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‘I never faced the reality of death’: a surgeon turns patient


In 2008, Dr. Amond lured Dr. Cato from the University of Miami for his rare expertise in intestinal transplantation and the so-called ex vivo operation for cancer, in which surgeons cut hard-to-reach abdominal organs. tumor, and then sew the organs back. Most important, Dr. Amond Dr. Kato saw a desire to push the boundaries of what can be done surgically to help patients.

“He brought his own culture of innovation,” said Dr. Amond. “And his personal ability, his ability to work long hours, to never give up, never give up, no matter how difficult the situation, to perform operations that many would consider impossible.”

In her first year at Columbia, Dr. Cato and her team successfully operated on Heather McNamara, a 7-year-old girl whose family was told by several other hospitals that her colon cancer was inoperable. The surgery, which involved removing six organs and then putting them back in, took 23 hours.

More and more patients from across the country and around the world began to seek Dr. Kato for operations that other hospitals could not or could not do. He also began making trips to Venezuela to perform liver transplants for children and to teach the procedure to local surgeons, and he formed a foundation to help support work there as well as in other Latin American countries.

While Dr. Kato’s companions struggled to save him, a waiting list of surgical patients was glued in with the hope that he would soon be able to save them.

Dr. Perera said, slowly there were signs of recovery.

“You come early in the morning to see him,” he said. “Hospital halls are empty and everyone is looking at each other, scared and worried. You go to the intensive care unit fearing bad news, and the team is giving you a kind of hope that maybe he’s looking better. “

Dr. Kato spent almost a month on a ventilator and a week on ECMO. Like many people with severe COVID, he suffered from frightening and vivid hallucinations and delusions. In one, he was arrested at the Battle of Waterloo. In another, he was intentionally infected with anthrax; Only a hospital in Antwerp could have saved him, but he could not get there. He saw the white light that some describe after near-death experiences. “I felt like I was dead,” he said.



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