When he came to in the intensive care unit at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Carlos Garcia asked the nurse to wheel him to another patient’s room a few doors down.
“Why,” asked the nurse.
“Cause it’s my mother,” he replied.
The nurse was really stunned when she discovered that Garcia and his mother, Esperanza Garcia, were recovering from the identical surgery — performed the same day, and by the same surgeon.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Without a doubt, it was the first time surgeons at Mt. Sinai Medical Center had performed the same surgery on a mother and son on the same day.
Carlos Garcia, 56, and Esperanza Garcia, 78, who live together in West Kendall, underwent heart valve replacement surgery Feb. 13. Both had the same surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lamelas, chief of cardiac surgery at Mt. Sinai in Miami Beach. One of the top heart surgeons in the state, Lamelas performs the most valve replacements in Florida and has the best cardiac surgery survival rate in the state according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.
For Carlos Garcia, it was his second surgery by Lamelas. The surgeon did bypass surgery on him in 2000 after Garcia had a heart attack and fell into a diabetic coma. Lamelas discovered 70 to 80 percent of Garcia’s arteries were blocked. Since then, the unmarried bank teller has been trying to eat a cholesterol-free, salt-free diet and has been exercising, using the bicycle at the gym.
But in November, Carlos went to West Kendall Baptist Hospital with flu-like symptoms and was informed that, while his bypass is holding up well, his heart valve was malfunctioning and needed replacement. So Lamelas scheduled a valve replacement for Feb. 13.
Meanwhile, Esperanza Garcia, who had no history of heart disease, went to the doctor for her annual checkup late last year. A blood test showed a heart abnormality, so she was referred to a cardiologist. That’s when she was told she, too, needed a heart valve replacement.
“We were very surprised to find out we had the same thing,” said Carlos Garcia. “It was shocking.”
Lamelas scheduled the mother-and-son surgery on the same day, with the mother going first, at 10 a.m. and the son going in at 2 p.m. The Garcias were happy to have the surgeries on the same day, since they live so far from the Mt. Sinai.
Carlos Garcia’s surgery preparation began several hours earlier, so he did not know how his mother did until the next morning, which was Valentine’s Day. The irony was not lost on the mother and son.
“She was more worried about me and I was more worried about her,” said Carlos.
Carlos Garcia’s sister and father kept a vigil in the intensive care unit, bouncing between Carlos’ and Esperanza’s rooms.
Mother and son are recovering at home and doing well, Carlos Garcia said. He is due to return back to work at the First National Bank of South Miami in two weeks.