SAN DIEGO — A surgery created at UC San Diego Health to help with a rare condition is bringing in people from thousands of miles away to see if they can be a candidate for the operation.
According to UCSD Health, they have performed more than 4,000 pulmonary thromboendarterectomy surgeries.
PTE is described as a “complex surgery that removes deadly chronic blood clots from major blood vessels in the lungs that cannot be treated with medication.”
UCSD Health is the world leader when it comes to PTE, and Rebeca Oviedo and her husband Erick Wales traveled from Costa Rica to see if and when Oviedo can be treated.
Erick Wales, a San Diego native, moved to Costa Rica and married his wife of nearly 8 years, Rebeca Oviedo. He didn’t know they would both be back in San Diego for a heart-wrenching reason.
“It’s life or death,” Oviedo said.
According to Oviedo, doctors in Costa Rica diagnosed her with pulmonary hypertension, a rare and chronic condition. She said she had a non-invasive surgery to try and help with the problem, but it didn’t work. After, Wales’ research into the best surgeries led them to UC San Diego Health.
“No one ever thinks you’re going to run into some rare, hard to treat illness,” Erick Wales said. “This is unimaginable.”
“If I walk a lot I get short of breath, I cannot play with my kid … I used to be baker, I cannot stand on my feet for too long, and mentally it’s been a rollercoaster because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Oviedo said. “So now my only option is open heart surgery that they do down here, it’s the only option I have because back home they don’t have the resources.”
They say they have limited health care in Costa Rica, but it doesn’t cover this surgery, which comes with a $131,000 price tag, according to the couple.
According to UCSD, it’s up to a 10-hour surgery, which involves opening the patient’s chest and stopping circulation for up to 20-minute increments to clear out arteries without any blood around.
“It’s not done in very many places around the world, and where it is done it’s usually considered one of the most dangerous operations. It has a mortality rate of around 5-6%, but here at UCSD is less than 1%” Wales added.
“I’m not done living. There’s so many more things I want to do, I want to see my kid grow up,” Oviedo said. “We need all the help we can get.”
To help, visit the couple’s fundraising page.
The couple said they are hoping to schedule the surgery for as soon as possible, but are still fundraising.