In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 19, 2015

A Surgical Outcome Put to Music

By In the Loop

gentleman playing pianoIt’s not unusual to see a patient playing piano in a Mayo Clinic lobby. It may be a little out of the ordinary, however, to see a patient playing a song as a thank-you to his physician. But music emanates from Mikhail Yudin, and when he wanted to express his gratefulness to Alberto Pochettino, M.D., for saving his life, he chose a number by Brahms that he thought fit the bill nicely.

Mikhail came to Mayo Clinic from Russia in January with severe aortic stenosis, secondary to bicuspid aortic valve and an aortic aneurysm, Dr. Pochettino tells us. “We replaced his aortic root with a mechanical valve and replaced the ascending aorta as well,” he says almost routinely. Mikhail’s daughter, Alena Yudina, who helped interpret, tells us that, “We are here just because this is one of a few clinics where they could do (the surgery) almost without a risk for his life. So we came here to save his life.” She looks at her father, not looking for words to interpret this time. “When we came, the doctor said there is a chance to live with his disease and his condition, maximum one year.” And with a catch in her voice, she adds, “So we didn’t have a choice. And now, everything has changed.” 

Mr. Yudin is a music teacher and says he enjoys playing for friends and family. He says he felt a connection with Dr. Pochettino right away, especially when the good doctor talked about the grand piano and the music that also filled his own home. Alena, interpreting, says, “Dr. Pochettino gave him a new life. He became as a brother.” To show his gratitude, Mikhail played for his new family member – Intermezzo by Brahms. “It’s very kind, gentle,” Mikhail says, adding, “It is from the heart.”


Despite the language barrier, when he got talking about Dr. Pochettino and his care team, the words came to Mikhail like notes from the piano. For his entire care team, he added this coda, after a reflective pause: “My gratitude will be until the end of my days. Because every day I live now, I live thanks to them.”

Before we left him, Mikhail added, “One more very important thing. Very important thing.” And then, with help from Alena, he said: “I’m very grateful that Mayo Clinic asks everybody to help their families and come and support them … He says it was very helpful and good for him that I stayed here – that I could stay for a night and translate or just support or just be here. This was very good and this was one of the main things for the recovery – that family can be together.” (If his daughter didn’t get a little misty there, we know an interviewer who may have.) Then with a smile, Mikhail took his daughter’s shoulders, kissed her on the head and said, in English, “My daughter, best in the world.” His statement would have been clear in any language.

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Tags: aortic aneurysm, aortic valve stenosis, Dr. Alberto Pochettino, Patient Stories

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