Walk of Life Even for Chairman of the Board

NorthBay Healthcare Corporate Board Chair Ben Huber takes another walk with vascular and cardiothoracic surgeon Seph Naficy, M.D., in the hallway of the Intensive Care Unit at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield.

He calls it the “Walk of Life.” It’s a walking/talking test, a medical metric of sorts, that helps Dr. Seph Naficy, a NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center surgeon, determine whether his endovascular patients are ready to be released from the hospital.

“With all the technological advances, patients are able to leave the hospital much sooner than ever before. But as a doctor, I have to be absolutely sure when the time is right,” said the vascular and cardiothoracic surgeon. “This is a measure I do myself that helps me confirm everything I see on the computer and hear from staff.”

And so, if a patient is in relatively good physical health prior to the surgery, and came through the procedure with flying colors, Dr. Naficy arranges to take a walk. He asks staff to make sure that all potential encumbrances are sequentially removed as appropriate during the course of the night: catheters, tubes, monitors lines, and anything that could make walking difficult. By the time Dr. Naficy arrives in the morning, the patient is prepared for a short hike.

Sometimes it’s a jaunt up and down a hallway, other times it’s a shuffle around the NorthBay Medical Center Intensive Care Unit.

“I have to see if they’re strong. I engage them in conversation to see if they seem confident and comfortable. It’s amazing how many clues you can pick up just watching them get out of bed,” he says. “Do they grimace in pain? Is their gait unsteady or measured? Do they appear to be struggling emotionally or physically?”

We’ve developed a great heart and vascular program and introduced terrific surgeons to our facility so I was able to get just what I needed.

— Ben Huber,
Chairman, NorthBay
Healthcare Corporate Board

A recent “Walk of Life” involved a 76-year-old patient in good physical condition. He had an abdominal aneurysm that his primary doctor had been keeping an eye on for 10 years. An aneurysm occurs when the walls of a blood vessel—in this case, the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body—balloon outward, creating a weakness in the vessel wall.

In the last year, the aneurysm’s rate of growth and size had dramatically increased, which meant surgery was necessary.

Dr. Naficy was able to repair the aneurysm “endovascularly,” meaning he repaired the aorta from inside the blood vessel without opening the abdomen, using a combination of wires, catheters, and stent grafts through the patient’s groin vessels.

He knew his patient was sharp—a retired engineer who thoroughly researched the procedure and read all the latest medical information he could get his hands on. He had lots of questions before the procedure.

What Dr. Naficy didn’t know was that his patient, Ben Huber, is chairman of the NorthBay Healthcare Corporate Board. “I did wonder why he was visited by our hospital group president after surgery. But I really didn’t treat him differently than any other patient,” Dr. Naficy recalled with a smile.

And that’s just how Mr. Huber wanted it. “Sometimes it’s good to go incognito,” he chuckled.

Ben didn’t ask for special treatment, he said, because he didn’t have to. He knew that special, compassionate treatment is NorthBay’s standard of care for every patient.

“I really believe our mission statement,” he said. “NorthBay is known for offering advanced medicine and compassionate care, close to home. That’s just what I got, and without any fanfare.”

He checked in at 6 a.m., had the procedure, was monitored by Dr. Anit Patel, nursing staff, and Dr. Naficy overnight, and checked out the next day at noon after completing Dr. Naficy’s “Walk of Life.”

During the past 30 years, Ben has served as a director of each of the NorthBay boards and was a member of the development council when the facility was known as Intercommunity Hospital. He has had five surgeries at NorthBay during that time, and witnessed wonderful care on each occasion.

“What pleased me so much about this situation was that I could get the care I wanted here locally. Thanks to the fact that we’ve developed a great heart and vascular program and introduced terrific surgeons to our facility, I was able to get just what I needed.”

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