Dr. O, before we get started, I would like to say that it really means a lot to me that you would take the time out to allow me to interview you.
Shandon: You were born and raised in Nigeria, is that correct?
Dr. O: Yes.
Shandon: When is your birthday?
Dr. O: I share a birthday with a very famous person. (Martin Luther King). January 15. Shandon: What are your parents’ names?”
Dr. O: Femi and Tayo Olutoye
Shandon: How many siblings do you have?
Dr. O: Five. Three sisters and two brothers.
Shandon: Describe your childhood in Nigeria. What kinds of things did you do for fun?
Dr. O: We had a great time. I played cricket.
Shandon: How old were you when you decided you wanted to become a doctor?
Dr. O: For as long as I can remember I was told that I wanted to be a doctor. Physicians and nurses were always around the house, I think to take care of my grandparents and when they were done, I would gather the empty syringes and go around giving people shots.
Shandon: After you received your medical degree in Nigeria, you came to America and completed your residency. What made you stay in America?
Dr. O: I chose to come to America because I wanted to be exposed to medicine at the highest level and I wanted to be the best I could be.
Shandon: Do you still have family in Nigeria?
Dr. O: Yes, my parents are still there and I have three siblings there.
Shandon: How often do you get to go back to Nigeria?
Dr. O: On average, about once a year.
Shandon: In your opinion, how is Nigeria different from America?
Dr. O: Contrary to what people think, Nigeria is not as hot as Houston. Basically there are two seasons; wet and dry. (Dr. O also said the government is different and this affects the healthcare system. Those who have money can afford good healthcare. Those who don’t have money do not get good healthcare. There are no systems like the ones in America to assist those who can’t afford healthcare.)
Shandon: You made history by performing surgery on a baby, Baby Garrett Jorgensen while he was still inside his mother. Baby Garrett had a rare tumor mass on two-thirds of his chest that compressed his heart and both lungs. It was believed that Baby Garrett would have died of heart failure and/or lack of oxygen shortly after birth. Exactly when was the tumor discovered?
Dr. O: The tumor was discovered about 35 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. (The case was referred to Dr. O and the surgeon team at Texas Children).
Shandon: How soon after the discovery of the tumor was the surgery performed?
Dr. O: The surgery was performed about a week or two after.
Shandon: Was it totally your idea to perform the surgery? Dr. O: (Dr. O said that the surgery team at Texas Children decided together).
Shandon: How did you come to decide what actually needed to be done for Baby Garrett? Dr. O: (Dr. O said that the surgery had been performed before, just not for this particular tumor. Therefore, the blueprint had already been made).
Shandon: Was there a team of surgeons that performed the surgery?
Dr. O: Yes.
Shandon: Would you say you were the main surgeon?
Dr. O: I wouldn’t say I was the main surgeon. I guess you could say I was the lead surgeon. I‘m part of a team. I look at it like parts of a car; you can have the best engine but it’s no good if you don’t have the wheels on it. In basketball, you can have a good center, but you’re no good if you don’t have a guard to get you the ball. Every part is just as important.
Shandon: I read that Baby Garret was rapidly declining/deteriorating just hours before the surgery. Were you afraid that it might be too late to save him?
Dr. O: Yes. (Dr. O said that in surgery, there is always a chance that it is too late).
Shandon: Considering this surgery was the first of its kind, did you struggle with the decision to go forward with it?
Dr. O: The surgery was unique in terms of the type of tumor we were dealing with.
Shandon: You performed part of the surgery on Baby Garrett while he was still attached to his mother’s placenta. Afterwards he was removed from his mother and more surgery was performed on him. Exactly what did you do while he was attached to his mother and how long did this part of the surgery take?
Dr. O: (Dr. O said the mother was cut open in order to get to Baby Garret and part of the tumor was taken out. IVs and monitors were attached to the baby. This part took about an hour).
Shandon: What was done after Baby Garret was removed from his mother and how long did that part of the procedure take?
Dr. O: (Dr. O said after Baby Garret was removed from his mother, he was taken to another room and the rest of the surgery was performed. This part took about another hour).
Shandon: Baby Garret was “born” on July 29th, (which is my father’s birthday). Baby Garret’s surgery is the first reported EXIT procedure and I read that since then, you’ve performed seven more EXIT procedures, making that a total of eight EXIT procedures. To your knowledge, has there ever been a surgery performed on a fetus that actually remained inside the mother in order to develop to full term?
Dr. O: Yes.
Shandon: Are you famous in Nigeria because of your work and accomplishments?
Dr. O: I don’t know. I don’t think I’m famous anywhere. Fame is something that people say about you, so I wouldn’t know.
Shandon: Do you have a family of your own?
Dr. O: Yes I do. I’m married and I have two kids; a boy and a girl.
Shandon: What do you do on your off time?
Dr. O: In my off time I like to travel. (Dr. O is a sports fan. He likes basketball, football, baseball and of course CRICKETT).
Shandon: Your CV (Curricular Vitae) is very lengthy! You are a busy man; you’re even in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. You must be very proud of your accomplishments. But, if you weren’t a surgeon, what would you be?
Dr. O: Just the best human being I can be.
Shandon: What have you learned so far in your lifetime that you would like to share with younger generations?
Dr. O: A lot of it is to focus on your goals, work hard, and with hard work and patience there’s a lot you can accomplish. Have faith. There’ll be challenges; there’ll be obstacles but if you have faith and work hard you can accomplish a lot.
Shandon: When was the last time you saw Baby Garret? Dr. O: (Dr. O said he recently saw Baby Garret, who is now 6 & 1/2 years old. The tumor was benign. He is living a healthy life).
Interview done by Shandon Mikkel Brown