Ozark County man gets unexpected life-saving results from heart screening
When Kim Nash told her husband Jeff recently that she wanted him to make an appointment for a cardiac calcium screening at Baxter Regional Medical Center (BRMC), he thought it would be a waste of time.
“I felt fine and didn’t think there was anything wrong with me,” he said.
Nash made it a point to have regular checkups and, for the past four or five years, had been getting up early every morning to work out at Top Dog Fitness Center in Gainesville.
“I didn’t feel bad, so I didn’t think there was any reason to have the screening,” he said. “But Kim and my son Taler both had it done, and they kept putting pressure on me until I made the appointment and had it done.”
Nash said he felt confident going into the screening at the Mountain Home, Arkansas, hospital.
“Honestly, I thought I’d blow it away,” he said. “Kim had scored 30, and Taler scored 0. I thought I’d maybe score 50 or around there. I went through the tests and felt real good about everything they did.”
When the screening was over, a cardiac nurse reviewed the results. If the cardiac calcium score is more than 400, the recommendation is for the patient to see a cardiologist. Nash had a calcium score of over 1,200.
Still, Nash said he didn’t feel bad and thought maybe it was a false reading on the test.
“But I went ahead and let them make me an appointment with a cardiologist,” he said.
Nash saw cardiologist Dr. Otis Warr IV and told him he felt fine and wondered if the results could be a false reading. “He said it could be, but we needed to follow up on it anyway and scheduled me for a nuclear stress test. My insurance company denied it though and wanted me to go ahead and have a heart catheterization angiogram-type test.”
The results of the angiogram showed five blockages. Two of the scariest were 90 and 95 percent blockages in the left anterior descending artery, a major pipeline for blood. Blockages in that artery, sometimes called widow-makers, are often fatal when the blockage reaches 100 percent.
The results also showed that stints weren’t an option for Nash. Because of where the blockages were located, he would have to undergo open-heart bypass surgery.
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Louis Elkins performed the surgery. Nash was up walking the next day and went home that Saturday. Two weeks after surgery, Nash asked co-worker Justin Guffey to stop by and pick him up for work.
“I couldn’t drive, but Justin came up and got me and took me home every day,” Nash said. “I didn’t do much at work, but I think that was when I really started feeling better.”
Three weeks ago, Nash got the all-clear to make his early morning treadmill walks a part of his daily routine again.
“I’m getting better every day,” he said. “I feel better now than I did before I had the surgery.”
Kim is grateful that her husband finally gave in to her pleading, had the test and is now recovered from the surgery.
“God answered many prayers for me with this situation,” she said.
Nash said he’s now encouraging everyone he knows to have the cardiac calcium screening test.
“I think everybody should have it done,” he said. “It’s $99. For that amount of money, you couldn’t even get bloodwork done. They could find all kinds of different things with the tests they do.”
Nash’s only brother, Todd, died suddenly at age 48 on Aug. 25, 2009.
“I don’t know for sure what happened to Todd because we didn’t have an autopsy done, but I assume it was either an aneurism or a heart attack,” Nash said. “I really feel like it was a heart attack. He didn’t have any symptoms of anything that made him think he needed to go to a doctor. So I figure that he and I pretty much had the same deal going on.”
Nash pointed at a drawing Dr. Warr had given him of a heart and its arteries, showing where his blockages had been. “If I hadn’t gone and had this test done, and one of these got to 100 percent…”
His voice trailed off, but the unspoken message spoke volumes about the value of a wife who wouldn’t stop hounding him about a test he didn’t think he needed to take.
CARDIAC CALCIUM SCREENING
This information is from BRMC’s Cardiac Services website: baxterregional.org/medical-services/cardiac-calcium-screening/
What is it?
A cardiac calcium screening is a test for people at risk for heart disease who do not have symptoms. It uses computed tomography (CT) to check for calcium buildup in the walls of the coronary arteries, which wrap around the heart and supply it with blood and oxygen. Calcium in these arteries is a sign of heart disease.
During the test, a CT scanner takes pictures of your heart in thin sections. The result is a score based on the amount of calcium seen on the pictures. The higher your calcium score, the higher your risk for coronary artery disease.
What do the results mean?
Your calcium score screening result is represented as a number that can range from 0 to more than 400. The higher the score, the greater your chances of having coronary artery disease compared with people with similar risk factors.
Results from a screening can give your doctor more information about your risk for heart disease, especially if you already have risk factors. If your score is high, for example, your doctor may prescribe medicines to lower these risks. A high score may also lead to other tests and treatment that could help you avoid a heart attack. If you are concerned as to whether you should undergo a cardiac calcium screening, speak with your physician.
$99 for a limited time
For a limited time, BRMC is offering the cardiac calcium screening for $99. The test includes risk evaluation, body composition analysis, blood pressure evaluation, CT heart scan, resting electrocardiogram, carotid artery screening, peripheral vascular screening, lipid panel blood test and hemoglobin A1C blood test.
Those who should consider having the test are women over 45 and men over 40, those who have a family history of heart disease and those who have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, have used tobacco are sedentary or are overweight.
You should not have the screening if you have been previously diagnosed with coronary artery disease or have an established relationship with a cardiologist, have had stents placed or cardiac bypass surgery performed, have had a CT calcium score test performed in the past five years or weigh more than 440 pounds.
Schedule an appointment
To schedule a cardiac calcium screening or for more information, call 870-508-7000.