Rocky the Recovery Dog, Doctor Team Up, Save the Day

Vacaville resident Peter Loos, 67, credits his vascular surgeon for saving his life, and a little dog named Rocky for helping him heal so quickly. Peter was battling cancer of the tongue when it was discovered that he had an abdominal aneurysm that presented a unique set of problems.

The buzz is about shorter hospital stays, minimally invasive procedures, and approaches such as robotic surgery but you need to be well-versed in addressing the case in the best patient-tailored manner possible.

—Dr. Seph Naficy

Dr. Seph Naficy, a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon and member of NorthBay Healthcare’s Heart & Vascular team, realized that the aneurysm’s dimensions, its extension into his pelvis, and significant calcification made it impossible to handle with less invasive endovascular tools.

“As much as the buzz is about shorter hospital stays, minimally invasive procedures, and approaches such as robotic surgery, at the end of the day you need to be well-versed in addressing the case in the best patient-tailored manner possible. In this case, it was a traditional old-fashioned approach: open surgery.”

Some high-tech equipment did come into the picture. Dr. Naficy was able to use a “Cell-Saver,” to give Peter a distinct advantage.

The Cell-Saver was donated to NorthBay Medical Center by Fairfield residents Frank and Liz Vezer in 2008, and is used frequently in open heart surgery.

“I knew the approach meant there would be a potential for blood loss. The Cell-Saver allows us to recirculate the patient’s blood back into their system.”

Assisted by Dr. Jeffrey Brooks, another vascular surgeon, Dr. Naficy was able to address the issues of the aneurysm, which occurs when the walls of a blood vessel balloon outward, creating weakness in the vessel wall. Peter’s aneurysm was even more complicated, in that it involved a renal artery as well.

Naturally, an open surgery means a longer recovery, including time in the Intensive Care Unit, and that’s where Rocky comes in.

Rocky belongs to Peter and his wife, Lilly Kraft. The couple moved to Vacaville five years ago, where she now operates a successful pet grooming business. “We’re booked five weeks in advance,” boasts a proud Peter, who assists his wife by shampooing a pooch while she clips and trims.

And at the center of the canine carnival of activity, with fur flying and wild happy yipping is Rocky, the Recovery Dog.

Technically, he’s a very smart, West Highland terrier, fluffy, white, and armed with a “therapy” license. That meant he was allowed to sit at the end of Peter’s bed in NorthBay’s ICU during his four days of recovery. “He only snarled at one or two of the nurses,” chuckled Peter.

Life is vastly different now for Peter and Lilly since he’s successfully tackled his health challenges. A former executive chef, he once weighed 360 pounds. Today he is a svelte 200 pounds, and walks Rocky every day for exercise.

He also eats healthier food and takes care of himself. “We have learned to appreciate the things we have,” he says in his warm German accent. “We don’t take anything for granted.”

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