HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before her complicated cancer surgery on Monday, Shinkyong Chang thought her life was over.
"I thought I’m going to die right away. My first question to Dr. Morris: ’When I’m going to die?' she said.
Chang suffered from a large tumor in her chest.
Dr. Paul Morris, of The Queen’s Medical Center Cancer Center, said the cancer was beginning to invade her heart and its surrounding blood vessels.
“In order to remove this tumor we needed to disconnect the major veins of her head and neck and to put her on cardiopulmonary bypass,” he said.
For help, Queen’s Cancer Center turned to its partner — MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston — and thoracic surgeon Dr. Reza Mehran.
"When it became clear to both of us that she would benefit from surgery, I offered to do the surgery in Hawaii under the directorship of Dr. Morris," he said.
Instead of Chang having to go to Houston for the operation, Mehran and Morris performed it at Queen's.
During a five-hour procedure they removed the tumor then reconstructed the blood vessels in Chang’s chest.
This type of operation had never been done in Hawaii.
"This is a milestone," Morris said. "This allows us at Queens to be able to provide the optimal care with the supervision and the advice of MD Anderson and have our patient stay here in Hawaii where their family is."
Until now Mehran had never operated on a patient in Hawaii, although he has a license to practice here.
"Sure enough it came in handy this time," he said.
Chang, 45, said the surgery saved her life.
"That's one thing I promised myself. I'm going to be a better person," she said.
Doctors said Chang's outlook for being cured of her cancer now looks very promising.
She’s scheduled to be discharged from Queen’s on Friday.