Cardiothoracic surgeon Kenny Sin likens his job to fixing worn-out car parts. He speaks to JOAN CHEW

I decided to specialise in cardiothoracic surgery because...

It is probably the only discipline that requires the person to have the dexterity of a skilled surgeon, the knowledge of a master cardiologist and the insight of an experienced intensivist who cares for critically ill patients.

The heart is fascinating because...

Of its design and functionality.

For example, it beats approximately 35 million times a year, pumps a million barrels worth of blood in a lifetime, yet weighs only 280g or less.

If I were to give an analogy for what I do, I'd be... 

An old-time car mechanic with a passion for repairing worn-out car parts and watching them return to the roads even though they are past their COE expiry dates.

I have come across all types of cases...

I remember a frail 78-year-old lady who came to us in the middle of the night with a leaking thoracic aneurysm, a condition in which the wall of the aorta has widened.

Her surgery had extremely high risks even in the best surgeon's hands, but her frail appearance belied her resilience.

She made a fast recovery with no complication and lived for another five years before she died of old age.

A typical day for me would...

Start with me checking in on patients during ward rounds in the morning before zipping in to the operating theatre by 9am.

I may operate on up to three patients in a day, before finishing with an evening round in the wards and then heading home.

On days when I have no surgery, I see patients in the clinic or attend to administrative work.

I love patients who are...

Always positive in their outlook and know how to live life to the fullest after successful surgery.

An example is a retired policeman who required emergency surgery after his heart ruptured following a severe heart attack.

After he made a full recovery, he now exercises regularly in the gym and walks daily.

Whenever he visits me in the clinic, he looks more like a contender in a body-building competition than a heart attack survivor.

Patients who get my goat are...

Those who exhibit severe anxiety to the point of breaking down, which affects their ability to make decisions. It takes a lot of patience to reassure them that they are doing all right, as well as answer their questions adequately during the consultation.

One little known fact about the heart is...

That the human body can adapt and survive on half a heart - using two chambers instead of the normal four - which happens with some patients with congenital heart abnormalities.

This is known as the Fontan circulation - named after the cardiac surgeon who devised an operation to channel the circulation into the left side of the heart, bypassing the right side.

Things that put a smile on my face are...

Seeing patients recovering after a difficult medical condition.

An evening round is fulfilling to me, when I see that my patients are reassured when I 'tuck them into bed'.

It breaks my heart when...

Patients who have undergone successful operations do not change their unhealthy lifestyles. They then die early despite being offered a second chance by the surgeon.

Some of these cases are especially poignant as the whole team had put their heart and soul into nurturing them back to health.

I wouldn't trade places for the world because...

I believe that this is the best job one can possibly have. On some days it can seem like a roller-coaster ride, but at the end of it, you keep coming back for more.

My best tip is...

Live life to the fullest, but don't live on the edge.

Healthy living does not mean equating all pleasurable food as bad for the body.

Moderation is key.


Bio box

Dr Kenny Sin

AGE: 46

OCCUPATION: Head and senior consultant, department of cardiothoracic surgery, National Heart Centre Singapore

HOBBIES: Cycling, reading and rearing fish  

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.