Braveheart Cardiac Surgeon
By Sanjay Pinto

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A 47 year old entrepreneur suffered a heart attack recently and was rushed to a private hospital. An angiogram revealed three tight blocks, including a 100% block in his right artery. As angioplasty didn’t work, a second opinion was sought.

Enter Dr.Sanjay Cherian. The patient Don Fernandez was his classmate at Don Bosco School, Egmore, more than three decades ago. The award winning cardiac surgeon and son of the legendary Dr.K.M. Cherian, is quite a chip off the old block. Not just in terms of an impressive string of academic distinctions – an MS from Australia, MD from Switzerland, the youngest recipient of a PhD from the Dr. MGR Medical University, an MBA from Oxford & the Best Outgoing Student and a Certificate in Healthcare from Harvard, or his skill, but a large heart to cure patients, no matter what. Risk does not deter this braveheart from his zest to save lives.

(Pic: R to L – Dr. Sanjay M. Cherian, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon & Vice President – Frontier Lifeline Hospital (Dr.K.M.Cherian Heart Foundation) Chennai and Don Fernandez)

“We reviewed the angio in detail and saw three tight blocks. Hence we suggested a bypass surgery for him. On opening his chest, I was really shocked to see how bad his blocks were. There were four, all seemed tight and two of them were 100% blocked. When I opened his right artery to perform the bypass, I realised that the cholesterol plaque had perforated & ruptured, due to the multiple attempts made by the cardiologist at the previous hospital.”

Posting an update on the Don Bosco ’91 batch alumni whatsApp group the previous day, Sanjay did not downplay the surgery. “It’s going to be tough. Keep Don in your prayers.” With prayers sought across social media platforms, Don was wheeled into the operation theatre at Frontier Lifeline Hospital (Dr.K.M.Cherian Heart Foundation) Chennai. “It took 7 hours for four bypass grafts and an extremely careful removal of his ruptured plaque and reconstruction of his right artery. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he would make it.” In a public testimony after the marathon surgery, Sanjay confirmed that a  “miracle” had ensued. “It was all God’s grace.”

It’s one thing for a complicated surgery to be successful, quite another for the recovery to be on track. When the Hand of God is at work, it all fits into place. An hour after the bypass, Don was shifted to the ICU. Five hours later, he was conscious, an hour before midnight the ventilator was removed. In 48 hours, the patient was moved to the room and discharged from the hospital on the fourth day! “Most patients take at least a week to ten days.” Self effacing to the core, Sanjay terms his work as “a small role” in his school buddy’s new lease of life.

This isn’t a one off lucky case. The dashing cardiac surgeon has a track record of performing difficult surgeries. Five years ago, he operated on baby Hruday who had a hole in his heart. The emotional mother called it a “rebirth” for her child. Other patients swear by Sanjay’s instantaneous responses to SOS messages well past midnight.

On a personal note, 4 years ago, when my mother Judith Pinto had suffered a heart attack and underwent angioplasty in Kauvery hospital, Sanjay rushed to see her and review her reports. Here too, he offered to attempt a tricky bypass to remedy a 100% LAD block but God decided to call my mother and my namesake’s kindergarten teacher to heaven. A month later, speaking at her memorial event, he recalled her kindness on his first day at Don Bosco and an orange crayon that she had gifted him!

I can almost conjure up an image of little Hruday sketching a heartfelt ‘thank you’ card to his cardiologist with a similar crayon, Don reminiscing the good times at DB’s Casa Major Road and my mother smiling with pride over her student’s large hearted feats from above.


(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)

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