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Nov 5, 2021
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Operation Yeltsin. How doctors saved the first president of the Russian Federation

Boris Yeltsin, 1996.

On November 5, 1996, the first president of Russia underwent coronary bypass surgery.Orisa Elchina… It was performed by a cardiac surgeon Renat Akchurin.

It was that rare, perhaps the only case when the country learned that the president was ill from himself.

“I was undergoing medical examination, during which they discovered heart disease. I don’t want to go anywhere abroad. Our cardiology center in Moscow is capable of performing such operations. Preparations are underway now, ”the president said in a television interview in the summer of 1996.

Cardiac surgeon Renat Akchurin.

Akchurin heard this interview when he was drinking coffee in his kitchen, and, by his own admission, almost fell off his chair. He knew about the state of health of the president. The necessity and possibility of the operation was discussed more than once – both with Yeltsin and with other doctors. It was also known that the patient wanted to be operated on in Russia. But no one knew which clinic the choice would fall on.

Inoperable patient

“The majority of fellow cardiac surgeons considered the president inoperable. I looked at his documents in absentia and was the only one from the council who believed that the operation was possible, – Renat Suleimanovich later recalled. – We operated on patients with the worst indicators of heart function, who were essentially sentenced. And the results of the operations were good. To this day, I believe that any patient can be operated on if he is properly prepared. Michael Deybeki, an American cardiac surgeon, in whose clinic I had an internship before, supported me. DeBakey also presented us with an artificial left ventricle, which allows, when disconnected from the cardiopulmonary bypass apparatus in the first moments after the operation, to maintain the function of the heart. Preparation for the operation took about three months. I must say that Boris Nikolayevich was an obedient patient – in any case, he kicked up much less often than other, less eminent patients. “


It is important that Akchurin has developed a trusting relationship with the future patient. As I recalled later Naina Yeltsina, her husband had respect and sympathy for the doctor. And the doctor responded in kind.

On the eve of the operation, Renat Suleimanovich cut his hair quite short. Yeltsin, who was used to seeing him “overgrown,” asked: “What is this all of a sudden?”

“I’m getting ready,” Akchurin answered.

It was a sad joke – everyone understood that not only the patient’s life was at stake, but also the career of a surgeon.

But, despite the gloomy forecasts of colleagues, the operation went like clockwork.

“As soon as the operation began, I immediately understood that we would do it. When I saw the vessels, it became obvious that not all was lost.

The main stage of the operation lasted 56 minutes. During the time that the patient was connected to the heart-lung machine, we sutured shunts to six arteries and turned on the heart. It worked right away – no defibrillation or medication. It was a victory, ”Akchurin said.

Boris Yeltsin at the 28th Congress of the CPSU.

After the operation, all the employees of the department remained in their places for another 12 hours, ready for any development of events. But nothing was needed.

Hunting – with a doctor

When I woke up, the first thing I did was ask to invite an assistant (return the presidential powers that were transferred to Viktor Chernomyrdin). He began to walk on the fourth day after the operation. A month after her I decided to go to Zavidovo. No matter how the doctors tried to dissuade him, he insisted on his own. It was decided that Akchurin would go with him with an anesthesiologist – as they say, for every fireman. But their help was not needed – not a month later, not later. the patient no longer needed the help of cardiac surgeons.


But at the same time he remained “in touch” with his doctor. I called periodically. The last time, literally three weeks before his death, was to congratulate Renat Suleimanovich on his birthday.

“After the operation, Boris Nikolayevich lived for quite a long time – more than 10 years. From a medical point of view, this is a good result. But, obviously, heart failure gradually progressed, and cardiac arrest, which led to death, became one of its manifestations, ”says Akchurin.

By the way, doctors were not entitled to a premium in an envelope for the operation. But Renat Suleimanovich asked to provide his employees, who lived in cramped conditions, with apartments. As a result, 7 medical workers, including nurses, received the keys.

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