01 FEB 2023

A Fitting Fortune

Ted Neima, Vacaville resident, smiling at the camera in front of a display cabinet in his store Clipper Cargo.
Today, Ted is up and actively involved in his business and the community thanks to his Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.

Vacaville resident Ted Neima keeps a small slip of paper in his wallet — a fortune cookie message he got the night before he had a valve in his heart surgically replaced.

Ted Neima fortune he received the night before he had a valve in his heart surgically replaced. It reads: Look forward to great fortune and a new lease on life.“Look forward to great fortune and a new lease on life,” it reads and Ted says that sums up his experience at NorthBay Health just perfectly.

Ted got his new lease thanks to a minimally-invasive heart procedure offered at NorthBay Health known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) which provides an alternative to traditional open-heart surgery.

Ted recently had his annual checkup and says he feels “blessed,” adding that “it’s hard to explain how alive I feel.”

It was no surprise to him that he needed the surgery. The Vacaville business owner said he had been diagnosed with a developing aortic stenosis years before. The condition had been treated with medications and monitored by his cardiologist Cyrus Mancherje, M.D., who explained that there would come a point where the problem would require a valve replacement. An aortic stenosis is a condition in which his heart’s aortic valve thickens and becomes stiff (calcified) so that it can’t fully open to allow blood flow from the heart into the body.

“If I’m honest, I can remember laying on my side at night in bed and listening to my heart beat and I could hear it squishing as it pumped,” he says.

The condition left him feeling fatigued and often out of breath, he said. “I would send my employees to the store to shop or send them to run errands for me because I just couldn’t do it,” he said.

When it became clear that the time for a valve replacement had arrived, Ted was connected with NorthBay interventional cardiologist Saba Lahsaei, M.D.

“Mr. Neima’s condition really couldn’t wait,” Dr. Lahsaei said. “With aortic stenosis, the valve opening is narrowed, the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to the body. That extra work can cause the left ventricle to thicken and enlarge and eventually the strain can cause a weakened heart muscle, which can ultimately lead to heart failure.”

The TAVR procedure involves a thin, flexible catheter tube that is inserted into a blood vessel via a small incision on the leg and then guided into the heart. Moving X-ray images help the doctor place the catheter into the correct position and then a replacement valve is passed through the catheter and placed in the area of the aortic valve. A balloon on the catheter tip inflates, to press the new valve into place. The year 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the first-ever TAVR procedure, which was done in France.

Because it is minimally invasive, TAVR patients are generally able to go home within a day or two of the procedure. In Ted’s case, he spent a night in the hospital for observation and was able to go home the next day, said Dr. Lahsaei.

Dr. Villalon, Lashsei and Pribyl in masks and scrubs inside the operating room where the TAVR procedure is performed.“TAVR is a great advancement in heart care,” said Dr. Lahsaei. “It is far less invasive than open-heart surgery, leaves only a small scar and poses a lower risk of infection with a much faster recovery time.” Dr. Lahsaei and fellow interventional cardiologist Mark Villalon, M.D., each performed hundreds of TAVR procedures prior to joining NorthBay in 2019. Along with cardiovascular surgeon Shea Pribyl, M.D., and a cardiac catheterization team, they have performed about 50 in the past two years at NorthBay Health Medical Center where a new state-of-the-art hybrid operating room is used for the specialized procedure.

“When they took me in for the surgery and I looked at the room with its high-tech equipment and computer screens, I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ted recalled. “It was beyond Star Wars!”

And he said he still is impressed by how organized and caring his entire Heart & Vascular team was — from the medical assistant that made sure his calls were returned, to the nursing staff and the anesthesiologist who held his hand and helped keep him calm and comfortable.

“That’s one thing people need to understand — it’s a team of people,” Ted said. “From my first appointment with him, Dr. Lahsaei laid everything out for me, explained it all using a tech board that he could draw on and he made it all make sense for me. And there was a whole team meeting about my case. I realized that when Dr. Villalon was in the operating room too.”

He calls his experience a godsend and said the same is true for the team in NorthBay Cardiac Rehabilitation who helped him with recovery and taught him to follow a healthy diet and exercise regime.

“It really has changed my life. I have so much more energy. I don’t have to send my employees out to do things for me because I can do it myself now,” he said.

Today, Ted is up and actively involved in his business and the community. He was recently selected to be the secretary of the Downtown Business Improvement District.

“Life is good,” he said.

Learn more about TAVR and NorthBay Heart & Vascular or call (707) 624-4400 for more information. You can also watch and read more of our patient stories.

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