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She Died Twice – Then the Team at Tufts MC, Including Her Own CEO, Gave Her Another Chance at Life


It’s not every day your boss gets called to the operating room to help save your life. But Niobis Queiro, Senior Vice President of Revenue Cycle for Tufts Medical Center and Wellforce, credits a team of doctors, nurses and techs – combined with the unique surgical expertise of Tufts MC’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Tarnoff, for being here today. 

“He was the first person I saw when I woke up,” said Queiro, with tears in her eyes. “He told me the worst was over, and now you get to heal. I had been very sick but was going to be okay.” 

Tufts Medical Center staff and patientIt was a Sunday afternoon when Queiro was hit with intense abdominal pain while at home.  Her husband called an ambulance and by the time she arrived at nearby Milton hospital, she was unconscious. Tests there identified an abdominal obstruction. She was quickly transferred to Tufts MC. 

“I was told later that I had coded in the ambulance on the way. My body was in septic shock,” Queiro explained.

By the time her gurney was rushed into the Tufts MC emergency department, Queiro was again in cardiac arrest. Trauma and Acute Care Surgeon Dr. Ben Johnson jumped into action and with help from the ED team, was able to get her heart beating again.  He immediately brought her into the operating room. 

“She had a large internal hernia, a side effect of a previous abdominal surgery. It involved quite a bit of her intestines and dead bowel,” noted Dr. Johnson. He removed several feet of her damaged small intestine. Queiro needed to be stabilized before any more surgery could be done. Dr. Johnson temporarily closed the wound to allow our surgical intensive care unit team to do their miracle work overnight.

“If she had arrived at our hospital 10 minutes later, she would not have survived,” explained Dr. Johnson. 

The next morning, Dr. Nikolay Bugaev was the covering surgeon. Queiro’s vitals were still unstable but there was no time to waste. 

“It was a challenging part of the bowel that needed to be connected, because of the location of the problem. That’s when I called Dr. Tarnoff, who has special skills in this area,” said Dr. Bugaev. 

Mike Tarnoff was just about to lead his Monday morning executive committee meeting when he got the page. 

“I had heard Nio had made her way to us overnight but I didn’t know it was this serious,” recalled Dr. Tarnoff. “Nikolay and I set out to reconstruct her gastrointestinal tract –putting it back together in a way that would allow her to absorb nutrients and not have chronic issues. This was a life-threatening situation.” 

“These cases are always tricky, when you know the person – when they are a colleague and a member of your work family – it’s hard to ignore the emotion,” said Dr. Tarnoff. 

Because of the quick work of EMS and Drs. Johnson, Bugaev, and Tarnoff, along with the entire ED, OR and surgical intensive care staff, Nio Queiro made an extraordinary recovery. 

“I spent just five days in the hospital, and then I was able to go home,” she said.

“The night she came in, it was against all odds that she would make it through,” said Dr. Johnson. “Just remarkable.” 

“She recovered right in front of our eyes. Everything healed,” added Dr. Tarnoff. “It is wonderful seeing her walking these hallways again.”