St. Vincent heart doctors perform first Ross surgery in Montana

Posted at 10:36 AM, Nov 10, 2022

A Pryor woman is looking forward to returning to an active healthy life after undergoing an innovative heart procedure at St. Vincent Healthcare.

Abigail Goes Ahead is recovering from open heart surgery she had at the beginning of October.

This type of surgery has been done at hospitals in big metropolitan areas.

And St Vincent doctors performed the very first Ross replacement heart valve surgery in Montana.

Vincent Goes Ahead gave a Crow prayer more than a month after his wife's surgery at St Vincent on Wednesday.

On Oct. 1, Vincent saved Abigail's life.

"I wasn't breathing," Abigail said. "I guess I was not there. He did CPR on me so he brought me back."

"I said Abby, Abby, kept calling and not breathing," Vincent said. "Give her a couple of breaths and about third time, she gasped for air. Never so glad. She came to."

Vincent rushed Abigail from Pryor to the St. Vincent emergency room.

And then heart doctors determined she would need surgery.

"She had something called critical aortic stenosis, when there's very, very low blood flow that leaves that aortic valve," said Dr. Carine Basmadjian, a St. Vincent non-invasive cardiologist. "So if she were to not get surgery urgently, if she were to go home, she could have died."

"That guy right there, he's a rockstar," said Vincent as he pointed toward Dr. Simon Maltais, St. Vincent cardiac surgeon.

And the cardiac team decided the Ross replacement valve surgery would be best for Abigail.

"We take the patient's own pulmonary valve and harvest it and trans-locate it to the aortic position," Maltais said. "And that valve now sort of emptied space is replaced by a cadaver valve."

Several bigger hospitals in metropolitan areas were the first to perform Ross surgeries.

"We both have worked in places that have been ranked in the top 50 hospitals in the country," Maltais said about himself and Dr. John H. Braxton, Intermountain Health Montana director of cardiovascular service line and a cardiothoracic surgeon. "I can say with certainly here it's everything, if not more. The scale is different. You know, number of patients, number of surgeries but the quality of care here is just as good."

Braxton called heart surgery a "team sport."

"(Late UCLA basketball coach) John Wooden used to say practice, practice, practice," said Braxton. "So that's what this team did. They did a mock procedure. That just improves the chemistry of the team and we all work well together."

And after five weeks, they say it was a successful surgery for Abigail Goes Ahead

"Once she's recovered from her wound and done cardiac rehab, she should be able to live a normal functional life," Basmadjian said.

"The best option for restoring normal life expectancy for patients that have more than 20 plus years to live," Maltais said.

"This is the new standard that we believe will enhance our patients experience." Braxton said.

"They did an excellent job and I thank God for them," Abigail said.