Dick Partlow - Cruising to a New Life

When Flagstaff resident Dick Partlow needed not one but three surgeries, he didn ’t go to the Mayo Clinic or even Phoenix – he went to Flagstaff Medical Center.

Flagstaff resident Dick Partlow, 66, loves to spend time outdoors, especially boating and fishing with his wife Janet. When swelling in his legs began keeping him from his pastime and his job as a truck driver, he had no idea he was suffering from a life-threatening condition that would take the expertise of three Flagstaff Medical Center specialists.

Eric Cohen, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.A.I., is an interventional Cardiologist with the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona at Flagstaff Medical Center. When Partlow’s swelling was diagnosed as being caused by an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), he was referred to Dr. Cohen to coordinate his care.

A Ticking Time Bomb
“Dick’s case was very unusual in that he not only had a very large aneurysm, which was a ticking time bomb, but it was causing other severe complications,” Dr. Cohen said. “The aneurysm was pressing against his inferior vena cava, the large vein that returns blood from the legs and torso back to the heart, and was restricting proper kidney function.”

While a healthy aorta may be the size of a quarter, Dick’s had expanded to the size of a grapefruit. “Dick was facing two very serious problems,” Dr. Cohen said. “If the aneurysm burst, surgeons would have just moments to keep him from bleeding to death. And, the compressed inferior vena cava was not allowing the blood to flow back to the heart causing Dick’s legs to swell so intensely he could hardly walk.”

Confidence in FMC
When the Partlows learned that Dick’s leg swelling was the result of a life-threatening condition and treatment was needed immediately, they were completely comfortable entrusting his life to the physicians and staff at FMC.

“I felt very comfortable knowing Dick was at FMC and not at another hospital,” Janet Partlow said. We never even considered going to Phoenix. Why would we when the best doctors and hospital are right here in Flagstaff?”

This confidence comes from a long history with FMC. Janet Partlow chose to undergo cancer treatments at FMC including Vascular Surgeon Mark Donnelly, M.D., removing Janet’s cancerous kidney tumor. After years of counting on FMC for care, they had faith that Dick was in the right hands.

“We would rather be at FMC than any hospital in the world,” Dick Partlow said. “The staff has always treated us like family, and we trust the experienced doctors and nursing staff to give us excellent care. FMC is the best – period.”

A Team Approach
Partlow’s extreme condition at the time of his diagnosis meant time was of the essence. Dr. Cohen called on his colleagues from FMC’s world-class medical staff to participate in a complex, highly orchestrated effort to repair Dick’s aneurysm and restore blood flow.

Just days after Partlow’s diagnosis, Dr. Cohen was joined by Dr. Donnelly and Urologist Nathan Benson, M.D., in one of FMC’s 11 operating suites.

“This really was a unique case that needed a multidisciplinary team approach – one that in my experience usually can only be found at a large metropolitan hospital. The fact that we were able to save Dick’s life, and get him back to his job and the activities he loves, is a true testament to the capabilities of the physicians, staff and technology at FMC,” Dr. Cohen said.

Dr. Cohen and Dr. Donnelly worked simultaneously to repair the aneurysm and restore proper blood flow. During Partlow’s life-saving procedure, a tube (catheter) was inserted through the large femoral artery in the groin and threaded into place – first in the aorta then in the inferior vena cava – to allow stents to be placed to repair the damaged and blocked vessels. The aortic stent created new walls in the vessel for the blood to flow through, relieving the pressure on the weakened areas of Partlow’s aorta and reducing the risk of rupture. The inferior vena cava stent was designed to hold open the inferior vena cava, which had been constricted by the aneurysm, allowing the blood to freely flow back to Partlow’s heart and reducing the swelling in his legs.

The last step of the procedure was the placement of a third stent by Dr. Benson in Partlow’s kidney that had been affected by the aneurysm and narrowed inferior vena cava. The stent allowed the kidney to once again properly remove wastes from the body.

A Life Restored
Just a few weeks after the three FMC physicians worked together to save Partlow’s life, he was back on the lake in his new pontoon boat. With no more risk of his aorta rupturing and blood flow properly restored, Partlow has a new lease on life.

“Dick is a strong and energetic man and the swelling, lack of energy and other symptoms were so hard on him,” Janet Partlow said. “Now the swelling in his legs is gone, his energy level is restored and he is down to only two medications each day. He feels like a whole new person.”

For more information about the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, please visit To make an appointment with one of our world-class physicians, call 877-928-WELL.