An Unexpected Phone Call
In October of 2005, Dr. Michael Reardon of the Methodist Cardiovascular Surgery Associates, received a call from a former resident now on staff at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. David Rice. Dr. Rice had received information and studies on a patient in New Zealand dying from a pulmonary artery sarcoma, which is a rare neoplasm, or abnormal mass of tissue, that surfaced from the central pulmonary arteries. These arteries are responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the lungs. This special case had already been deemed unresectable in both New Zealand and Australia. David asked his friend just one question: “What can we do?”
The “Mystery Man”
The patient, Brian Hodder, was at the time a 74-year-old retired farmer in New Zealand. Having spent a lifetime working hard for his community, Brian and his wife Lois were looking forward to new adventures and precious family time. In June of 2004, Brian noticed his first symptoms of wheezing when he would lie on his left side in bed. He had also developed a slight but persistent cough. Brain and Lois were to leave soon on a long-awaited eight-week overseas vacation. Before leaving, Brian visited his family physician and was diagnosed with asthma and given an inhaler to ease the symptoms on his trip and although he continued to notice increased fatigue in the following days he brushed it off and looked forward his much needed vacation. Brian had been a vigorous man all of his life but by the second week of their vacation tour he experienced trouble keeping up with the group. Brian’s cough and wheezing continued to worsen as the group ventured through Copenhagen and Dover where he finally sought the help of a physician but found no clear answers. When Brian returned to his hometown, his physician at the Christianchurch Hospital ordered a chest X-ray and was dumbfounded with the results. Earning the nickname “the mystery man” Brian continued to stump medical practitioners in New Zealand.
Consultation was arranged with a local cardiothoracic surgeon, who finally uncovered the mystery – a sarcoma of his left pulmonary artery. Since the sarcoma was unresectable, doctor sought follow-up opinions from experts in Auckland and Australia and professionals concluded that radiation therapy was the optimal treatment option for a tumor that if spread to the lungs will be fatal. His family braced itself for what appeared to be the inevitable end.
Hope and a Challenge
One day, the Hodders received a fax from a niece who researched Brian’s condition and found information on cardiac tumor treatments at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and The Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, both in Houston’s Texas Medical Center. It took a push from his family physician but Brian eventually saw he had nothing to lose and decided to give it a try. A call was made and in stepped Dr. Michael Reardon, Methodist Cardiovascular Surgery Associates and his former resident Dr. David Rice from MD Anderson.
Ideally, the doctors wanted Brian Hodder to be brought to their Houston hospital but since New Zealand had a national health service that would cover these medical expenses it was more beneficial for Dr. Rice and Dr. Reardon to travel to him instead.
Dr. Rice and Dr. Reardon utilized an array of medical techniques in an innovated method that allowed completion of the left pneumonectomy with resection of the main pulmonary artery and partial resection of the right pulmonary artery. Before the surgery took place, the doctors found that their patient had triple vessel coronary artery obstructive disease created by an enormous buildup of plague blocking the flow of blood through the arteries. Doctors used a technique called a median sternotomy incision across the breast plate to gain access to the failing lungs and were able to restore functionality of the left lung by separating the inferior pulmonary ligament and both of the pulmonary veins near the heart allowing complete mobilization of the lung. A triple-vessel coronary bypass was administered onto Brian Hodder without cardiac arrest and the final pathology revealed the pulmonary artery angiosarcoma was free of tumors. Eighteen months after this extraordinary effort made by these two innovative minds and Brian is living well and free of disease.
Dr. Rice and Dr. Reardon performed the surgery with Mr. Hodder’s local cardiothoracic surgeon, Mr. Harsh Singh. Mr. Hodder is currently doing well and Dr. Reardon received a letter recently from Brian and his wife Lois saying they were venturing on a two week vacation to visit their grandson and great grandson in Brisbane, Australia.
The convergence allowing the care of Mr. Hodder is rooted deep within The Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. In the broader sense, it represents the culmination of the life work of many people – beginning with Dr. Michael E. DeBakey and including the hospital staff, nurses, administrators and physicians, all of whom paved the way for their work in cardiac malignancy that eventually led them to Brian Hodder.