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Former professional linebacker, Steve Towle, was born in Prairie Village, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Steve’s life has always revolved around sports, culminating with his eight years playing for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, where he still holds the team record for most tackles in a single game. “My family was very supportive of my games, with the entire family traveling, both when I was young and over the course of my professional career,” Steve says. Off the field, Steve still enjoys the hobbies of his youth, including fishing and woodworking. Some of his fondest memories are those of fishing with his grandfather at the lake house and working alongside him in his shop as he built projects for his classes as a woodshop teacher.

As a professional athlete, Steve was very familiar with injuries, the ensuing interaction with healthcare providers, and the complexity of the healthcare system. Years of injuries, coupled with his history as a former smoker, created a somewhat complicated medical history as the years went on, and the natural aging process caught up with him. In 2005, Steve found himself the recipient of five coronary artery stents to open blockages that had formed; those stents would eventually save Steve’s life more than once.

Steve and his wife recently moved to South Carolina to be closer to their adult daughters and grandchildren. His new primary care provider suggested that because of his cardiac history and multiple risk factors, including his smoking history, some imaging to evaluate the patency of his stents that were now 18 years old was in order. During this evaluation, Steve was found to have a relatively large infrarenal abdominal aortic aneurysm measuring approximately 6 cm in diameter.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an enlargement or bulge in the part of your aorta that extends through the belly or abdomen (abdominal aorta). The bulge forms in an area where your aorta’s wall has grown weak. As a result, the weakened part of your aorta’s wall expands outward and enlarges. This expansion, or ballooning, continues to grow wider over time. The larger an aneurysm grows, the more likely it is to burst open (rupture) and cause life-threatening internal bleeding. AAAs usually have no symptoms until they rupture or are close to rupturing.

The Towles met with a group of vascular surgeons in South Carolina who offered him an open aortic surgical procedure and were insistent on this particular modality for repair despite his relatively advanced age, multiple medical comorbidities, and body habitus. As it turned out, the Towles were close friends with a high-ranking surgeon in Southern California. Their friend had previously consulted with Dr. Naiem Nassiri of The Vascular Care Group regarding a patient with a very complex thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm because of Dr. Nassiri’s extensive experience and reputation performing complex aortic operations minimally invasively. He strongly recommended Steve reach out to Dr. Nassiri for a consultation as soon as possible. They sent an email and were able to get the CD containing the CT scan of his

aneurysm, which Dr. Nassiri reviewed personally. All this initial consultation was done via phone and email exchanges between the two. A review of his CT scan found Steve to be an excellent candidate for minimally-invasive repair of his large abdominal aortic aneurysm. Dr. Nassiri explained that this operation could be accomplished percutaneously, meaning with just two needle punctures in the groin, no incisions whatsoever, and only a one-night stay in the hospital. Steve and his wife were absolutely flabbergasted at the idea of this being such a minimally-invasive approach, particularly since they were given such a grim proposition for repairing his aneurysm with the other very invasive operation closer to home.

Steve and his wife were pleased, yet somewhat surprised, at the confidence with which Dr. Nassiri spoke about his candidacy for minimally-invasive endovascular aortic aneurysm repair (EVAR). He and his wife made the trip from South Carolina to Connecticut and reserved a hotel stay for several days for Steve to undergo his operation and then recover from it.

The procedure was performed on February 22, 2024, and went remarkably well. Dr. Nassiri was able to utilize the absolute latest in AAA stent graft technology available which helps to facilitate aortic remodeling and AAA sac regression. This device has active fixation both above and below the renal arteries to ensure a good seal and is also the only device that allows the surgeon to customize the stent graft to the patient’s anatomy and length. Dr. Nassiri was able to perform the procedure as promised with just two needle punctures in the groin and a couple of Band-Aids; no sutures, incisions, or any other surgical maneuvers were necessary. Steve had an unremarkable postoperative course. He was up and out of bed that same night. He was using the bathroom, tolerating a normal diet, and was able to be discharged home the next day, completely pain-free and in excellent spirits.

Steve and his wife were back on a plane to South Carolina two days after the operation, and he has done remarkably well. Now two weeks after his procedure, Steve said, “I’ve started walking around our neighborhood, pain-free.” The Towle’s were extremely grateful for the service they received at The Vascular Care Group and were very happy to have made the trip to Connecticut and received the care that they did.

Steve added, “As a pro athlete, we get hurt a lot and have many surgeries. The goal back then included coming back better to continue to compete at a very high level. I often joked that I hurt people for a living and tried to be a good person in the off-season. With conditions like mine and my new lease on life, I now focus on being kind. It doesn’t matter to be right…but being present for others reminds me of team sports. I’m happy to now have that chance. Thank you, Vascular Care Group and thank you Dr. Nassiri.”