UTHealth expert successfully performs surgery on patient with heart problems

Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District principal Maria Mamaux was impressed by the credentials of the surgeon recommended to repair her failing heart, but what really got her attention was the fact that he was a graduate of the same school district.

"That put him at the top of my list," said Mamaux, whose open heart surgery was performed by Tom Nguyen, MD, a 1992 Cy-Fair High School graduate and the chief of cardiac surgery at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Cy-Fair does an amazing job of educating students and they go on to do amazing things."

Maria Mamaux

Mamaux's heart problems started several years ago when she collapsed during a rigorous workout session. Her exercise class included trainers and emergency medicine nurses, who responded quickly.

She was rushed via ambulance to a hospital where it was determined that 90% of her left anterior descending artery was clogged. Her artery was widened nonsurgically through a procedure called cardiac catheterization.

"It took me a while to recover from that and I had to go through rehabilitation," Mamaux said.

More than 90 million Americans have known cardiovascular disease and it is the nation's leading cause of death, according to the American College of Cardiology.

In June, doctors detected additional problems with Mamaux's heart during a nuclear stress test, during which dye is inserted in the patient's bloodstream, enabling doctors to generate pictures of blood flow.

Deemed too serious to correct with a stent, Mamaux was referred to Nguyen for open-heart surgery and she is glad she was. He is an associate professor and director of minimally invasive valve surgery at UTHealth.

"He took the time to walk me through every step in the process. He was very thorough," she said.

During the three-hour procedure at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Memorial City in July, Nguyen took an artery from Mamaux's left chest wall and used it to redirect the blood around the clogged area.

"This is the most durable solution we have to this type of heart issue," Nguyen said.

Coronary artery bypass grafting (bypass surgery) is the most commonly performed cardiac surgery procedure with approximately 200,000 cases done in the United States annually, according to the Journal of Thoracic Disease.

Mamaux and Nguyen's links to Cy-Fair came up during a consultation. "She mentioned that she was from the northwest side of town and that's when I told her I went to Cy-Fair," Nguyen said. "It's a small world."

Nguyen, who earned his undergraduate degree at Rice University and his medical degree at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said, "Going to high school in Cy-Fair prepared me for the academic rigors of college and medical school."

What I like about medicine is that you get to use your skills to help people. We fix problems with the heart."

Tom Nguyen, MD

Nguyen sees patients at UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School.

When the 1,550 students at Aragon Middle School returned for the fall session in August, their principal was there to greet them. "I feel blessed to be able to go back to school," said Mamaux, who received lots of get well cards and hugs from students.

"Everything about Dr. Nguyen is top notch," said Mamaux, who has been in the teaching profession for 27 years. "When I email a question to Dr. Nguyen, he gets back to me quickly. He'll answer that evening or the next morning."

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