Patients Follow Doctor Here for Heart Surgery Three Pakistanis Find What They Need at St. Joseph

Article excerpt

Three men from Hyderabad, the third largest city in Pakistan, have the credentials to form what surely would be one of the most exclusive clubs there: Each had open-heart surgery at St. Joseph Health Center in St. Charles.

Hassan Talpur, 58, the most recent patient of the three, underwent bypass surgery at St. Joseph in mid-November. He checked out of the hospital four days later and, after continuing his recuperation at a relative's home in Houston, returned Sunday to Pakistan.

Talpur said that if he had had the surgery in his homeland, he could have expected a minimum hospital stay of three weeks and a greater risk of contracting a hospital-based infection.

Talpur and the other Pakistani heart patients each had the financial wherewithal to go anywhere in the world for their treatments. They all chose St. Joseph's in St. Charles because of Dr. Mahmood Qalbani, a native of Hyderabad and an anesthesiologist on the staff at St. Joseph's for 13 years.

Qalbani helped arrange the operations, and he negotiated the discounted all-inclusive package price for each operation. The patients paid the bills up front, Qalbani said, and then sought full or partial reimbursement from their health-care insurers.

The first patient was Qalbani's eldest brother; he went to school with the second patient; and he has mutual friends with the third. Having started the international patient traffic, Qalbani hopes to broaden it. On his next visit to Pakistan, he plans to talk with cardiologists about sending their high-risk patients to St. Joseph's for heart surgery.

Such surgery is a relatively new procedure in Pakistan, where it carries a morbidity risk of 5 to 15 pct. Angioplasty, a less invasive surgical technique, is newer still. By contrast, open-heart surgery has become almost routine in the United States, Qalbani said, and carries a 1 to 5 pct. mortality rate.

Those who know the Qalbani family certainly know St. Charles. Three of Qalbani's four brothers live here. Dewan Qalbani, Siraj Hyder Qalbani and Ali Hyder Qalbani each own Subway Sandwiches & Salad shops in St. Charles County. Another brother, Dr. Askar Qalbani, is a pathologist in Sioux City, Iowa.

The eldest of the six brothers, Qalb Qalbani, now 59, is a professor in Hyderabad. He was visiting his brothers in St. Charles in 1992 when he suffered chest pain. Tests showed he'd had a heart attack and was at risk for another because of clogged coronary arteries. He underwent multiple-bypass surgery during his visit.

Dr. Mahmood Qalbani saw the second patient, Dr. Sikander Ali Mandhro, 52, on a social visit to his alma mater in Pakistan last year. Mandhro, a physician and politician, had survived two heart attacks and suffered nearly constant pain from angina. …