Throwing a Lifeline

April 03, 2014

After waiting 21 years to come to the United States, Reodello Reysantos was finally able to join his family here in 1997. With three children at the time ranging in age from three to nine, and a fourth to be born the following year, he enjoyed spending time playing with his kids. He loved to swim, play basketball and take long walks at the beach or hiking in the mountains with his wife, Norma.

However, as time went on, he began experiencing fatigue and numbness in his limbs. At 46 years old, Reodello says, “I thought it was age getting to me.” Eventually, it got to the point where he was unable to cross his legs without cramping almost immediately and was having trouble moving every time he stood up.

In 2010, both Reodello and his wife had lost their jobs and did not have health insurance. Norma convinced her husband to join her in attending the Remote Area Medicine (RAM) clinic being held in downtown Los Angeles. While there, Reodello explained the symptoms he had been having and was asked if he would like to be seen by a cardiologist.

As Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance was a sponsor of the RAM clinic, Reodello was seen by James McPherson, MD, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon with the hospital. Dr. McPherson agreed to provide his services, along with tests provided by Shazia Hasan, MD, and David Cohen, MD. Reodello was diagnosed with Bicuspid Aortic Stenosis, a condition that traced back to his childhood.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease (BAVD) is the most common congenital abnormality of the heart. “This is when the aortic valve has only two parts instead of three,” explains Dr. McPherson. It occurs when the aortic valve does not fully develop while the baby is in the womb and affects about one to two percent of all children. The impact of BAVD varies with each patient. Sometimes there is severe aortic stenosis at birth, or it can develop during childhood for others. Most commonly, BAVD symptoms peak when a patient is in their 40s.

Mr. Reysantos also had an ascending aortic aneurism, a condition common with BAVD. This occurs because the tissues are weak so the artery becomes dilated.

Both conditions are treatable with surgery.

The operation took place through a minimally invasive procedure. “Most patients have this done through a surgery requiring the entire sternum to be divided with an incision from the base of the neck to just above the belly button,” Dr. McPherson says. “In Mr. Reysantos’ case, we were able to replace the valve as well as the ascending aorta through an incision about one third of the normal size. This results in less pain, and more rapid return to active living.”

Within 48 hours of the surgery, Reodello exclaimed to his wife standing by his side, “Look, I can move my feet!” He was able to get out of bed without experiencing any numbness or feeling weak at all.

“He keeps on walking now,” Norma says. Reflecting on all of the long walks she used to take with her husband, she adds, “I think it will be great to be able to go out again.”

Before the surgery, Reodello said his body was running at about 50 to 55 percent. By three days after his surgery he proudly gave himself a 98 percent. He was thankful to his physicians and the staff at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance. “You can sense their warmness,” he says. “It’s not just work for them. They are friendly and really care for their patients.”

And he has a new outlook on the United States as well. He says it gave him back his life and adds, “This is the true land of opportunity.”