12,000-Miles to Health
A life-saving journey
Guy Mayeda MD (left) posing with Christopher Blas (right).
After facing two life-threatening health issues before his 40th birthday, Guam resident Christopher Blas knows the value of expert cardiovascular care—but he had to travel a long way to get it.
Christopher’s journey began when he experienced chest pain and went to his community hospital in Guam, a U.S. Territory located 6,000 miles away from Los Angeles in the Western Pacific Ocean. A CT scan revealed an aneurysm that caused a 3-centimeter dissection (tear) in his aorta, the major blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the body.
Christopher needed an endovascular dissection repair (EVAR), but the surgery was too advanced for the community hospital. Thanks to the International Patient Services Program at PIH Health, Christopher was able to have the repair done at PIH Health Good Samaritan Hospital. He was flown 15 hours by air ambulance to Los Angeles where Guy Mayeda MD, interventional cardiologist, and Ali Gheissari MD, cardiothoracic surgeon, performed the life-saving surgery.
“Acute aortic dissection is a leading cause of death in cardiovascular disease. If surgery isn’t performed within the first 48 hours, the mortality rate can be as high as 50%,” said Dr. Mayeda
Two years later during a follow-up appointment in Guam, a CT scan showed a troubling development—a thoracic endoleak at the site of the original dissection.
“An endoleak is a complication that affects about 15 to 25% of patients who undergo EVAR,” explained Dr. Ali Gheissari. “It means that some amount of blood flow still remains in the aneurysm cavity.”
Christopher returned to Los Angeles for a second round of treatment. The repair was a success. Today, Christopher is back to his favorite hobbies of driving off-road vehicles and mountain biking.
PIH Health Good Samaritan Hospital has been Guam’s off-island healthcare partner since 1986. Hundreds of patients travel from overseas each year to seek advanced treatment from experienced physicians.
“I traveled to PIH Health Good Samaritan Hospital because I knew I would receive excellent care,” said Christopher. “I had full confidence in the doctors and their expertise. They truly saved my life—not once, but twice.”
To learn more about cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery please visit PIHHealth.org/HeartCare.