On the mend

Aug. 17-30, 2006
On the mend
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Bishop James Moynihan is recovering from cardiac surgery and expresses gratitude

“The bishop did very well,” were the first words from Dr. Mehdi Marvasti at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse at a press conference after Bishop James M. Moynihan’s open-heart surgery Aug. 3. Dr. Marvasti is the cardiac surgeon who performed the valve replacement on the bishop’s leaking mitral valve and repaired his tricuspid valve during the more than three-hour-long procedure. The mitral valve is actually named after its shape, that of a bishop’s miter. The valves are designed to control the direction of blood flow through the heart. It is the opening and closing of the valves that produce the sound of the heartbeat. The doctor explained that Bishop Moynihan had been experiencing symptoms of congestive heart failure including shortness of breath, swelling and fatigue. The surgery, Dr. Marvasti said, will alleviate his symptoms and prevent further deterioration of his heart function.

“The prognosis is very good,” said Dr. Marvasti, who has been at St. Joseph’s for 21 years. Bishop Moynihan was resting comfortably a week after the surgery and will recuperate at Loretto’s rehabilitation facilities. According to chancery staff, his first questions when coming out of the anesthesia were about the situation in the Middle East and the Yankee’s baseball team. “How did the Yankees do?” he asked. The cardiac surgeon explained that early hopes had been that the mitral valve could be repaired rather than replaced, but once in surgery Dr. Marvasti decided it best to replace the valve with a porcine mitral valve. “A repair wouldn’t work long term,” Dr. Marvasti said after the surgery. “We wouldn’t want to come back and replace it later.”

The 74-year-old bishop did well overall and the surgeon was pleased with his progress a week afterward. “He’s doing very well,” Dr. Marvasti said. “He’s up and around: he’s eating, reading his newspaper and walking. His incision is healing very well.”
The bishop is very aware of the prayers and petitions that have been offered on his behalf. “I’m overwhelmed at God’s blessings and the prayers of the people who have just been extraordinary,” Bishop Moynihan said while recovering at St. Joseph’s. “I’m humbled by the prayers of my priests and the religious — all their prayers and the phone calls.”

St. Joseph’s Hospital is renowned for its cardiac care. The surgeons there perform more than 900 open heart procedures per year. Valve replacement surgeries account for around 250 of those procedures. The hospital performed the first open heart surgery in the Syracuse area back in 1958. Another aspect of the bishop’s procedure included radio frequency treatment for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, which Dr. Marvasti said is quite common.

Bishop Moynihan will continue to recuperate and would like to resume his regular schedule within a month or so. For now, though, he is working on growing stronger each day. “God has taken care of me all of my life,” the bishop said. “I’m feeling great.”

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