In April 2014, Mark Dias was preoccupied with running his business.
The 63-year-old owner of Northwood Chevrolet/Hyundai in Eureka had two
main concerns: hiring a new sales manager and growing his business after
several tough years of recession.
“I had a lot going on, and I was stressed out,” Dias said.
Needless to say, his health was not on the top of his mind.
One afternoon, he was edging the lawn when suddenly his back started hurting.
“I thought I had pulled a muscle in my back.”
After a visit to his primary doctor, who prescribed pain relievers and
rest, Dias let his employees know he’d be out for a few days. “I
figured it’d go away eventually,” but the pain wouldn’t
let up; in fact, it was getting worse. He was having trouble getting in
the car, and he couldn’t find a comfortable position to sleep.
By the time he decided to go to the emergency department, a week and a
half later, things had gone from bad to worse.
“I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even write a check,”
Dias said. “My neck was locked down. My lower back was killing me.
I didn’t know what was going on.”
At the time, his wife, Gail, was in Reno, Nev., helping out with the couple’s
three grandsons. So he asked a neighbor to drive him.
One of the first things the emergency staff noticed, Dias said, was that
his white blood cell count was way off. Various tests followed over several
days, including CT scans, MRIs and a spinal tap. He was even quarantined
for a time when meningitis was suspected.
Ultimately, Dias was diagnosed with a bacterial infection (streptococcus)
that had spread from his bloodstream to his spine.
“He had spinal epidural abscesses that developed along his spine,”
John Aryanpur, MD, a neurosurgeon with
St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County. “He came in nearly paralyzed.”
It was indeed serious, and surgery would be needed to drain the abscesses.
Gail Dias, who had driven seven hours through the night as soon as she
learned her husband was in the hospital, was by his side throughout the ordeal.
She recalled Dr. Aryanpur being communicative and available throughout
the process. “He cleared his schedule for the next day to perform
the surgery,” Gail Dias said.
Dias underwent a multiple laminectomy, an extensive surgery to drain the
abscesses along his spine and remove the lamina, or back part of the spinal
canal, said Dr. Aryanpur.
Dias made it through, and now he credits Dr. Aryanpur with saving his life.
“We are so fortunate to have a doctor like him in Eureka,”
he said. However, Dr. Aryanpur highlighted Mark’s own positive attitude
as having had a major impact: “He was very, very sick, but his grit,
determination, and inherent mental fitness pulled him through.”
In total, Dias was a patient at St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka for five weeks,
including nine days in the intensive care unit. He was also in physical
therapy for 18 weeks. “I thank the doctors, and I thank all the
nurses,” he said. “I did everything that they wanted me to
do, and that’s why I’m here today.”
Now, as Dias walks between the various departments of his dealership, he
has a different perspective on the business. “While I was gone,
I grew to learn that it will run without me,” he said. “I
don’t have to bear everything.”
(Mark Dias, his wife Gail and dog Taz)
To keep stress to a minimum, he aims to work just four to six hours each
day. After the surgery, he took a month off to spend time with family.
He’s also making lifestyle changes, including trying to walk more.
Prior to this experience, Dias wasn’t a stranger to St. Joseph Hospital,
Eureka. (He had been treated there for a heart attack in 2010, and his
mother is a volunteer.) But now he considers himself an advocate.
“It's a story that needs to be told. If you walk away from my
dealership upset, you're going to tell 10 to 15 people,” he
explained. “Good experiences are shared far less. This is my way
of showing my gratitude to Dr. Aryanpur and to St. Joseph for saving my
For more information about St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka, please click
here. For more information about Dr. Aryanpur, please click