Roy Dressel takes pride in being in good shape and of quick wit. The jovial
Visalia photographer has been a regular at his gym for 17 years.
But in 2017, when heart issues began impeding his ability to workout, Roy
needed the help of Dr. Leheb Araim, Dr. Ashok Verma and the Cath Lab team
at Kaweah Delta Medical Center.
The experience prompted Roy, a member of the Visalia Toastmasters, to craft
a comical speech about his bypass surgery and recovery that won competitions
at the local and district levels.
“I’m 62 and on about the third day, I had three young ladies
giving me a sponge bath,” said Roy, reciting his speech. “A
week before that would have been a completely different situation. A week
earlier, that would have led me to divorce court. But no one had a problem
with it but me, and only because I didn’t want to get moved around.
Before visiting Kaweah Delta in July 2017, Roy had been living with occasional
pressure in his chest, which turned out to be far more serious than he
realized. Roy said he would have chest pain while doing activities such
as cardio work in the gym or mowing his yard.
“I noticed it and just managed it,” said Roy, who would take
breaks from physical activity when he felt chest pains. “Sometimes
it wouldn’t bother me, and sometimes, simply walking outside, I
would notice it.”
Javonna, Roy’s wife and a retired nurse, initially suspected he was
dealing with acid reflux, but suggested he visit a doctor in case the
problem was his heart. Roy’s personal physician, Dr. William Holvik,
ran a series of tests that did not reveal the problem, so he pointed him
toward a heart specialist.
Visalia cardiologist Dr. Ashok Verma put Roy on nitrates, which open arteries
to the heart. When that helped with Roy’s symptoms, it was a sign
the problem was his heart, not acid reflux. At that point, Roy thought
worst-case scenario he would need a stent, a tiny wire mesh that props
open an artery and improves blood flow to the heart.
Roy was sent for a stress test, but it indicated there was a blockage to
his heart. Dr. Verma confirmed the blockage by angiogram performed at
Kaweah Delta’s Cath Lab. Rather than a stent, Dr. Verma told Roy
that he needed immediate bypass surgery, a more complicated procedure
where blood vessels are taken from another part of the body to repair
damaged arteries in the heart.
Roy tried to delay his surgery a few days – he had a Lions Club meeting
he wanted to attend the next day. But the next morning, Roy was prepped
for surgery at Kaweah Delta Medical Center.
Dr. Araim, the cardiac surgeon on call that day, said Roy was a motivated
patient, and the rapport they quickly developed helped lead to a good
result from the surgery.
Roy’s procedure was one of the approximately 150 heart surgeries
Dr. Araim performs every year at Kaweah Delta Medical Center, named by
Healthgrades as one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals™ for Cardiac
Surgery and America’s 100 Best Hospitals™ for Cardiac Care.
While patients come in with pretty serious problems, Dr. Araim said with
surgery, they have a good prognosis. “It’s a big deal to do
something I enjoy, and to see the patients benefit from it for years to
come,” he said.
Roy said he was very pleased with Dr. Araim and the care he received at
“Everything went well from start to finish. I was very glad I was
at Kaweah Delta," Roy said. “I felt very confident all the
way through with [Dr. Araim]. The surgery went without any complications
at all, and went fairly quickly. The nursing care, the doctors, I was
happy with the whole thing.”
Within two months of the surgery, Roy was back to work at his downtown
Visalia business, Roy Dressel Photography. Despite some restrictions on
the amount of weight he is allowed to lift, Roy has returned to photographing
special events throughout the central San Joaquin Valley. Now that he
has completed Kaweah Delta’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, he
is also back to the gym.
“I would say I am back energy-wise as close to 100 percent as I’m
going to get,” Roy said. “I feel very good.”