In July of 2007, Margaret Martins had Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy (PTE) surgery to treat a very serious case of secondary pulmonary hypertension. Originally from Nigeria, she had been living in Texas when she became ill from her condition, and came to Maryland to be near family. From an emergency room in a Washington D.C. hospital, she was transferred to UMMC after her doctor did an Internet search and found Dr. Bartley Griffith, the University of Maryland Medical Center's chief of cardiac surgery and one of the few surgeons in the country performing this complex surgery. Read her story below.
I am originally from Nigeria, but I had been living in Texas and working in Dallas before my PTE operation. I had many symptoms prior to surgery. I couldn’t breathe or talk without passing out. I saw my gynecologist, who thought my symptoms were caused by my fibroids, which were also causing my bleeding and low blood count.
After a month of taking iron tablets, my blood count was normal but I was passing out and was short of breath. I couldn’t drive or even walk to the bedroom or bathroom.
So I came to Maryland because my sister lives in the town of Riverdale. I originally came here for a fibroid operation; however, when I arrived I became very sick — I was dizzy and had trouble breathing. My sister rushed me to the emergency room at a hospital in Washington D.C., where the doctors told me that my fibroid wasn’t the problem; it was my heart. I was amazed.
I had been in the hospital for 10 days when I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. It was a matter of life and death so they had to quickly look for a surgeon who could operate on me. My doctor went online to find a doctor who could perform the Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy operation and found Dr. Bartley Griffith [chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine]. My doctor immediately transferred me to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Once I was at the Medical Center, I met Dr. Griffith and Dr. Myung Park [a cardiologist and director of the University of Maryland Medical Center's Pulmonary Hypertension Program and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine]. Dr. Griffith said I had to have the surgery as soon as possible.
Dr. Griffith was humorous, which lifted my spirits. He knew where I was from so he talked about my country, Nigeria. He made everybody (my family) laugh; he has a good sense of humor. He educated me on what he had to do and assured me that I’d be fine. He did the surgery soon after that. I was discharged from the hospital on August 4, 2007.
Life after surgery
After the surgery, there was a remarkable change. My breathing was much better than when I came into the hospital. Day after day I improved; I couldn’t believe it. Within three days after surgery, I was walking. Before the surgery, I couldn’t breathe or talk without passing out. After surgery I was able to talk and breathe normally. I feel so much healthier and better!
After I left the hospital, I stayed with my sister until February of 2008 when I moved out. Now I’m living on my own and I’m back to working as a home health aide. I still go to Baltimore once a month for checkups.
Right from the time the EMS brought me to the Medical Center, the care I've received was very good. The cardiology nurses were excellent; they all took good care of me. All of the medical personnel I’ve come across at the Medical Center have also been very good.
Dr. Park is a genius. She gives me reassurance, and she always takes the time to listen to my questions. She has always been thorough in educating me about my condition.
Dr. Griffith is not just a doctor; it’s like he has always been a friend who knows me, who has always been my doctor.