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Mending a broken heart (caused by a staple gun)

Toronto, August 13, 2013

By Kate Taylor

Vince Chanyi
Patient Vince Chanyi’s angiogram shows the delivery system being removed after the plug (middle circle) was inserted to block the hole in the heart.
Patient Vince Chanyi’s angiogram shows the delivery system being removed after the plug (middle circle) was inserted to block the hole in the heart.

Vince Chanyi was doing handy work around his house in London, Ont., when his nail gun suddenly stopped working.

He fiddled with it to put it back together and while returning to the task at hand, tripped on his shoe lace, awkwardly falling with the nail gun turned towards his body.

“I clearly had not assembled the machine back together properly, because I heard a quick ‘pshh’ sound and looked down to see the top of a nail sticking out of my shirt,” Chanyi remembers. “I felt no pain so did not immediately know what happened but when I looked down my shirt, I could see that the three and a half inch nail had fired right into my heart.”

He was rushed to a local hospital where the staple – which appeared to have miraculously not caused severe damage – was removed and the hole it caused in the right chamber of his heart was repaired.

Upon returning home, Chanyi felt short of breath and exhausted. He went back to the local hospital to get an ultrasound which showed another small hole in the septum between the two ventricles that had not been fixed and was causing a heart murmur.

He was sent to St. Michael’s Hospital for our expertise in minimally invasive cardiac therapy, to see Dr. Bob Chisholm, medical director of cardiology.

“This was an extremely rare case, requiring a procedure that had only been done a few times in the world before,” said Dr. Chisholm, who performed the surgery along with Dr. Asim Cheema and Dr. Kevin Levitt. “Given the injury, we traditionally would have done open heart surgery but the patient had a previous bypass and so we wanted to operate minimally invasively.”

The injury was in a difficult-to-reach spot. Dr. Chisholm and his team needed to block the hole, but to have a stable platform to insert the plug, they had to put a wire in from the femoral vein in the right groin up into the lower chamber of the heart. It then went across the hole and out through the vein in Chanyi’s neck. This wire allowed the delivery system with the plugging device to go in through the same vein in the neck, and in to plug the hole, with more control and stability.

This rare procedure, which took more than three hours to complete, was a success.

“Everyone said I was extremely lucky,” said Chanyi. “But I feel so lucky to have been sent to St. Michael’s and to have been in the care of Dr. Chisholm. I still don’t fully understand what he managed to do, but I do know that I was out of the hospital the next day and have fully recovered.”

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.