Dad of 10's minimally invasive heart surgery cuts recovery time

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A father of 10 is back at work less than a month after heart surgery.

The Sontags' 10 children were all unplanned, and their father's recent heart surgery was too.

"The funny thing is that you don't realize what you don't know," explained 63-year-old Phil Sontag.

Last year, Sontag was diagnosed with a leaky mitral heart valve.

"Every time the heart squeezes, the blood is supposed to go to the rest of the body," explained Dr. Tom Nguyen, a cardiovascular surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute, who is also director of minimally invasive valve surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. "For him, as his heart was squeezing, a lot of the blood was going backward into his lungs."

Dr. Nguyen had to fix the valve, but didn't want to break Sontag's breastbone.

"I'm able to repair or replace patients' heart valves through tiny incisions, four or five centimeter incisions," he explained.

Minimally invasive surgery means a quicker recovery time.

Sontag was driving two weeks after the surgery and back at work two weeks after that.

"I wouldn't do it any other way," said his wife, Barbara. "It's been, oh my gosh, very challenging, very loving, very rewarding."

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