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GAMC Helps Prevent Aneurysm in GPD Pilot

Heart Health

Throughout his career, Glendale Police Department Lt. Steve Robertson passed his annual flight physicals with flying colors. A helicopter pilot since 1992 working the department’s air support unit, Robertson gave close attention to his health and always kept himself in top shape for rigorous assignments.

However, about six years ago he received unexpected news. An echocardiogram performed in a Glendale Adventist Medical Center (GAMC) mobile van during a routine screening at the Police Department detected a small aneurysm near his aortic valve.

In Robertson’s favor, the aneurysm was small. “I felt fine…I had no symptoms,” he emphasizes. Under the care of GAMC cardiologist Joseph Lee, MD, the condition was closely monitored. There would be no change until the fall of 2014.

“I began to feel fatigued and run-down,” he recalled. Tests determined that the aneurysm was starting to grow. Dr. Lee referred Robertson to Randall Roberts, MD, GAMC thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon.

“There was a danger of aortic dissection—which is when an aorta tears,” explains Dr. Roberts, who led a GAMC surgical team that conducted a successful, six-hour open heart surgery. “The treatment was to replace both the valve and aorta—where we take a conduit made of cloth and connect it to a valve, which we get from an animal, and put it into a position where those structures were. It’s an unusual, complex surgery.”

Six days post-op, Robertson was discharged from the hospital. Following a steady recovery, he hopes to return very soon to flight duty in the air support unit that covers the Glendale–Burbank area.

“The surgery went well; we are just delighted with the outcome,” Dr. Roberts says. Meanwhile, Robertson stays in touch with Dr. Lee, who adds, “Steve is doing great. He progressed quicker than most people. He knew about the surgery in advance and what to expect, and he understood the recovery process to improve his outcome.”

Asked how the aneurysm occurred, Dr. Roberts explains, “Unfortunately, it’s just bad luck. Both the aorta and aortic valve were degenerating with time—we don’t know the exact reason why. It doesn’t have anything to do with environmental factors or habits.”

Integral to Robertson’s success is GAMC’s Heart & Vascular Institute support team, including Parisa Khorsandi, chest pain coordinator, and John Deyell, cardiovascular clinician. They covered every step of his journey from pre-surgery to post-discharge.

“We do a lot of face-to-face education and communication with patients and families,” Deyell explains. “Our compassionate care really helps!”

Robertson says he’s proud to become the Glendale Police Department’s “poster child” for being attuned to warning signs that may affect good health. “Pay attention to your body,” he urges. “It doesn’t lie.”

“I have had many contacts with your fine organization over the years,” Robertson wrote in a follow-up letter to Kevin A. Roberts, GAMC president and CEO. “This includes the birth of all three of my children at GAMC. My twins were born prematurely and spent 11 days in your neonatal intensive care unit after my wife went into preterm labor and was admitted for the final month of her pregnancy.”

He adds, “All of these successes have come from a world-class hospital that gives world-class care. We have received the highest level of care and service all the way from the admitting clerk to my cardiothoracic surgical team.”

Robertson also gave special credit to Denise Miller, senior program director, for her support before and during his surgery, which was “quite a stressful time for my family. She was there for us until my discharge—even as I walked to our car.”

“It’s so great to work at an organization that emphasizes family-centered care,” Miller says. “This allows us as GAMC associates to step in and contribute when a patient needs us most."