NEWS | June 15, 2020

UC Davis Medical Center surgery patient said he was treated like royalty


Alexander Estrada had no idea what he was headed for, both bad and good. Especially the good.

Alexander Estrada is back to doing what he loves — fishing — after he was referred to UC Davis Medical Center for surgery.  Alexander Estrada is back to doing what he loves — fishing — after he was referred to UC Davis Medical Center for surgery.

Now he raves about the good part — which was a successful surgery for a symptomatic carotid artery at UC Davis Medical Center — and about being treated, he said, almost like he was on a luxury vacation.

“I had a beautiful time there,” Estrada, 77, said by phone from his home in Winters. “I would’ve stayed a number of days if I could have. I almost felt like I was at a hotel in Cabo or something.”

Estrada’s roller coaster health ride started in early May when he visited his Dignity Health clinic in Woodland for what he thought was a minor eye issue.

“It was like a blurry shade pulled down over my right eye for a couple minutes, then it would clear up,” Estrada said. “I thought they’d give me eye drops or something.”

Instead, he got an ultrasound. His Dignity doctors saw a problem that needed specialized attention. As part of a shared commitment to getting patients the right care at the right place, they referred him to UC Davis Health, which works with community hospital partners such as Dignity to provide patients who need it the expertise and specialty care offered by the region’s only academic medical center.

Specifically, the Dignity physicians referred him to Matthew Mell, chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery and medical director of the UC Davis Vascular Center.

Mell told Estrada he had a condition called amaurosis fugax. That meant bits of plaque were breaking loose from his carotid artery and traveling to his eye. The plaque bits caused the blurry vision until they were washed through by blood flow. It also meant he had an increased risk of stroke. Mell told him a surgery called a carotid endarterectomy would clear the artery.

“Dr. Mell explained it to me. He was great. I liked him right away,” Estrada said. “He was so professional, but I also felt like he was talking to his friend.”

Estrada wasn’t worried about being headed for surgery, he said, because everyone around was so competent, and so nice.

“The nurses were terrific. The whole staff was, and this was in the middle of a pandemic,” Estrada said. “I don’t like needles — I don’t have a single tattoo for that reason. But the shots they gave me were actually kind of pleasant the way they did them.”

He spent one night in the intensive care unit after the surgery and said he was continually impressed with how he was treated. He actually enjoyed how they gently got him up and moving in the next morning.

“The nurses opened the orange juice for me and handed it to me like I was royalty,” Estrada said. “I wish I could go back and thank each person.”

He was equally impressed by the residents who came into his room in the morning.

“There must have been a dozen of them who came through,” Estrada said. “They asked me a bunch of questions and seemed to be so enthused. It made me more confident that they agreed I was coming along pretty well.”

When Mell visited around 10 a.m., Estrada said he felt like an old friend walked into the room.

“He checked me over and told me how it all went. Then he said, ‘Are you ready to go home?’” Estrada said. “I was, but I also didn’t want to leave all those nice people.”

A month later, Estrada was still enthusiastic about Mell and the team at the medical center.

“If I ever have to go through that again, I’m going over there with a cake,” he said. “But tomorrow, I’m going fishing. I’m going to try out my new artery.”

The UC Davis Vascular Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive, state-of-the-art care for conditions ranging from esthetic vein problems to complex, life-threatening vascular diseases. Our clinic team coordinates the efforts of multiple specialists for a complete, seamless and integrated approach to care, including diagnostic evaluations and treatment plans that can encompass medical management, minimally invasive procedures and surgical reconstructions.