Surgeons make crucial decisions every day.
Dr. Alejandro Mejia is the Director of Organ Transplant at Methodist Health System in Dallas. “That is the most difficult thing we do is decide when to operate and when not to operate,” said Mejia.
For pancreatic cancer patients, surgery is the only chance for patients to live. “That is the single treatment that makes a difference in your survival,” he said. It is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
In September, a 92-year-old patient named Joe Anna Logan was diagnosed with it. She made an appointment to see Dr. Mejia. He said, “She didn’t ask if [surgery] can be done, she asked when can it be done?”
“I have no fear of having cancer,” Logan said, “I was determined that I wanted this taken care of.”
Operating on a woman her age is very risky, but Logan was ready to fight knowing surgery was her only chance. She would soon become Dr. Mejia’s oldest patient to undergo pancreatic cancer surgery.
Dr. Mejia knew the shorter the surgery the better because it would minimize her time under anesthesia. He also knew that four experienced hands was better than two and consulted with senior surgeon, Dr. Richard Dickerman. Dr. Dickerman is the Surgical Director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program.
He said it took a lot of tests to make sure she was ready for the invasive surgery. “It was basically because she was in such good shape that we thought she could tolerate such a big operation like this,” said Dr. Dickerman. While Logan’s biological age is 92, her physiological age is much younger.
“Do I think it’s a risk worth taking? It was for me,” she said. She knew all the risks and possible complications, but wasn’t afraid.
With two long-time surgeons and a team of seven inside the operating room, they were able to cut her surgery time in half. It took them three hours to do a surgery that would normally last six hours.
Logan defied the odds, survived a tough surgery, and beat pancreatic cancer at 92-years-old. She said to the surgeons, “I hope you’ll always remember what you did for me.”