack," which while painful, is less severe than a "heart attack" which the ABC article claims he had. Angina attacks can become heart attacks, but the two are not equivalent. "Heart attack" sounds better for the story though. FWIW.

Still, badass doc.
posted by Grundlebug at 2:36 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


More Italian, less San Franciscan.
posted by Mblue at 3:28 AM on March 27, 2009


That's not badass. Badass is performing brain surgery on your own brain while you're having a heart attack.

Yeah. We've all been there. Amirite?
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:34 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


He's only a badass if the patient really needed him. If there was another doctor who could have done it he's just a reckless egotist.
posted by DU at 4:25 AM on March 27, 2009


Performing your own own brain surgery while you're having a heart attack is definitely the work of a reckless egotist.
posted by gman at 4:31 AM on March 27, 2009


own own?
posted by gman at 4:32 AM on March 27, 2009


You're excused, gman, we know you were performing your own own own brain surgery while posting there.
posted by kcds at 4:54 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Angina, Shmangina! (musical comedy, 1965)
Channel 7, 3:30 pm Wed
A ruggedly handsome Italian surgeon struggling against late-stage heart disease must save both a gentle child-woman gravely ill with a mysterious virus and the passengers of a bomb-beset bus timed to explode at speeds below 50 MPH, as he commandeers a ragtag convoy of trucks transporting dangerous nitroglycerin in a long, harrowing ride over craggy South American roads with cargo ready to explode at every bump; PG-13 for violence and angina references. Robert Goulet, Phil Silvers, Arnold Stang and Alice Ghostley. Dir: Otto Preminger (Alt. title: Skidoo II: Make Way For Bi-Valves, Mother!) 1/2 stars
posted by maryh at 4:58 AM on March 27, 2009 [22 favorites]


Speaking of that, does anyone have a link to information about why when various parts of a brain are 'poked' by a surgeon, the patient blurts out what they do? Or what it's called?
posted by gman at 4:58 AM on March 27, 2009


Surgeon and badass are synonymous.
posted by Faze at 5:01 AM on March 27, 2009


Chuck Norris' Claudio Vitale's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.
posted by aftermarketradio at 5:03 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Angina, Shmangina! (musical comedy, 1965)

Later, he fights a Yeti.
posted by steef at 5:12 AM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wait what about that Greek guy who escaped from prison on a helicopter ladder while facing charges for escaping from prison on another helicopter ladder?
'cuz that was pretty badass ...
posted by mannequito at 5:21 AM on March 27, 2009


@maryh LOL
posted by fistynuts at 5:21 AM on March 27, 2009


If there was another doctor who could have done it he's just a reckless egotist.

Doc Brain can correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that open-brain surgery is not something you can just walk into like a tag-team wrestler.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Speaking of that, does anyone have a link to information about why when various parts of a brain are 'poked' by a surgeon, the patient blurts out what they do? Or what it's called?

This actually happens? Hang on, I'm about to go get my gray matter manipulated so I can yell obscenities at passers-by.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:31 AM on March 27, 2009


He's only a badass if the patient really needed him. If there was another doctor who could have done it he's just a reckless egotist

That sounds more likely; he had no way of knowing he would survive to complete the operation. A few years ago I was working with a surgeon who had a family member visiting from out of town die suddenly and unexpectedly. His partner simply stepped in and completed the operation while the original surgeon left to deal with things. Of course that was just heart surgery instead of brain surgery, but the principle still holds.

Also, one of the hallmarks of acute coronary syndrome (the spectrum of ischemic events ranging from angina to full-blowm myocardial infarction) is denial, so the surgeon may well have dismissed the chest pain as a little indigestion and only later discovered he needed cardiac intervention. Throw in a little false modesty and you have the feel-good story of the week.
posted by TedW at 5:34 AM on March 27, 2009


I took a day off of work this week because I sprained my foot.

I feel like such a wuss now.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:40 AM on March 27, 2009


I was under the impression that open-brain surgery is not something you can just walk into like a tag-team wrestler

It depends on the type of surgery and the surgeons involved, but as in the example I gave above, it sometimes happens, even in brain surgery.

Speaking of that, does anyone have a link to information about why when various parts of a brain are 'poked' by a surgeon, the patient blurts out what they do? Or what it's called?

That is an awake craniotomy, and it is done so that the surgeon can map out motor, sensory, or verbal portions of the brain in order not to remove them along with the tumor, scar tissue, or whatever abnormality is near the structures in question. Related is the Wada test for preoperative mapping. Awake craniotomies are less common now as electrocorticography is used for most intraoperative mapping.
posted by TedW at 5:47 AM on March 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Did he also do his own angioplasty?

You are thinking of Werner Forssmann.
posted by TedW at 6:09 AM on March 27, 2009


Here's another story with a bit more detail - seems a bit of the speculation is true, other, not necessarily. He thought the pain was indigestion, but was willing to find out if it was more and they drew blood. The test came back suggesting an infarct, and the brain tumor was removed, but there was a hemorrhage he felt he needed to stop before he could turn over the surgery to his team. He's the chief neurosurgeon at the hospital, which is one of Southern Italy's largest. So, it seems to me there is part denial, part ego, and part emergency. Without being there, we can't know if the patient's hemorrhage was complex and severe enough that a skilled neurosurgeon was needed to stop it, and we don't know if any other such surgeons would have been able to respond quickly enough to the patient's need.

Story's better on its face. I hate it when facts get in the way.
posted by Muddler at 6:30 AM on March 27, 2009


Thanks for the update, muddler. The story as presented there sounds more reasonable. Taking a little while (probably less than an hour, maybe only a few minutes) to stabilize an unstable patient prior to transferring care is the right thing to do and is different than sticking it out to the bitter end out of stubbornness. The headline is still misleading though; he did not "finish the operation" in the sense of closing the wound and putting a dressing on; he got to a point where he could safely transfer care to his first assistant or another surgeon who could then close (which for a big neuro case can take over an hour). That is typical of medical reporting though. But I do retract my earlier assessment of him as possibly being a reckless egoist.
posted by TedW at 6:50 AM on March 27, 2009


heh, heh - angina
posted by bitteroldman at 7:05 AM on March 27, 2009


Metafilter 27 A.D. (dreamy harp music):

I'm just saying, how could he have known that it would work properly? What if he'd created some sort of super-zombie? It's just unbelievably reckless.

Seconded. Also, about the leprosy: it's not just a physical condition. There's an emotional component as well. My sister lives near a leprous slum and she says that healing these people without considering their next step is just egotistical grandstanding.
posted by No-sword at 7:06 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I once ignored a horrific attack of gas because I was bathing my dog, but nobody calls me a hero.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:13 AM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


That is an awake craniotomy

Not to be confused with the dreaded "backiotomy"
posted by jckll at 7:19 AM on March 27, 2009


@maryh ROFL
posted by twsf at 7:29 AM on March 27, 2009


aftermarketradio: "Chuck Norris' Claudio Vitale's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried."

I was just gonna say -- we can now get rid of Chuck, we have a real hero now.
posted by symbioid at 7:51 AM on March 27, 2009


double block and bleed: "I took a day off of work this week because I sprained my foot.

I feel like such a wuss now.
"

That's nothing, I took a day off work to see The Watchmen. I don't really know what that means...
posted by symbioid at 8:00 AM on March 27, 2009


If that little alien creature had burst from his chest and he still completed the surgery, now that would have been badass.
posted by digsrus at 8:01 AM on March 27, 2009


@maryh LOL

@maryh ROFL


What the fuck, Metafilter?

That's nothing, I took a day off work to see The Watchmen. I don't really know what that means...

It means you weren't paying enough attention to even know the title of the film you saw.

Okay, I've done the same thing

Oh, and yeah, this guy's a badass.
posted by ODiV at 8:14 AM on March 27, 2009


What the fuck, Metafilter?

Oh thank god, I thought I was the only curmudgeon around here.
posted by scody at 8:24 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I once ignored a horrific attack of gas because I was bathing my dog, but nobody calls me a hero.

As bad as your dog's flatulence may be it doesn't count when the patient has the attack
posted by Mitheral at 8:25 AM on March 27, 2009


I was under the impression that open-brain surgery is not something you can just walk into like a tag-team wrestler.

I'm not entirely sure why, but this sentence gave me a serious case of the giggles.
posted by brundlefly at 8:45 AM on March 27, 2009


I'm not entirely sure why, but this sentence gave me a serious case of the giggles.

This made me giggle: Cannibal mum eats her chum.

Actually, no, it didn't.
posted by swift at 8:52 AM on March 27, 2009


open-brain surgery is not something you can just walk into like a tag-team wrestler.

I WILL DRILL TWO HOLES IN HIS SKULL! THEN I'LL CHOKE-HOLD HIS BRAIN LESIONS INTO SUBMISSION!
posted by zippy at 8:56 AM on March 27, 2009


Give that man an oscillation overthruster.
posted by Caviar at 9:37 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: What the fuck, Metafilter?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:43 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


@mefi WTF
posted by ODiV at 10:47 AM on March 27, 2009


@fistynuts IGTFKY
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:25 AM on March 27, 2009


The guy is pretty damn badass, but this THIS is why I will not consent to brain surgery.

No. Effin. Way.

This and the episode of Seinfeld with the Junior Mints. I would really be pissed if someone dropped shit into my brain.

And yet, at least once a month or so, some well meaning person who finds out about my epilepsy will ask me "So, have you considered surgery?" YES I'VE CONSIDERED IT AND ROUNDLY REJECTED THE IDEA, TYVM.

I guess I'd let them remove a tumor from my brain. But only if I got to keep it in a jar.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:56 PM on March 27, 2009


Sorry I pissed on your very own patch of the internet Rodimus Thyme, I'll try not to do it again.
posted by fistynuts at 6:52 PM on March 30, 2009


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