HPA Magazine 6
“20 Years, 20 Success Stories” was the way we chose to share a few of the stories that helped us build along the years. All of them, stories with happy endings. Some of them stand out for the emotion of the first moment, as is the case of the first baby to be born here, or the first patient to be hospitalised. Many of the protagonists were true heroes and heroines who still touch us today for their wisdom and courage. Others witnessed the innovation and, in some situations, the courage and audacity to have been the first ones to take a chance on different, technologically evolved approaches.
There is also a common denominator to all of these moments: the work, dedication and creativity of a huge number of professionals, to whom we bestow our gratitude and admiration.
To the friends who collaborated, we thank them for the kindness
and generous way they shared the connection that they had or have with us.
For all of us, a connection that still exists.
MAY 1996: INAUGURATION OF THE HOSPITAL PARTICULAR DE ALVOR
“From day one, a project that was based on a clinical governance set on quality, diversity and innovation”
On 13 May 1996, the first hospital of the HPA Health Group, and also the first private hospital in the Algarve, was inaugurated.
This purpose-built unit was quickly set apart for the quality of its care and for the innovation of its services. And it was here in 2001 that the first cardiovascular intervention unit of the Algarve was created and where for the first time in the region, various diagnostic exams such as the coronary angiogram CT or cardiac resonance were realised. Today, 20 years later, this diversity still shows in some specialities such as Nuclear Medicine, with scintigraphy and peripheral perfusion tests, urology with brachytherapy or hyperbaric medicine, to name a few. This unit has had several renovations and adaptations along the years, fruit of necessity and demands, each time more far-reaching and structured. The most important and significant alteration took place last year with the integration of a new building with over 3,000 m2 for outpatient consultations, special exams and rehabilitation. This year, in the original building the operating theatre was restructured to be used as a hybrid room.
MAY 1996: WE HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING FABIO FOR 20 YEARS
“I have only one memory of doctors and nurses: the Hospital Particular. They always greeted me and treated me there with open arms.”
Fábio was the first patient in our 24-Hour Emergency Service. We had just inaugurated the hospital less than a week before he sought out our services.
His mother was anxious when she brought him in, as is appropriate in these situations, and above all when a child is small and the complaints vary. He was treated by Dr. Maria Alice, who quickly concluded it was not a visit requiring great care. Nevertheless, as he was our first child and our first “emergency”, the attention, care and pampering were redoubled and prolonged. He has continued to visit us: in childhood, adolescence and in recent adulthood, for routine circumstances but also in time of greater worry. He was 3 months old when he came to us for the first time. We hope to continue to follow him throughout his life.
JUNE 1996: THE FIRST MYOPIA OPERATION WITH LASIK TECHNOLOGY
“I was 20 years old when they told me I would no longer have to wear glasses and would have normal vision, which was great news. And which is still true today.”
João remembers always wearing glasses. It began in primary school, when the letters his teacher, Mariana, wrote on the board, did not have the round contours usually used for that age. At that time he got along well with his glasses, and they did not cause any problems for him or Xandinha, with whom he stealthily shared his snacks and “Vikings” dolls.
Nevertheless, from the moment he fell in love with cycling, the presence of Xandinha and his glasses caused other complications. For the former, he felt their weight; for the latter, he was thankful for her absence.
With time, the sport occupied a deeper and more professional position. This is what was expected. The genius and genes of cycling ran within him and in cases like this, it does little to argue or fight the thrill. Therefore, there came a time when wearing glasses was not compatible with the roads, the hills or the pathways, where everything became even more complicated when it rained.
One day, his sister gave him a challenge. Try the new surgical technique that would do away with myopia. At the time, this was the most innovative technique and the most evolved device for this correction. He did not need to think twice. Enthusiastically and thankfully, João accepted the opportunity. The rest of the story does not need to be told.
JUNE 1996: MAKING HOSPITALIZATION THE ART OF HOSPITALITY
“I’ve been with the Hospital Particular for nearly 20 years and just like the first time I was hospitalized, I still feel at home. With family, in comfort and with plenty of pampering, because hospitalization does not need to be impersonal.”
The accident was ugly and the injuries clearly visible: several fractures, plenty of abrasions and a huge dose of anxiety. Therefore, Dr. Pinto’s work was enormous, in quantity, quality and variety.
He did not come to us immediately. Rather, this option was occasioned by his stubbornness and because he thought he had the right to another choice. That is what brought about the first visit of “our Baiona”, a man known to all. Not just for his 20 years of close ties, but for the affable and kind way he manages all of his relationships. He was our first hospitalization. That could have been it. And that in itself would have been quite a bit. But the truth is that we have a mutual attraction. The length of time he stayed with us and the relationships we have meanwhile built with his other injuries will remain as an indelible mark in his and our memories
AUGUST 1996: THE FIRST TIME WE DELIVERED A BABY
“The birth of a child is the most wonderful memory anyone could possibly have. Even today I still feel the emotion of that wonderful moment. Thank you all.”
Mother of Vitor Miguel Pestana
It was the first child for the young Pestana couple and according to Dr. Gonzaga, it was scheduled to be a caesarean birth, as he suspected it would be a difficult delivery. By virtue of all babies being born in Portimão, where the maternity of the public hospital was based, many years had gone by without registering a birth in the parish of Alvor. As the family are all from Alvor, this was the definitive reason why the birth was scheduled for the Hospital Particular.
Feeling the miracle of life for the first time woke a wave of emotion and pride for all who collaborated.
The visits and pampering were non-stop throughout the period of hospitalization. The baby passed from one person’s arms to the next, cherished by all, records the mother of our first baby, with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes. A tender embrace by Vitor, now all grown up.
DECEMBER 1999: FIRST LAPAROSCOPY
“I thought it was fantastic and was surprised when the doctor told me that he only needed a few “little holes” and a few minutes to solve the problem with my gallbladder that had been tormenting me for years.”
She still maintains her chic and friendly appearance. On the day she revisited us for the photography session, she was particularly pretty. As is natural for her, she shared her story easily and happily.
She had been complaining about her gallbladder for a few years. In fact, her family doctor had given her the diagnosis on no uncertain terms: "You have gallstones; eventually you’ll have to “go under the knife.” Even if you are very careful with your diet, one day you can have a complication. Think about it".
She did not doubt what the doctor recommended, but the truth is that she always put the decision off. She tried to stay away from the cheeses and sausages from Monchique that she loved so much, but deep down inside she knew it was just a question of time, but time that had already been put off too long.
And one day it happened. She arrived at the hospital, nauseous, holding her stomach, complaining of strong pains. She wasn’t surprised at the diagnosis and even less at the solution that was proposed. Nevertheless, she was surprised at the simple manner in which Dr. Piper spoke to her in his “broken” Portuguese: "Senhora Conceição, don’t worry, everything will be okay. We now have a fast, simple surgical technique. We just make a few little holes. You’ll see that in the blink of an eye, you’ll be just fine". And it was!
We have developed the laparoscopic technique over the years, including complex, diverse surgeries. But it all began with Conceição’s gallbladder.
JUNE 2002: ANGIOPLASTY
“Of course having a heart problem left me tormented. But my biggest disappointment was that due to this, they told me I would not be able to have children. With the surgery, my health problem was solved and my greatest dream came true.”
The Cardiac Intervention Unit, with its Haemodynamic and Nuclear Medicine laboratory allowed us to perform the first pacemaker, stent, angioplasty and valvuloplasty procedures in the Algarve. We have been “calming hearts” and saving lives for 15 years.
Esmeralda lived a double torment: she had heart problems and could not have children. She still does not know which one caused her to suffer the most. There were times when she thought about taking the risk, such was her desire to be a mother and to rock her child in her arms. But they had told her this would not be wise. That she should get this idea out of her head, because the catalogue of lesions and malformations did not leave a margin for risks.
And they were right. One day, at the age of 32, she became short of breath and developed a pulmonary embolism, leaving her life hanging by a thread. She was sent to the Alvor Hospital, the only place she could be treated. She was well cared for and in less than half an hour, the surgery was finished. She was hospitalised for 3 days and everything was resolved. Well, not resolved. On track. Resolved was on the day her daughter was born.
FEBRUARY 2003: INSERTION OF THE 1ST PACEMAKER
“I was always distressed because of an arrhythmia. Sometimes I even felt panicked, for fear of having a heart attack. My tranquillity was reborn when I got the pacemaker.”
He arrived at the scheduled time and in his usual good humour. That authentic, transparent humour reserved only for those who reach the age of 90 in good health.
The first thing he said to us: "You want to write 20 stories? But I alone have more than that! Don’t forget that I began in 1998 and was already 72 years old"! And he let out a guffaw.
In fact, there is nobody at the HPA who does not know Mr. Mainprize. And he proudly says the same thing.
From the 24-hour emergency service, from the hospitalisation, from the consultations, from the exams or physiotherapy, he knows everyone’s names, accenting the rrrrs, in the case of Lurrrdes, Carrrlos, Terrresa or Marrria do Carrrmo. He tells us that he has tried out all of the specialties, except those for the ladies, with a cheeky but charming smile.
Even though the diagnosis was several years old, with us the “heart stories” began in 2002 with two angioplasties, which were followed by a pacemaker in 2003. Everything has gone well. “And look, little girl, it isn’t luck. It’s knowledge and professionalism, of Prof. Baptista and your team,” he says with a smile that reaches his eyes. He left in a hurry. He had to “go show my cataracts to ‘Dr. Coin’s.
AUGUST 2008: PROSTATE BRACHYTHERAPY
“I was apprehensive when I knew what was going to happen. But I understood early on that it was a non-invasive procedure, with a high cure rate and almost free of side effects. And here I am after all these years.”
The first prostate brachytherapy was performed in 2008, and it was an honour to provide an intervention that besides saving lives, also maintains the integrity of the functions and quality of life of the individual.
Throughout these years, many patients have been submitted to this minimally invasive procedure to combat prostate cancer, and the results have been very positive in respect to the survival rate and the level of functionality. The story of Victor Howitt is indicative of this satisfaction.
It was a shock to hear that he had prostate cancer. He knew of some friends who had been operated on to remove the tumours, but the stories were not encouraging. They complained of urinary incontinence and also referred to alterations in their sex lives. When Dr. Bastos explained to him that the intervention would be very simple and almost without risks, he was surprised, but full of hope. After all, they would only need to introduce a few radioactive seeds, without needing surgery. He underwent the procedure without any pain or side effects and 5 years later continues in perfect health. Before a goodbye hug, he thanked us once again for the opportunity.
DECEMBER 2009: INAUGURATION OF THE HOSPITAL PARTICULAR DE GAMBELAS
“It is not just a magnificent building – it is a reference point in the health of the Algarvians and all the tourists who visit us.”
In 2009, the same year in which the European Year of Innovation and Technology was set, the HPA awarded this commemoration with the inauguration of the Gambelas Hospital, the most modern, functional and well equipped private hospital in the southern region of the country.
Gambelas, as everyone affectionately calls it, quickly became the hospital of reference of the Algarve, with its human and technological resources that place it amongst the best in the country.
It offers extensive, diverse and unique services and specialties, such as neonatal intensive care, general intensive care, laparoscopy, orthopaedic and cardiovascular surgery, as well as 24-hour maternity and general and paediatric emergency service
APRIL 2010: BARIATRIC SURGERY
“The decision to place a gastric band was taken very seriously, after much thought. I was given all the clarifications I needed. I’m content with the choice I made and above all for the fantastic follow-up care by Dr. António Sérgio.”
Zélia Marina Barragão
Bariatric surgery is not just aesthetic. It is a surgery to treat diseases, which can be complex and often fatal. That could have been the case with Zélia, if this opportunity had not come up.
She has very beautiful, sparkling eyes that frame a smiling face. She tells us that she had always been “chubby”, but it had never caused any problems with her relationships or with whichever activities she chose to do. The truth is also that she tried several diets, most of them under professional supervision and the majority of which did not produce any significant or lasting results. Starting in 2004, her weight increased along with hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, hiatus hernia and a few other “enemies”. In 3 years, she gained 20 Kg. In 3 years, she went from “chubby” to a health risk, to a “ticking time bomb”. She had arrived at the moment to try a different type of approach. Perhaps the only one possible for her case.
She is pleased with the results and recognises that it was the best option. In fact, it is very possible that it was the only option that could have given her the results she enjoys today.
FEBRUARY 2012: MASTECTOMY WITH IMMEDIATE RECONSTRUCTION
“Of course I suffered the anguish and stress of the diagnosis of breast cancer. But the chance of having reconstructive surgery at the same time completely altered my expectations and traumas.” Esther Catherine Martin
What whirlwind of feelings and emotions can you expect when, one month before becoming a mother, you are told you have breast cancer? And one of the most aggressive types.
This was the chilling question that struck us when we heard Esther’s story. A serene woman with a sweet smile who tenderly smoothed her little son’s blonde hair while we spoke.
It was necessary to proceed rapidly with the treatment. But the baby’s wellbeing was equally imperative. It was a desperate month. She is quite certain that only the inspiration and motivation to become a mother again, along with the words of comfort and hope of the professionals, allowed her to overcome the long hours of anguish.
The little boy was born healthy and courageous like his mother, for whom the labour pains were “peanuts” compared with the uneasiness and fear that followed, now that the next chapter of the story had begun.
Chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction. That was how the sequence that would offer her a new opportunity was presented and stipulated. But one detail is missing. One beautiful detail that Esther heard: perhaps it would be possible to perform the mastectomy and reconstruction during the same operation. Which meant that perhaps she would never feel the ordeal and trauma of the mastectomy.
And it was possible. That is exactly what happened. She tells us she had excellent treatment and that the entire team was spectacular. She has no doubts that she received the best treatment by a very professional, humane and concerned team. She will never forget the opportunity and willingness offered to her by Dr. Paulo Sousa and Dr. José Carlos Pereira.
MARCH 2012: MITRAL VALVE REPAIR
My heart problem was a routine find. Only later did I understand the luck I had in finding the wonderful team that saved my life.”
The treatment plan was to stop the osteoarthritis of the knee, as it bothered him so much, and replace it with an artificial one. And so he was prepared for the usual routine pre-op exams. But there are often sneaky and unexpected twists and turns: the electrocardiogram showed an anomaly, which called for cardiology. The truth was pronounced: the knee surgery could go ahead. Nevertheless, as soon as possible, he would need to proceed with the exams and follow-up of the heart problem; the knee having been substituted, it was now time to deal with the heart. If he wished to continue breathing, experiencing passions, and enjoying his “new knee”, it would be necessary to repair the mitral valve.
He confided in us that he had never felt any concern because he had long known of the experience and work of the HPA teams, of Dr. Angelo Nobre and Dr. Javier Gallego. Indeed, he has great admiration for everyone, for their professionalism, efficiency and human relationships. We have evolved quite a bit in regard to cardiac valve interventions. Our experience is increasingly more solid and the procedures increasingly more diverse and less invasive.
FEBRUARY 2013: HAEMODIALYSIS
“For years, I had foregone holidays with the family due to having to undergo haemodialysis. The obstacle is now in the past: I have the Hospital Particular do Algarve.”
The first moments were the most difficult. As is usual for the moments in which we receive news that changes our lives forever. He had chronic renal insufficiency and until he could get a transplant, he would always need haemodialysis. He suffered all of the usual feelings after getting bad news: denial, revolt, depression, and finally, acceptance. It was complicated to change his many habits. Above all, to accept dependence on haemodialysis. It is a demanding treatment, which obliges the patient – chronometrically, like a Swiss watch – to be connected to a machine that “cleans” the blood and and returns it to the body.
There was also another situation that left him particularly disturbed; this one so difficult to cope with: “To no longer travel with the family to get to knew new places, or simply to see old friends. Above all, those made over many years in the Algarve. It’s true. He missed so much of the Algarve: the light, the sea, the ‘cataplanas’, even the smell.”
So it was a great joy when he got the news. One of the “friends from the Algarve”, “also a mutual friend of the HPA”, phoned and gave him the good news, nearly shouting with happiness. “David, enough of the excuses for not visiting us. We’ve now got haemodialysis in Gambelas. You book the trip; I’ll book the treatment. Say no more about it.” And he hung up, not accepting any excuses, objections or justifications. Health Tourism was at the genesis of our creation and has maintained so, as a motivating nucleus that permanently renews and distinguishes us. We began by programmed surgical care, evolved to prevention through Premium Check-Up and today offer follow-ups in areas of oncology treatment, haemodialysis and rehabilitation
APRIL 2013: ENDOVASCULAR ANEURISM SURGERY
“My abdominal aneurism was diagnosed by chance, during a routine consultation. I know now that it was more than just a moment of luck. It was the moment of my life.”
John Alan Barker
He had already decided that this year he would not go without a complete check-up. There was nothing specifically bothering him and in fact his golf scores were getting better and better. But the truth is that the untimely death of his father due to prostate cancer was causing something to niggle at the back of his mind.
And it was a good thing he made that decision: an aneurism of the abdominal aorta was detected, which stubbornly made him change April’s tournament.
However, this dispute was quickly won. One month later, he was once again on the green. However, he could not reach the last hole. He would have to miss the ill-fated April tournament once again. One year later, he suffered a relapse and needed to go back to the operating theatre and, this time, for a thrombectomy and an angioplasty to insert stents.
Dr. Sérgio Silva was called again to put some order into the champion, and the outcome was then totally favourable. The repair to the wound was done by minimally invasive endovascular surgery, which allowed for the rapid recuperation of the injury and “our Tiger Woods”. You can see for yourself at Pinheiros Altos Golf Club.
SEPTEMBER 2013: FIRST ESOPHAGECTOMY
“I knew that my situation was grave and that the surgery was very delicate. The options were to do it here or go to Lisbon or London. I know I made the right decision. It could not have gone better.” David Alfred Healey
In the summer of 2013, he thought he should lose weight, so he enrolled in a gymnasium and lost 27 Kg much too quickly, which is why he went to do some routine exams. And thus begins the story of David Healy, on whom we performed the first minimally invasive esophagectomy.
Unfortunately there had been reason to worry and justification for the weight loss. The results revealed a tumour in his oesophagus and another in his stomach, in an advanced stage. It was vital to remove them as quickly as possible, with the maximum integration of the affected organs and the surrounding structures.
Dr. Paulo Sousa was “up front” with the explanations of what he would need to do and how the surgery should be done, with the fewest possible complications. He also explained that this would be the first time they would try this new technique in the Algarve; remove two tumours during the same surgery, in a minimally invasive way: one cancer in the stomach and one in the gastro-oesophogeal junction, with the concern of maintaining the most functionality and quality of life. He was given the choice: stay, go to Lisbon or to London, his native land.
He did not need to think much. The visits to the Gambelas Hospital had already guaranteed him the confidence he needed. Everything had always gone well. He liked the people. He believed in the professionalism. The dedication and care were sincere. This was where he was going to stay. This was where he would have the operation.
He thanked us over and again for inviting him for the “20 Stories”, as he sincerely believes that his was a success story. We thank him for his trust
DECEMBER 2013: DUODENOPANCREATECTOMY
“I was frightened when I learned that my operation would involve so many organs. But everything went well. The team was exceptional. It’s a good thing I came here.”
José Bárbara Costa
He hadn’t been feeling well for a few weeks. He was always nauseous and had abdominal pains he couldn’t quite pinpoint. He even went to the emergency room 2 or 3 times, but without much result. The symptoms returned a few days later. He underwent some exams and analyses and finally the verdict was in. He had a “mass” that had invaded several organs and would have to be removed. “Of course I was very frightened. But fortunately the surgery was booked quickly and went well. I still have follow-ups with Dr. Paulo Sousa. I never miss an appointment. I recognise how lucky I was.”
He also mentions that he was well cared for, in the ICU and in the ward. “The nurses and auxiliaries were fantastic with me. Only one thing bothered me: that the female nurses bathed me. I was always expecting my wife to arrive,” he confesses, blushing and smiling shyly.
A duodenopancreatectomy is a complex surgical procedure involving the pancreas, duodenum and stomach, and often the bile ducts too, so it is only possible with innovative technology and special equipment.
MARCH 2014: GLOBAL AND INTEGRATED APPROACH OF CANCER
“It has been a long but very positive process, only possible accompanied by a vast and fantastic team. I have absolute trust in these professionals and great admiration for their work.”
Raymond Thomas Parry
The success of oncology disease requires the integration of experienced and multidisciplinary teams. In the case of “our Raymond”, we combined oncology with general, vascular and plastic surgeries.
It was March of 2014 and his usual annual consultation with Dr. Kaiser was scheduled. After warm greetings and news about golf, the routine began but ended with a more sombre look on the face of his doctor friend.
He would need to undergo exams for a nodule in his groin; "go to Gambelas tomorrow to do an ultrasound and a biopsy". Exams, results, diagnoses. All on the same day and with the result he was dreading.
He would have liked to celebrate his 80th birthday in a calmer manner, but there were expectations of beating the cancer, causing him to believe there would be other occasions. At least that was how he felt after meeting with the team who would treat him.
The first one “on the scene” was Dr. Fráguas and his powerful chemotherapy. Dr. Paulo Sousa was next to arrive, with his exterminating weapon to remove whatever the treatment hadn’t succeeded in doing. In 2015, nearly at the end of summer, Dr. Sérgio Silva had to perform an arterial bypass, which would again allow the “exterminator” to remove the rest of the tumour.
The next step was the reconstruction. With the treatments and surgeries, the site needed plastic surgery, not just for aesthetic reasons, but above all for functional reasons. Here is where Dr. Parreira was called. For nearly 11 hours, meticulously, calmly, but also persistently, it was possible to fully reacquire the appearance and functionality that was missing.
This is the story of Raymond, now 82 years old, who confesses: “I am so grateful to be alive, but also so happy to have made these friends at this age.”
DECEMBER 2014: INTENSIVE REHABILITATION
“The extraction of my cerebral tumour caused profound disabilities, which I never thought I could recover from. They were 8 long months of work, incentive and dedication from an incredible rehabilitation team”
Helena Isabel Gregório
There are situations that should be categorically prohibited from happening. Especially at the age of 20. This will have been the outrage that went through the mind of Helena Isabel, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. And if it were not enough to have an undesirable invader and opportunistic bandit, it triggered hydrocephaly (the abnormal build-up of fluids in the brain), making it imperative and urgent that it be removed.
As soon as she learned of the unfortunate news, she read and re-read everything possible about this horrific enemy. She believed that if she could understand the challenge, she could better and easier beat it.
So she prepared herself for the worst. Not that she was pessimistic, but what she learned lowered her expectations. And she was right. The debt to pay for extracting the tumour was high: lesion of the optic nerve, ataxia (loss of control of body movements) of the right limbs and a severe alteration to her equilibrium.
These were the circumstances in which we met Helena. A young lady who had lost her autonomy, a woman who was nervously searching for her identity. In this grim context, the will, strength and skills of both Helena and the team, would be put together for a difficult test. It was necessary to relearn almost everything: how to sit, stand, eat, write. The challenge was launched and it was a big one. There were 8 months of intensive rehabilitation, which at no time allowed for setbacks, doubts or fragility. But the battle was won and the winners are announced.
With her voice breaking, Helena says she is eternally grateful to Dr. Luis Malaia, Physiotherapist Alexandra Lopes and Occupational Therapist João Salgadinho. For their part, smiling widely and eyes shining, they confess, “It’s all Helena’s fault.” This is real teamwork.
1996-2016: THE PEOPLE
Because the People make the Hospital Particular do Algarve what it is. So many have been with us since day one.
Marília, the compassionate number one, Lurdes, always young at heart and Jorge, the skilled one. But also the Paulas, the Pinto, the insurance lady and Maudslay, the dedicated one. We can’t forget Susaninha, small in stature but big in affection, nor the calm and reserved Luísa. From day one, the conciliator Dr. Tomé and the hurried Dr. José Luís Ferreira. From the beginning, we have always counted on the serenity of Dr. Moedas, good humour of Dr. Pinto, the discretion of Dr. Júlio Monteiro and the “motard” Dr. João Cunha. Thank you!
“Family. Trust. Respect. Dedication. Challenge. Pride. Availability. Values. Audacity. Satisfaction. Culture. Distinction".