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Published on May 17, 2012

Chris Barritt & Heart Tumor Surgery


Chris Barritt
Patient: Chris Barritt, Mount Airy, MD

Location: Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital

Service: Heart Tumor Surgery

Doctor: Paul Massimiano, MD

With a 5,000-mile cross-country trip just a few months away, Chris Barritt, 57, of Carroll County was shocked when doctors told him he would need open-heart surgery to remove a heart tumor.

The diagnosis "felt surreal, like a dream," Barritt says. What started as an ordinary day was interrupted when he suddenly experienced strokelike symptoms, notably the inability to speak a full sentence.

He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors said he was experiencing a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, which occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is briefly halted.

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I started riding motorcycles in 1974. I rode for a couple years and then had a crash and decided maybe it wasn't such a good idea. I took about a 20 year break to raise kids, put it away, but that desire was there all the time. I just kind of suppressed it. Then in August of 2000 I just said I've gotta do this. It's become a passion ever since.

Before I learned about my heart tumor a friend and I had plans of riding through northeastern Canada and through Labrador and Newfoundland, specifically to ride on the train on the Trans-Labrador Highway, which most adventure riders is a popular destination, and it's about four hundred miles of unpaved roads. I figured my trip plans were pretty well done. I didn't think I would be going on the trip at all. The way I found out I had a heart tumor was a few days prior I had stroke-like symptoms.

Chris' physician had actually done a lot of the work for us. His cardiologists had done an echocardiogram which demonstrated that there was a large tumor mass in the left atrium of the heart. The only real effective treatment for this is to remove the tumor mass, which was done pretty quickly.

Needless to say I was stunned that I needed open-heart surgery. It was a whirlwind you know you're going to the hospital. Now. Today.

So above all else we need top-notch surgeons to be able to do the type of surgery that Chris needed. Fortunately, Chris had a fabulous surgeon work on him, Dr. Massimiano.

Chris is extremely lucky that we found a tumor when we did. If we hadn't there is a real possibility that larger pieces could have broken off and caused a debilitating stroke. Chris is a perfect patient. He was in great shape before the surgery, and I had no doubt that he would have an excellent recovery. For cardiac care, particularly for open-heart surgery, patients need to go to a high volume center with a lot of experience. Washington Adventist Hospital has now been delivering comprehensive care for over 50 years.

My treatment at Washington Adventist Hospital was top notch the entire time. I can't say enough good things about the people there. Everybody was warm, sincere. When I asked my surgeon whether I would be able to go on my planned trip, he thought about it for a few moments and then told me he felt that we could continue with our plans. The first six or eight weeks it didn't seem that way. I was convinced I wasn't going to go on the trip. One day on Memorial Day weekend it was like the door opens and all of the sudden you're recovering - you're not that heart patient you know walking around like this. You're going to be a normal person. What motivated me was to return to a normal life as quickly as possible so I could hug my wife, hug my grandchildren. The trip that Glen and I took, it was great. It really lit a fire under us to do whatever adventure was.

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