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Holy Cross Cardiac Surgery Team Warms Up for Operation


Peter Spiers, 39, had been prepped and rolled into Operating Room 4 for cardiac surgery.

He looked up into the blinding lights and felt a moment of panic as the sound of the saw that opens up the chest cavity was turned on and began to buzz.

"I knew it was only a trial run and I was just a pretend patient, but the sound of that saw gave me a start," says Spiers.

When Spiers is not having the wits scared out of him on the operating table, he's the administrative director for Holy Cross Medical Center's new Heart Center. The center will offer, among other procedures, open-heart surgery for the first time at Holy Cross. Spiers hopes it will be open in a few days.

He was one of three "patients" who participated in last week's trial runs, which were held so the new operating team could be certain that everything would run smoothly when real patients were brought in to the unit.

Holy Cross is the latest Valley hospital to offer open-heart surgery and the only one serving the north Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley, Spiers said. Last week's trial runs included patient admission, pre-op tests, mock surgeries, intensive care and recovery procedures.

Other "patients" included the hospital chief executive officer, Carl Fitch, and its executive vice president and chief operating officer, Allene Nungesser, who went through the entire process that patients will undergo, from checking in to checking out.

The new operating team is headed by three internationally known physicians, led by Dr. Pablo Zubiate, according to the center director.

Zubiate and fellow surgeon Dr. Michael Mendez began their work in open-heart surgery with Dr. Jerome Kay's group, which pioneered the procedure in Los Angeles at St. Vincent's Hospital almost 30 years ago. They are joined by cardiac anesthesiologist Dr. Richard Hochman, who has been with the other two for 26 years.

The new team is rounded out by two perfusionists, who run the heart-lung machine during surgery; a physician assistant, a nurse coordinator and several others trained for cardiac surgery.

Almost all of the team has worked together for more than 20 years at St. Vincent's Hospital and then, for the past eight years, at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan.

Zubiate said the new team has performed between 5,000 and 10,000 surgeries together.

"What we were trying to find out with the test runs is how well the existing Holy Cross staff would work with us and how we would all work with the new equipment," said Zubiate.

He said he was satisfied with the results.

Although the hospital has seven patients on a waiting list for cardiac surgery with the new team in the new unit, things are on hold until the facilities receive approval from the state.

"We hope to have approval to begin working in our new operating facilities within the week," Spiers said, but added that several of the state inspectors were out on vacation, so everything has to wait until one comes back and can check things out.

This Art Book Costs $1,000 and Contains No Dirty Pictures

There is an unusual sort of bookstore at 11132 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

It sells only one book, entitled "Actors as Artists" which costs $1,000. All proceeds go to charity.

Permanent Charities of Studio City is the marketing and distribution point for this unusual volume, which includes the signed efforts of more than 40 artists. The book contains photographs of oil, watercolor and acrylic original works by the artists.

Contributors include Candice Bergen, Anthony Quinn, Billy Dee Williams, David Bowie, Robert Redford, Pierce Brosnan, Peter Falk, Katherine Hepburn, Jonathan Winters and Phyllis Diller.

Each artist has personally signed each of the pieces he or she contributed.

According to Danielle Guttman, head of the Permanent Charities Committee of the Entertainment Industry, the project has, to date, raised about $70,000 for the various charities underwritten by this industry umbrella organization.

The organization was founded by Samuel Goldwyn in 1942 to unify charitable giving within the entertainment community.

The most immediate beneficiary of this particular philanthropic project is the scholarship program that sends inner-city youngsters to school at CalArts in Valencia during the summer session. The project was the brainchild of actor-artist Gene Hackman, whose work is also included in the picture book.

"When he was the volunteer chairman of our committee about three years ago he suggested we put on a charity art show, spotlighting the works of some of the acting community's better-known fine artists. This book is the indirect result of that show," Guttman says.

"At the time we were planning the show, there was a book in the works about celebrity artists. We helped the book people contact people for their book, and they in return gave us 100 leather-bound editions for fund-raising purposes," Guttman says.

The contributing actors were then asked to autograph each of his or her works in each of the 100 volumes donated to Permanent Charities.

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