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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with American trainer Bob Baffert and Dr Rajesh Raipancholia at the Dubai World Cup. — Supplied photos

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with American trainer Bob Baffert and Dr Rajesh Raipancholia at the Dubai World Cup. — Supplied photos

Published: Thu 21 Mar 2024, 12:28 AM

Like most of his peers, Dr Rajesh Raipancholia has committed himself to saving people’s lives but there was one occasion when he went beyond the realm of being a hero, forging a life-long friendship with a patient he rescued from cardiac arrest.

In 2012, Dr. Rajesh performed a critical medical procedure under extraordinary circumstances that would have a significant impact on both his and his patient’s lives.

This is his story.

“I still remember that day vividly,” he told Khaleej Times from his HeartFirst Medical Centre. “It was a Monday and we received an emergency call that an American gentleman, who was here for the Dubai World Cup, was not feeling well and had been admitted to City Hospital with severe chest pain.

“I was called in to attend to him and that was the first time that I met Mr. Baffert, who was in the ICU. From the ECG, the blood tests and the history we obtained it was evident that he was in deep distress,” added Dr. Rajesh, who is a product of the world-famous Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals specialist heart and lung centre in the UK

“I spoke to Mr Baffert and told him that the best way forward was to take him to the Cardiac Catheterization laboratory to perform an urgent coronary angiogram to unblock the arteries that were severely blocked.

“Mr Baffert had no hesitation and agreed to this,” he continued. “We performed the angiogram, which revealed that his main Coronary artery was 100 per cent blocked and the other circumflex artery also had a 90 per cent blockage which was causing the heart attack.

“We immediately went ahead and with the help of Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI), we inserted stents in both his arteries to unblock them and restore the blood flow to the heart. The procedure was carried out smoothly and without any issue.”

Dr Rajesh revealed that following the life-saving surgical procedure his patient was transferred to the ICU for follow-up treatment. He would respond positively and make a quick recovery.

But the story will assume greater significance in the next couple of hours following an important phone call that Dr. Rajesh would get. “On the day that I performed the angioplasty I received a call to say that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was coming to the hospital to visit Mr Baffert,” he said. “It was then that I realized that the patient whose life I had just saved, was somebody important, in fact, a world-renowned racehorse trainer.

“Before going into the ICU Sheikh Mohammed enquired about the operation and asked about Mr Baffert’s condition. I could tell he was genuinely concerned. Sheikh Mohammed met Mr Baffert and told him not to worry about anything but to just get well.

“I clearly remember that was a Monday, the 26th of March,” Dr. Rajesh added.

“Mr Baffert was stable and the chest pain had subsided. He was subsequently discharged on the 28th.

“But before he left the hospital he asked me if he could attend the Dubai World Cup which was to take place three days later, on the 31st of March, as he had a horse running in it.”

The horse was called Game On Dude who was to be ridden by Chantal Sutherland, a Canadian model, television personality and jockey in North America.

However, Baffert’s luck at City Hospital would not translate to Meydan racecourse where Game On dude finished at the back of the field in a race won by Monterosso.

Dr. Rajesh, who was by now genuinely connected to the sport of horse racing through his encounter with Baffert, was also present at Meydan as a special guest.

“I met Bob and wished him good luck before the race and I also met Chantal. It was interesting to see a lady compete in such a major race,” he said.

“Sheikh Mohammed once again enquired about Bob’s health and I assured him that he had made a very positive recovery.”

It was now time for Baffert to go back home but before that, his cardiologist, Dr. Richard Schatz would call Dr. Rajesh to get an update on his health status.

“He was understandably concerned,” he said. “I assured him that all the necessary tests had been performed and Bob was fit to handle the long flight back.”

Dr Schatz made history as the co-creator of the first balloon-expandable stent as a mechanical support to improve vessel patency. His pioneering work led to a new era in the treatment of coronary artery disease, which Dr. Rajesh practices diligently in Dubai.

Dr. Rajesh also highlighted Sheikh Mohammed’s commitment to setting the highest standards for the medical world in the Emirate.

“I am extremely grateful to the vision of Sheikh Mohammed for the healthcare we could provide to Mr Baffert and the world-class healthcare that is available in Dubai,” he said.

“However, most importantly I was humbled by the trust and faith that His Highness placed in me to perform the critical procedure on Mr Baffert.”

Dr. Rajesh revealed that he enjoys a unique friendship with the American training great who in some ways also touched his life.

“Whenever Bob and his family, and his wife Jill, visit Dubai, he always calls me and we make it a point to catch up for a coffee or a drink,” he said. “He’s ever so grateful to me for saving his life and the world-class healthcare facilities we could offer him.

“Bob even told me that whenever he won a big race in America, like the Kentucky Derby or a Triple Crown race, he would say that it would not have been possible but for the life-saving treatment I performed on him in Dubai,” Dr. Rajesh added.

“And for that, I am forever thankful. He was a patient I will never forget and is now a good friend.

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