Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Heart surgeon was never more than a phone call away

ST. PETE BEACH — In May 2004, at the 13th hole of the golf course at St. Petersburg Country Club, a Canadian tourist felt a pain in his chest.

"It felt like someone had stabbed me with an ice pick, just below the ribs," said Gordon Demetrick of Stayner, Ontario.

Doctors at Bayfront Medical Center diagnosed aortic dissection — a torn heart valve — the same condition that had felled actor John Ritter and recently claimed the life of diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

Soon, Lu-Anne Demetrick was meeting with Dr. Luis Botero, a cardiothoracic surgeon. A calm, bespectacled man with a Colombian accent said he could repair her husband's heart.

Dr. Botero patched the torn valve with Kevlar in an 11-hour surgery. Demetrick , now 73 and healthy, credits that surgery with saving his life.

Dr. Botero, a former chief of staff at Bayfront Medical Center, died Dec. 27 at home of pancreatic cancer. He was 68.

"At that time I was absolutely frantic," said Lu-Anne Demetrick, 72. "He was a very calming man. He gave you a feeling of confidence and trust."

Her story has been replicated by the hundreds. Former patients have approached Dr. Botero in restaurants to thank him, or sent him cards and tokens every year.

"He was loved and admired by patients and staff," said cardiologist Andrew Rosenthal, who worked with Dr. Botero at Bayfront in the 1990s. "He was a great teacher and wanted to share his knowledge and skill sets."

Luis Miguel Botero was born in Medellin, Colombia, the third of nine children in a medical family. His father and grandfather were both surgeons. A framed photograph on a wall in his study shows a group of Colombian medical students dissecting a human body in 1892.

He met Margarita Lopez 50 years ago at a dance.

"I fell in love with his brain," said Margarita Botero, 63.

They married in 1966, the same year he earned an M.D. from Medellin's University of Antioquia. Regulations made him repeat his residency in the United States, which he did in Washington, D.C., and at the University of Virginia.

The family moved to St. Petersburg in 1980. He treated patients, taught thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University of South Florida and chaired surgery departments at Bayfront and All Children's Hospital.

Dr. Botero was chief of staff at Bayfront from 1997 to 1999, navigating the sometimes choppy political waters brought on by layoffs and occasional turf tensions between Bayfront and neighboring All Children's Hospital.

Until 2007, he performed surgeries at all south Pinellas County hospitals. He was called into surgery at all hours, but always tried to arrive in a three-piece suit.

"Most cardiothoracic surgeons, they are so up there on a pedestal because of what they do," said Chris Hildabrand, a nurse who worked with Dr. Botero at Northside Hospital. "When you have their heart in your hands, that's the top echelon when it comes to surgery. But he always talked to people. It was never about the money."

Dr. Botero also found time for mission trips to the Dominican Republic, performing open-heart surgery on indigent residents.

At home, he read Albert Camus, Miguel de Cervantes and Time magazine, as well as history and geography. He delighted in playing the pursuing monster with his grandchildren, and was planning a trip to India with his wife when doctors found pancreatic cancer in 2009.

Dr. Botero was released from St. Anthony's Hospital on Dec. 23. He watched his grandchildren decorate the Christmas tree. On the afternoon of Dec. 25, he said he felt tired and went to bed. He died two days later.

Despite his accomplishments, Dr. Botero never thought he would have an obituary worth writing.

"Just say that I died, that I had three lovely daughters and five grandchildren," he recently told Margarita. "The people who knew me know what I did. The others won't care."

The day after he died, family members opened a box of photographs for his funeral service. At the top of the heap, they found a poem often used at funerals, which begins this way:

Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free

I'm following the path God has chosen for me

They have no doubt Dr. Botero placed the poem in the box for them to discover.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

.Biography

Dr. Luis Miguel Botero

Born: Feb. 28, 1942.

Died: Dec. 27, 2010.

Survivors: Wife Margarita; daughters Claudia Moore and her husband, Michael, and Sandra and Monique Botero; eight siblings living in Colombia; and five grandchildren.

Heart surgeon was never more than a phone call away 01/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 7, 2011 8:44am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Two Kissimmee police officers shot to death

    News

    KISSIMMEE — Two police officers were shot dead in Kissimmee Friday night, Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of WESH.com
  2. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  4. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.
  5. Despite pain, woman in court faces ex-boyfriend who lit her on fire

    Criminal

    PORT RICHEY

    Sheron Pasco sat in the wheelchair as her mother pushed it toward the man in the orange jail suit.

    Sheron Pasco, 39, relies on the help of her mother, Tranda Webb, 62, as she recovers from the burns covering her body.