HOUSTON - From a doctor to patient, he was a heart surgeon in need of heart surgery.
“When you are a real doctor, you learn to put your things away and really get interested in the patients," Dr. Raul Garcia Rinaldi said.
Dr. Garcia has been performing heart surgery for 40 years, most of that has been in Puerto Rico, but when Hurricane Maria hit, Garcia was locked in his home for three days.
“They really warned me that time was approaching quickly," Garcia said.
“I knew that being a heart surgeon in Puerto Rico with everything that was going on, I was worried that a lot of that extra stress could really complicate his situation," Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Memorial Hermann HVI/UTHealth Dr. Tom Nguyen said.
But with a hospital without electricity and patients without homes, that surgery became the last thing on his mind.
“I put my symptomology to one side. I knew it was there, but there were other more pressing things that needed to be done," Dr. Garcia said.
Putting his own health on the back burner, Dr. Garcia helped rebuild his hospital, and finally, in November, decided he could no longer wait.
So he did what any heart surgeon would do - he researched.
“I needed the reassurance that the people who were working on me, were competent, that was very, very, very important," Dr. Garcia said.
Dr. Garcia chose a new, yet non-invasive, procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement.
“It essentially replaces the diseased aortic valve," Dr. Nguyen said.
Enter Heart Surgeon Dr. Tom Nguyen - the chosen one.
“Of course, in the back of your mind, you realize that he’s a prominent cardiothoracic surgeon in Puerto Rico, in a country that really needs him right now," Dr. Nguyen said.
Dr. Garcia was in Puerto Rico and back to surgery just eight days after his procedure, performing 19 of his own procedures his first week back on the job.
“It was important to get back to doing work right away, to me that was important," Dr. Garcia said.
© 2018 KHOU-TV