Quick Action and Compassion Saved Their Father’s Life

February 22, 2022

Nolly and Samira IshaqIn October 2019, Nolly Ishaq’s wife, Samira, called 911 when her 80-year-old husband’s abdominal aneurysm caused him to bleed internally. Their daughter, Maha Grissom, raced to the house just in time to see her father loaded into an ambulance. Her sister, May Ronci, was on her way to meet the ambulance at the Palmdale Regional emergency room.

However, Grissom soon realized that they had another emergency on their hands — Mrs. Ishaq had fallen and broken her hip while trying to help her husband. “I had to call 911 to come and take my mother to the Palmdale Regional ER,” Grissom recalls.

A Life-Threatening Cardiac Emergency

When he reached the ER, it was uncertain if Mr. Ishaq would survive. He’d battled the abdominal aneurysm for years and had stents placed in the past. Now the aneurysm was leaking.

Phong Dargon, MD, a fellowship-trained vascular surgeon, came to Mr. Ishaq’s aid even though he wasn’t the surgeon on-call. “Dr. Dargon was willing to jump right in when they called him,” Ronci says.

The surgeon had a very quick, very important decision to make. “Fortunately, the minimally invasive stent approach for repair would be fastest for stopping the bleed and for recovery, as the surgery would be done via a needle hole,” Dr. Dargon explains. “Open surgery would have required a very long incision, difficult exposure, a prolonged hospital course in the ICU, and a likely transfer to a nursing or rehab facility.”

Ronci, a nurse practitioner and former nurse at Palmdale Regional, was struck by the compassion the family received in the ER, especially with two ailing parents. “Dr. Dargon really took the time to explain my father’s surgery,” she says. “He took care of my dad and took care of my family.”

Mr. Ishaq was to have immediate vascular surgery and Mrs. Ishaq would soon be off to have hip replacement surgery. “They actually wheeled my mom into my dad’s room in the ER so they could hold hands before they took him off to surgery,” Grissom says, recalling the touching moment.

“They really went that extra mile to make sure that these two lovebirds got to be together,” Ronci says.

More Days with Dad

Both Mr. and Mrs. Ishaq underwent successful surgeries. “We all agreed that dad probably should have died that day, had it not been for Dr. Dargon,” Ronci says.

Grissom and Ronci remain extremely grateful to the surgeon and they firmly believe that he gave them more time with their father. Dr. Dargon followed up to inquire how their father was doing even after he left the hospital.

Mr. Ishaq survived for two years after his surgery and flourished living at Grissom’s home. He was able to go to friends’ houses for visits and walk along the Ventura Harbor with his wife, something they loved to do together.

“Those were two of our best years with dad because I think he really valued life at that point,” Grissom says.

“And all of that is because of Dr. Dargon,” Ronci adds. “If he wouldn’t have done what he did that day and made a different decision, it could have been the last day that we saw our dad. It was life-saving for my dad and life-changing for the rest of us.”

Dr. Dargon doesn’t expect accolades. “I was taken aback that they [Grissom and Ronci] remember me,” he says. “Hearing some positive news during the pandemic was refreshing.” 

“The compassion we experienced during that stay is something I’ve seen with my parents and when I worked there,” Ronci says. “We felt VIP when we were there and my parents did too.”

Eternally Thankful

Mr. Ishaq recently passed away just shy of his 82nd birthday. His wife and all four children miss him dearly every day. However, Grissom and Ronci still feel he is with them.

Their father’s cardiac condition has the sisters thinking about the importance of heart health. Ronci wonders if her dad could have avoided the abdominal aneurysm. “I think it’s so important that we watch our cardiac health, something that we take for granted and we don't think about daily,” she says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number-one cause of death for men and women in the U.S. This is preventable when people take measures to stay heart healthy.

“Cardiovascular disease affects all parts of the body. The choices that we make when we are younger will impact our health in the future,” Dr. Dargon says. “Invest in your health! Fortunately, vascular medicine and minimally invasive interventions have advanced in a way to bring people back to a healthier life.”

Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.