1977. Dr Khatri, the colossal cardiologist from PGI Chandigarh taught cardiology at MGIMS. His bedside clinics were legendary — he would put his heart and soul into the gallops and murmurs he taught to the medical students. He would blow his students away by his skills in obtaining history, eliciting physical signs and interpreting electrocardiograms. A role model for several batches at MGIMS, he inculcated love for cardiology among MGIMS alumni, some of whom went on to become celebrated cardiologists and cardiac surgeons.
1977 was also the year, coronary angioplasty was born. Andreas Gruentzig, a German-born physician blew the block off the coronary artery in Zurich, Switzerland and changed the way physicians looked at— and practiced— coronary artery disease.
2015. On 27 February, the first coronary angioplasty was performed in the newly built MGIMS cath lab.
Simran (name changed) — a 50- year- old woman sought frequent outpatient care in MGIMS because of disabling angina. She was on several pills that lowered her glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure. In addition she was also on nitrates and anti-thrombotic drugs. Yet, with each passing day, her life began to get rough. She could hardly walk a block and would come up the stairs huffing and puffing.
Dr Udit Narang, her physician explained to her that coronary angioplasty could make her walk — longer, faster and better. By nature, Simran was a bundle of nerves and the very thought of entering into a cath lab made her fretful. Dr Udit knew her well since long and enjoyed her trust: he knew precisely what she thought, how she felt and what guided her decisions and behaviors. He was able to soothe her nerves and got her nod for angioplasty.
On 27 February 2015, Simran entered the cath lab, second time. A fortnight before, she had undergone coronary angiography in the very cath lab she was destined to have angioplasty. The angiogram had picked up a lipid-rich large plaque — the culprit lesion. Dr Ram Ghodeswar, the cardiologist, opened her occluded coronary artery, inserted a stent to hold her artery open and to maintain blood flow after the procedure and demonstrated on the digital monitor that the blood no longer ebbed and flew but gushed through her coronary artery into the heart muscle.
Even before she was wheeled back to her bed, Simran heaved a sigh of huge relief. “I never thought that the procedure would be so quick, so painless, so gratifying and so rewarding,” she said with a sense of serenity. “I am so glad that I underwent angioplasty at Sevagram — not for a moment did I feel ill at ease after entering the cath lab, because I could see familiar faces behind the masks in the lab. I knew everyone- doctors, nurses, technicians and orderlies- each of whom greeted me on my way to the cath table. And that was the reason my heart was never in my mouth all through the procedure. I can never thank you enough.”
Dr BenHur Premendran, the anesthesiologist in the cath lab and also an MGIMS alumnus was closely watching the procedure. Overwhelmed by the historic importance of the event, he opened his heart: “This is a key milestone in the annals of MGIMS and we need to capture this moment for the posterity. Although each year hundreds of thousands of patients undergo angioplasty, worldwide, the fact that MGIMS has also started offering this intervention to the poor and not-so-rich patients fills my heart with pride. And it is so heartening to learn that patients won’t have to dig deep into their pockets — the procedure at MGIMS costs almost a third of what it costs in for-profit hospitals.