Satisfied Patient Pays It Forward

September 21, 2021

Russel ArentzoffRussel Arentzoff is a retired firefighter paramedic with the Los Angeles Fire Department, where he spent 33 years making a difference in the lives of others. When past injuries led him to require neck surgery, he found himself needing the type of TLC he was used to providing others.

Neurosurgeon Kamran Parsa, DO, told Arentzoff that he needed a procedure called a 4-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). This procedure is used to remove herniated or degenerative discs in the neck — a major surgery.

Dr. Parsa could see that Arentzoff had a lot of disc debris and some collapsing of some of the discs in his neck. “With the pain and limitations, it was at the point where it just needed to be done,” Arentzoff recalls.

Dr. Parsa gave Arentzoff three choices of hospitals to have the surgery. “I chose Palmdale Regional because I was a paramedic and I know it has a great reputation,” Arentzoff explains. “The facility is new and state-of-the-art.”

A Caregiver Turned Patient

Even though it was his fourth major surgery in about as many years, Arentzoff was a bit nervous about this neck procedure, as a 4-level ACDF involves four discs and is not very common. However, Dr. Parsa and the staff put him at ease.

“Being a patient versus my normal role of caretaker made me feel a little vulnerable, but as soon as I saw how amazing the nursing staff was I felt at ease,” Arentzoff says. “And Dr. Parsa went over everything. There were no surprises.”

Arentzoff also felt confident having the surgery done during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I felt completely safe. I am vaccinated and educated on it,” He explains. “Everyone was wearing masks, clean. I had zero worries about anything in the facility.”

In addition to Dr. Parsa, he was particularly impressed with the nursing staff at Palmdale Regional during his five-day, four-night stay. Through his time as a paramedic, Arentzoff spent a great deal of time working alongside nurses, as well as training with them.

“I know how special nurses are,” he says. “I literally felt their empathy. I know their job is difficult and nurses are very busy. Yet 24 hours a day, every single employee gave me a warm smile and made me feel they care about me.”

Arentzoff was concerned about his post-surgical comfort heading into the procedure. When he was in the hospital at Palmdale Regional, the nurses did a great job managing his pain. “I never had to hit the nurse call button because they were so attentive,” he says.

On the Mend

Although he says the ACDF was the most painful of the surgeries he’s had, Arentzoff is taking non-narcotic pain medication and is participating in physical therapy at home.

After the four-and-a-half-hour surgery, Arentzoff is recovering well. He credits the staff at Palmdale Regional for making the experience so positive.

“While the surgery experience was difficult, the consistent warmth, kindness and compassion from the staff made the experience as good as it could have been,” he says. “I cannot imagine doing anything different to improve it.”

Arentzoff was so pleased by the compassionate care he received at Palmdale Regional that he wanted to make sure he expressed his feelings and gratitude — particularly from one caregiver to others.

“I went out and bought a couple hundred bucks in Starbucks® cards and had one of the nurses hand them out with a thank-you letter,” he says. “I tried to make sure every CNA [certified nursing assistant] and nurse got one. They are unsung heroes. I think when someone does something amazing, they should know it.”