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Dr Sparman - Heart to heart - Nation News
The Nation News (Barbados) took the time to interview the leading interventional cardiologist of the region - Dr Alfred Sparman. BY ANESTA HENRY | SUN, MAY 06, 2012 - 12:00 AM
At 56, Sparman has a thrilling profession as an interventional cardiologist that has granted him the favour of touching the hearts of thousands locally and regionally, directly or indirectly.
His popularity on the island started almost 11 years ago when he moved to Barbados after practising at various hospitals in the United States and established The Sparman Clinic in 6th Avenue Belleville, St Michael.
“A strong passion for saving lives is why I do what I do and I love what I do,” said the medical practitioner while sitting in the conference room of his clinic, trading his white coat for relaxed wear as he conducted an interview with EASY magazine.
“There is more to Dr Sparman than the people know. I am a success story but I went against the odds to get here. I have been through many struggles in life; negative struggles and struggles I myself caused.”
Sparman’s story started when he left his country of birth Guyana at a young age to live in Brooklyn, New York with his mother, who was a nurse, his police officer father and seven siblings.
“Growing up there were a few things I wanted to do. One was to become a preacher or a state trooper. And then, I was good at science – I didn’t have to study for chemistry, biology, physics or mathematics.
“I had to decide what I wanted to do. I did a bit of preaching at the age of 16. I was dynamic; I would stand up there and make you cry,” he said, noting he ventured into neither of the two careers.
Striving to get a scholarship in an effort to finance his higher education, Sparman maintained a 4.0 grade point average at Long Island University, where he acquired a scholarship to attend New York Medical College.
But working full time, being married and attending medical school was not easy, Sparman admitted.
“I used to go to school in the day and work at nights. I worked as a guard in a coffee shop. I was in pre-med getting ready to go into medical school and I had twins in my early years of college and then two more children came along while I was still in college. It was really hard because my wife at that time worked too. We had to share the job of dropping off and picking up the kids.”
Nevertheless, the father of six children, two of whom are aspiring physicians, with one hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps in becoming a cardiologist, views his children as a blessing from God.
He could have chosen any area in the medical field, so why cardiology?
“It had to do with my family history. I have heart disease in the family. My grandfather died from a heart attack at 45. And when I look around on my mother’s side, all of those family members had heart attacks and heart problems between 50 and 60.”
“But actually, too, when I came out of medical school, because of my aggressive nature I did general surgery. If somebody comes in with a gunshot wound, you go right in there and fix them. But the hours were bad – getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning and going back at 9 o’clock at night ain’t no life for me.”
After three years in general surgery, Sparman made a switch to cardiology, and ever since he has been enjoying the blend of surgery and medicine.
“I love what I do. If you come in to see me and you are having a heart attack, I go in there and remove the clot and your problems go away. There is one case I had – a case I will never ever forget: I remember a lady came here to me dead, and I was able to intervene and bring her back.
“When she comes back to see me now, I feel as if I have hair on my head. I kid you not. She was not supposed to be here. That incident happened right here in this clinic,” said the cardiologist of over 20 years.
Sitting upright, a serious expression on his face, Sparman, who diagnoses and treats heart problems with advanced techniques and procedures without the need for major surgery, explained: “If your heart stops and there is nobody to intervene you are gone. It takes four minutes of deprivation on your brain cells for them to start shrinking up and dying, a process which is irreversible.
“So if in that four minutes when your heart stops and I can get blood back up there, then you will come back. But I have four minutes or you are gone. If I do it in ten minutes you might come back like a vegetable because a lot of the brain cells are dead and we don’t want that.”
Sparman, like any other practitioner, pointed out that his greatest objective is to try to fix any problem his patients present to him. But, according to him, “sometimes people come to me too late and I can’t do anything for them”, he says.
And while dealing with the fears and concerns of his patients, Sparman is forced to face a fear of his own – the possibility of him being diagnosed with a heart problem is high, due to his family history.
Along with de-stressing activities such as writing books, playing golf, exercising, socializing and hosting a highly rated Starcom Network radio programme titled Living, the interventional cardiologist has modified his lifestyle.
“My lifestyle has changed. It’s seven years now since I don’t eat meat and I leave fried foods alone. I eat a lot of vegetables and brown rice along with other healthy foods. I exercise regularly. I run five miles three times a week to keep myself fit.”
“My mum is a good example. At the age of 49, her diabetes came in, high blood pressure came in, cholesterol problems came in and she was a little bit obese. Immediately, she became a vegetarian. Do you know what? My mother is the longest living Sparman ever. She made 80 this year and my family doesn’t know about living to 80 years old. By 60 Sparmans are gone.”