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From the heart

A Clackamas medical student meets the doctor who saved his life - two decades later

The first time Andre Mansoor met Dr. Albert Starr, he was three days old. Understandable, neither could really remember the other's face.

But for Mansoor, that one encounter with the brilliant cardiac surgeon made all the difference. Not only did Starr save Mansoor's life, but he set a course for that life - a course Mansoor is now following.

'What I had was a congestive heart defect,' Mansoor said. 'It's relatively rare. Basically, the oxygenated blood from my lungs was being received into my right heart, instead of my left heart - the left heart is what pumps oxygenated blood to the rest of the body.'

While he was still an infant, a small passage between the two chambers allowed his heart to function - but that 'door,' the foramen ovale, closes as the heart matures.

'Dr. Starr took my pulmonary veins and reconnected the left side of my heart, and closed the hole - basically made my system normal.'

'What it shows is that cardiac surgery began in the 1960s essentially,' Starr said, 'but they didn't reach the level of perfection that we have now until about the 1980s. Just about when he was operated on.

'At that point we could do these complicated defects without producing injury.'

'I'm a medical student now,' said Mansoor, who grew up in Clackamas. 'After having learned about the defect I had it gave me a higher appreciation for what Dr. Starr did for me.'

An appreciation he wanted to express with a personal meeting October 18.

When Starr met Mansoor for the •second• time - and reviewed to notes on the surgery - he was amazed to see that during the surgery the infant Mansoor had been in circulatory arrest, with no blood getting to his brain, for over 40 minutes.

'Your mentation - I mean, you got into medical school, you must have pretty good brain tissue left.'

Mansoor is in his second year at OHSU.

'Growing up I would always ask about the scar on my chest - my parents told me I had the world's best surgeon perform the surgery. The name Dr. Starr has remained with me since I was a kid.

'Always, one of the things I wanted to do was meet with him personally and thank him personally. Not only did he save my life but he also served as inspiration - helping shape my career goals.

'It absolutely is part of the reason I became a medical student,' Mansoor said. 'I wanted to have the opportunity to give others what I had given to me.'

They met at Starr's Starr-Wood Cardiac Group offices at Providence St. Vincent. After a quick handshake for the cameras they retreated to Starr's office for a private conversation - a chance for Mansoor to finally express in person the gratitude he has felt for decades.

Starr - already a groundbreaking cardiac surgeon twenty years ago, and one of the most respected men in the field today - was left grinning ear to ear and looking a little bit stunned by the encounter.

'His circulation was arrested for 47 minutes,' Starr said. 'No circulation to the brain whatsoever during that time. And yet here he is with full mental capability and he's a medical student - he's going to be a great doctor.

'By seeing a patient 20 years later, it validates what we were able to achieve - and of course it's even more elegant now.'

'It's great to see him,' Starr said. 'Every place I go I run into families that have people that I operated on… this is the first time that someone who was operated on at three days of age has come up for an appointment to see me.

'I wouldn't even think they would be connected to hat,' he mused. 'Their parents might, but they might not be… but he's very connected, and this experience he had has made him think of a medical career… it really is a very neat thing to do.'