How a Screening Saved My Life
Mike Minow, 57, and his wife Kerry
I’ve since retired from the Bensenville Fire Protection District, but in 2009, I took advantage of a free heart scan offered by EMHC and Midwest Heart Specialists as part of the Healthy Hearts for Police and Firefighters program.
I had no symptoms of heart disease, but I know that fire fighters have a higher incidence of cardiovascular problems than the general population, so I thought it was a good idea to get screened. Plus my wife urged me to do it!
The test itself is no big deal. You lie on your back, they slide you in the CT scanner, and about 10 minutes later, it’s over. It’s not confining, and I was very comfortable. It’s a piece of cake. About 15 minutes later, you get your results.
The score you want is zero. That means that there is no calcium buildup in the arteries. But my score was 200. That’s not crazy big — I mean, some are up in the thousands — but I was a little shocked. I had taken care of myself. I had quit smoking in 2000, mostly ate well and exercised regularly.
The nurse recommended that I follow up with my physician, Dr. Linchangco, so I did. Because I don’t know my complete medical history and because my score wasn’t the zero you’d want to see, Dr. Linchangco suggested that I get a stress echocardiogram.
That’s the day everything changed for me.
After my echocardiogram was complete, the doctor said they were admitting me to the Hospital right away. They found that I had an occluded right coronary artery and clogging in my posterior descending artery. From the photos I saw, it looked like the arteries were going to shut completely. I was scheduled for angioplasty the next morning.
Since my wife works at the Hospital, I called her at her desk from the admitting area. At first she thought I was joking. I can see why. I was asymptomatic! The day before, I was shoveling snow for four hours! Judging by the photos of my heart, though, I think that I was close to a heart attack. Real close.
Dr. Sullivan performed the angioplasty and inserted stents. I was up and walking the same day and started a three-month cardiac rehab program before I even left the Hospital two days later.
They push you hard in cardiac rehab — but that’s the way it should be. I went three times a week for three months. And they have sessions on heart care and health. It’s all very good and it was successful.
I still work out every day and try to get my heart rate up. I also try to eat high protein, low fat meals. My cholesterol has dropped, and I take medication, which is working.
Looking back, I have to say that I was glad I was where I was when all this happened. It was close call. I could have been dead any minute. I really thank my wife for urging me to get screened and Dr. Linchangco for being careful and recommending more tests. It was at their insistence that I got my butt in there.
Now every chance I get, I encourage people to get screened. It’s easy, noninvasive and could possibly save your life. I’m pretty sure it saved mine.