Arts and Culture

Heart and vision

KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson - The Philippine Star

Last Wednesday, June 5, a highly successful event was conducted at the Big Function Room of the Manila Golf Club, with over 250 guests attending the launching of the book Heart & Vision: The Inspiring Life Story of Dr. Jorge Garcia.

Co-publishers Anvil Publishing, Inc. and the Carlos Palanca Foundation were elated over the turnout and the fact that nearly all of the hardbound edition of 300 copies available that evening sold very quickly. 

It stands to reason. Dr. Jorge Garcia enjoys legendary status as one of the world’s leading heart surgeons, and as the man who conducted the first heart transplant in the country.

He had also subsequently founded the Makati Heart Foundation after institutionalizing a cardiac surgery program at Makati Medical Center similar to what he had established in Washington, D.C. where he served as the chief of cardiac surgery at the Washington Hospital Center and clinical professor of surgery at the Georgetown University. 

The book recounts how “In a survey published in the Washington Magazine in December, 1993, where 3,700 physicians  and surgeons in the Washington D.C. area were asked  whom they would entrust themselves to for cardiac surgery, more than 80 percent responded that Garcia would be their choice — not bad at all for a local homegrown talent with humble beginnings in a nondescript municipality of an archipelago in the Far East.” (from The Asian Quarterly)

Before the turn of the millennium, Dr. Garcia also became directly involved in the establishment of the Asian Hospital and Medical Center, and subsequently the Heart Foundation. He has also taken his special heart surgery team to foreign countries, notably China and Egypt.

It would be an understatement therefore to describe the good doctor as simply being extraordinary or much-accomplished. He has saved many lives, and some notables among his clients in the Philippines over the years were only too happy to join up with him at the book launch. 

When he’s here, as he still divides his time between Manila and Washington, the MGC serves as a second home, so that his golfing buddies constituted the majority of the guest list, and were the proudest and loudest among those who came to toast him at the launch.  

An early arrival was former president Fidel V. Ramos, whom Dr. Garcia immediately took to the dais for thumbs-up photos with the promotional tarp as a backdrop. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, another former patient, also made hs way to a front table together with his better half. Boxing aficionado Chavit Singson also flitted in and out of the large, crowded hall.

In his usual meticulous manner of preparation, Dr. Garcia had already seen to signing book copies and writing dedications for friends. A brief program preceded the formal launch, with Anvil’s Gwenn Galvez emceeing the proceedings.

Karina Bolasco spoke in behalf of Anvil, hailing the book project as another milestone it had partnered in with the Carlos Palanca Foundation. As book editor/stylist, I acknowledged my role as a technician who helped craft Dr. Jorge’s remarkable narrative after spending numerous sessions with him as he rendered his life story.

On behalf of the Palanca Foundation, Dang Cecilio Palanca delivered remarks on the inspirational quality of the book, and introduced the man of the hour. Cheers greeted Dr. Garcia before he thanked everyone who came to help him celebrate an event which he said he had never foreseen — the launch of his own autobiography.

He also acknowledged that he can only credit his success primarily to his wife Corazon, without whom he said he could not have passed the trials of dedicated work in the United States. Two of their four sons also spoke very proudly of their father.

The book is the second to be co-published by the Palanca Foundation, following up on last August’s launch of Business Without Capital: Insurance Selling, authored by life insurance pioneer Bobby Madrid. That was the first title in the planned series billed as “I Did It, So Can You” — books that should serve to inspire Filipinos by way of serving up memoirs cum instructive narratives featuring individual success stories in a myriad of fields.

Here’s sharing some excerpts from Heart and Vision: The Inspiring Life Story of Dr. Jorge Garcia:

“Looking back at it now, I’ve been very lucky. All the directions I decided on setting upon, since my choice of a college course, turned out to have led to successful achievements.

“Of course I can’t help but cherish certain moments or episodes when these decisions ultimately proved fruitful. Sometimes I stumble again on some things that have been written about me, and I can’t help but smile in gratitude for the way a life can be compressed into a few pages, and yet manage to encapsulate those dear moments of significance. 

“The atmosphere in the operating room is simply electric. You can sense it immediately. You don’t have to say anything. You walk in there, and you just feel the electricity

“Apart from the attending surgeon, there is the assistant surgeon, and then another surgeon, who takes the saphenous vein of the patient. So, in the operating room, there will be three MD’s in there. And then we have one scrub nurse, and one circulating nurse. In case the first nurse misses anything, the circulating nurse opens the cabinet and gets the supply from there.

“Then we have the anesthesiologist and his/her assistant, and we have the perfusionist, and the technician that gets the blood from the line, and to do the blood test, determine the oxygenation level, potassium and things like that.

“The perfusionist is beside the operating table, he’s right behind me. The nurse is on the south side. The patient’s head is north. We always say that the patient’s head is north, that’s our lingo, at least with my team.

“When you’re standing up, we call the head side of the patient north, and the south side is where the patient’s legs are. On the south side, that’s where the nurses are, and on the head side or north side, that’s where the anesthesiologist is located. I’m usually on the right side, the west side, and my assistant is on the east side.

“The atmosphere in the operating room is just so electric. It’s a combination of excitement and a little tension, too, since it’s the first case I’m doing.

“And then there’s also this sense of amazement. Everyone is so amazed — without even talking too much, as if we had already done it so many times before. Everyone knows his or her part and function. The nurses and the others can read my mind, without any talking. And we are amazed as well at the fluidity and speed that we conduct the operation.

“I have conducted more than 15,000 heart operations since 1974, mostly in the U.S. I’ve done around 11,000 in the States, and about 4,000 in other countries, with about half of those in the Philippines, and the rest in China, Egypt, Greece and Ethiopia.

“If I were to sum it up, there’s nothing like having a passion for heart surgery to save and improve people’s lives, and pursuing it all your life.

“You always look forward to the next day, when you’ll be engaged with your passion again. When you get up in the morning, you look forward to it. Going to work, you look forward to what you’re going to do that day.

“There’s nothing like it, coupled with hard work.

“Oh, sometimes you need a little break. It’s a very good formula for success.”

* * *

The book is now available at all National Book Store branches.


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