The Stories section of our blog is a place where we share stories about patient experiences. If you have a story you would like to share about your experience, we’d be glad to hear from you.

Advanced Cardiovascular Surgery Keeps Farmer in His Field

The relentless, physical work required to be a successful farmer is not for the faint of heart – an expression that could never be used to describe Roberto Rodriguez.

Despite suffering from heart disease since he was a young boy and undergoing two heart valve surgeries, he has spent his life in the fields. For the last 10 years Rodriguez has owned and run a thriving strawberry farm in Watsonville with his brother Manuel.

Although his life and career are firmly anchored in his success at a job he loves, his serious heart condition – damaged aortic and mitral valves – was always a cloud hanging over him and his family.

Previous valve repair surgery in Mexico, where Rodriguez grew up, was just a temporary fix. As his health started to deteriorate again, Rodriguez saw Neil Sawhney, M.D., interventional cardiologist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, who evaluated him and told him that he urgently needed surgery. He recommended cardiothoracic surgeon Conrad Vial, M.D., for the procedure.

From the very first time Rodriguez met Dr. Vial, he knew he was in the best hands.

“My wife, Alba, came with me to my first appointment. She was really worried about what would happen to me. She speaks very little English and was afraid she wouldn’t understand what was going on,” says Rodriguez.

“As soon as Dr. Vial realized there was a language barrier, he switched to fluent Spanish and explained everything to her calmly and clearly. My wife almost cried with relief. He just knew how to make us feel comfortable and at ease. I immediately knew what kind of man he was – a good one!”

Rodriguez was still young at 38, so Dr. Vial recommended replacing Rodriguez’s deteriorating aortic valve with a mechanical one, to ensure the safest, most reliable and best outcome for his health. On June 16, 2011, Rodriguez successfully underwent aortic valve surgery at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center. The state-of-the-art operating suites at the new hospital integrate the latest surgical technologies, providing an optimal environment for specialists like Dr. Vial to perform such life-saving procedures.

“When I came round after my surgery, I expected to feel worse – but quickly realized I actually felt good,” says Rodriguez. “Dr. Vial was very caring and came to see me every day during my hospital stay to make sure everything was going well.”

Rodriguez spent five days in the hospital and on the fifth day was able to walk for more than an hour. He was back at work on his farm after a three-month recovery period.

“Now my health is better than ever,” says Rodriguez. “My friends and family say my skin color looks so much better. I can walk everywhere, run a mile and attend to my work on the farm. I feel really good. This surgery is the greatest thing that could ever have happened to me. I will always be grateful to Dr. Vial.”

Patient Story – Something Lost, Something Gained

Sury Maturi

When Sury Maturi committed to PAMF’s HMR Weight Management Program, he expected to lose pounds and improve his health. But one of the most surprising benefits was a strengthened relationship with his wife.

As he embarked on the program in July 2010, Maturi began a regular daily exercise regime and walked his hilly Almaden Valley neighborhood for up to an hour and a half every day for 544 consecutive days.

“My wife Jaya joined me on many of my walks,” says Maturi, a busy Silicon Valley engineer who works for Texas Instruments and moved here from Hyderabad, India, more than 30 years ago. “It’s given us some really nice quality time to talk and just be together. It’s fantastic how much this has enhanced our relationship.” Read More

Patient Story – The Gift of Vision

Betsy Franklin

“I could barely see,” says Betsy Franklin.

56-year-old Franklin was legally blind in one eye due to cataracts. And, because of a large amount of astigmatism, she also had to wear thick, uncomfortable glasses.

A few days before the Christmas holiday, Franklin went to see Yichieh Shiuey, M.D., her PAMF specialist in cataract, Lasik and cornea surgery, for a post-operative visit.

Two years previously, Dr. Shiuey had performed a successful corneal transplant on Franklin. But now a worsening cataract threatened to steal Franklin’s sight. “I recommended a new astigmatism-correcting lens that would permanently fix her vision as well as her cataracts,” says Dr. Shiuey.

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Emergency Vascular Surgery Saves Patient’s Life

Jim and Barbara Black

Longtime PAMF patient Jim Black, 73, takes good care of himself. He leads an active life and his health was always something he could rely on, until one Friday when his health took a dramatic turn for the worse.

“My first symptom was a tremendous fainting spell, and I literally collapsed on the floor,” says Jim. “I was able to reach a telephone and call 911. That triggered the entire response from the paramedics to El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and to PAMF vascular surgeon Robert Mitchell, M.D., to whom I owe my life.”

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Patient Shares Story, Advises Regular Skin Cancer Checks

If you grew up in a beach town in the 1970s and 80s as I did, working on your summer tan was pretty much a rite of passage. Lie out, burn, tan, repeat. As teenagers, we never thought we’d have to worry about our skin later in life. Well, now it’s later in life and, at age 40, I am so happy to have met the wonderful dermatology staff at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

PAMF Dermatologist Dr. Kirstin Vin-Christian has been terrific at monitoring my skin for changes, and sure enough, she found some problems. One mole she had been watching, reached the point that it was a borderline melanoma – certainly progressing in that direction. Although the surgical excision was not exactly fun, she made me feel at ease by chatting about our kids throughout the whole process. She’s a lovely person and a terrific doctor. And now I tell every friend I grew up with back in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to go and get their skin checked! It could save your life.

Thank you to PAMF patient Melanie Norall for submitting this post to the “Stories” section of the PAMF blog. 

Local Advocate, Patient Says PAMF Doctors Make Health Care Personal

As executive director of Familia Center, a family resource center for Latino families located in Santa Cruz, Yolanda Henry works every day advocating for people who often cannot speak for themselves. That’s why she takes her 84-year-old mother to the same Palo Alto Medical Foundation doctors she herself has trusted for the last 30 years. Henry knows that at PAMF, her mom’s doctors will take the time to carefully explain her mother’s medical condition and options to her in simple, unhurried terms she can understand, and often in her native Spanish.
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