The Gurman brothers: Traveling the world in search of the best treatment


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Twins Jonathan and Marvin Gurman, both entrepreneurs, recently underwent surgery for aortic valve stenosis. After consulting with various doctors around the world about the most advanced procedures in the field, they finally found the best treatment for them in their home city of Montreal. At the Montreal Heart Institute, they met Dr. Denis Bouchard, a pioneer in minimally invasive surgery. Find out how they learned about this surgical procedure that would have a major impact on their recovery.

A shocking diagnosis

Just three years ago, the twins had no idea they had a heart problem. Then 59-year-old Marvin learned at a doctor’s appointment that he had a heart murmur. Several tests later, he was told his valve was heavily calcified and he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis—a narrowing of the aortic valve opening that impedes the flow of blood from the left ventricle to the aorta.

Jonathan says the news came as a huge shock to both him and his brother. “I was born two minutes after Marvin, I’m always a few steps behind. So I thought I should get myself tested, too!” As expected, Jonathan found out he has the same disease as his twin brother, although neither one of them had symptoms.  “We’d been lucky up to that point, then all of a sudden, boom! I couldn’t believe it.”

It came as a surprise to the doctors that the two brothers had the same disease at exactly the same age, since this form of aortic stenosis usually affects people older than them.

In search of the best treatment, from Paris to Los Angeles and back home to Montreal

The brothers’ treatment journeys started out a little differently. Marvin was treated in the cardiology department at a local hospital, where his condition deteriorated. Jonathan, who was initially followed at the same hospital, decided to explore other options when he was told that the best treatment for his stenosis was open heart surgery.

“As soon as I heard they had to break my sternum, I said, “No way!” He set off in search of a less invasive procedure, which took him from Montreal to Western Canada, then Cleveland, Paris and Los Angeles. As Marvin says, “when Jonathan gets something in his head, he doesn’t waste any time! He’s very determined.”

Minimally invasive surgery 

Jonathan’s research led him to discover a minimally invasive procedure, which involves implanting a deployed valve bioprosthesis into the aortic annulus via a mini-incision in the right chest (4 cm). This option would allow Jonathan to get away with one surgery followed by 3 to 4 days of hospitalization. His sternum would remain intact, and the surgery would result in less pain and a much faster recovery.

A doctor in California finally recommended that he return to Montreal to consult with Dr. Denis Bouchard of the Montreal Heart Institute, a world-renowned specialist in this minimally invasive procedure. From his very first conversation with the heart surgeon, Jonathan was impressed and asked if the treatment would be suitable for his brother as well.

Marvin was about to go under the knife when Jonathan told him about his research. “When my brother discovered Dr. Bouchard, who was just down the street from our house, I met with him to have him evaluate me. Much to my relief, he told me the procedure was a suitable treatment for my condition, too. So I decided to have the surgery at the Institute,” Marvin says. “Since I went first, I kind of paved the way. ”

Just a few days post-surgery, the brothers, now 62 years old, are shopping for themselves and have returned to their business. “We’re very proud to have this level of expertise in Montreal.”

A precision treatment for the future

The twins are making a case for minimally invasive surgeries to become more widely adopted by the general public. With more research being carried out every day, and more young doctors being trained to perform these procedures, a lot of patients can look forward to a less painful recovery.

Looking back at his and his brother’s quest, Jonathan sums up by saying, “Marvin may have saved my life, but at the end of the day, I saved his sternum.”

Thankful for their surgery, the brothers chose to donate $20,000 to our project of excellence in robotic surgery. Assisted by the Da Vinci Xi robot, doctors can perform non or minimally invasive surgeries.

Research and discoveries of new treatment options are evolving quickly. To help drive innovation, the Institute welcomes donations from patients and their loved ones, and from members of the community.

donate today


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