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Before a group of people knocked holes in the sheetrock on the third floor of Adventist Health St. Helena on Nov. 13, Dr. Steven Herber had a few words to say.

Herber, president of Adventist Health St. Helena, was in a giddy mood as he and others marked the start of construction for a new cardiovascular suite at the Deer Park hospital.

An extraordinary thing happened, Herber said. The St. Helena Hospital Foundation board “supported our providers, who said we need a place to do our best work.” And stemming from that, a dream was born of an entire floor for cardiovascular care that would include a hybrid operating room, one of only a handful of similar hybrid suites in the region.

“Something unusual about this is our exceptional physicians were part of sharing this dream with those who became donors and educated the community,” Herber said.

Over and over again, Dr. Andreas Sakopoulos, cardiothoracic surgeon at the Adventist Heart and Vascular Institute, and cardiologist Dr. Monica Divakaruni gave talks to patients and community members who wanted to learn about this, Herber said.

“People understood what it was and got excited about it, thanks to the two of you,” Herber said. “That had never been done before, where we had our providers really getting behind something and partnering with the foundation.”

Then, he added, “This day is long overdue, we’re glad it’s here. I don’t know about you, but I want to hit something.”

The first group to wield two-pound Husky hammers included both Dr. Divakaruni and Dr. Sakopoulos, Herber and Daphne Araujo, current chairman of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation Board.

The state-of-the-art cardiovascular suite will be equipped with advanced medical imaging technology and will have the capability to perform both minimally invasive catheterization procedures and traditional surgery, according to a news release.

This image guidance allows physicians to evaluate, intervene and assess the results of minimally invasive procedures, more complex procedures and open surgical cases.

In the new hybrid operating suite, a robotic arm is linked to an imaging system, which allows flexible movement to almost any area on a patient.

wThis allows the surgeon to see internal details from multiple angles and perform some of the most advanced clinical procedures, such as heart valve replacements and open-heart surgeries.

Steven Walker, a construction consultant who works for the hospital said the 12,000-square-foot renovation will take between 15 and 17 months, although he added, “We’re always looking to improve on those schedules, because the physicians are anxious and it’s been a long time coming.” He said cost is between $18 and $20 million.

In an Adventist Health St. Helena news release, Herber stated, “This expansion is indicative of our promise to deliver nationally-recognized heart and vascular care to our community. With this addition, we will be able to provide patients with the lifesaving flexibility that hybrid operating rooms offer. We are proud to be a leading cardiovascular program – from the top-of-the-line nursing and clinical professionals to the dedicated anesthesia team to the remarkable group of cardiologists and surgeons who have helped to establish a renowned reputation based on their skills and exceptional patient care.”

Sakopoulos is also quoted: “The support and resources we receive from the hospital and the St. Helena Hospital Foundation help make it an outstanding program, and the new hybrid operating room provides another layer of services to offer to our community. This new suite gives patients access to the very best technology available and allows us to offer life-saving treatments right here in the valley.”

The new cardiovascular suite was made possible by the efforts of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation and its generous donors, the news release states.

According to the 2017 Annual Impact Report for the St. Helena Hospital Foundation, the group raised $6.84 million in 2017, with nearly $2.6 million from events. Figures for 2018 were not on the foundation’s website.

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You may reach David Stoneberg at 967-6800 or editor@sthelenastar.com

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st