SSMI Patient Story - My Dad

This patient story hits very close to home for me, as it's by my father! I really appreciate him sharing his experience.

In mid-January of this year, my son, Dr. David Carfagno, gave me a thorough physical exam. In addition to routine requirements (blood profile, urine, etc.) he requested that I complete a CT Heart Score evaluation through an outside facility although it wasn't covered by my Medicare insurance. David advised me that there is no protocol for ordering a CT Heart Score test at my age. Medicine requires this evaluation below 60. But David had a feeling. Being the obedient patient an father that I am, I agreed.

Subsequently, David got the results of my test. It was a startling 1700. The normal range for a 70 year old male is 0 to 400.  It's important that you understand my then state of health -- and this is very important!! My blood pressure was 130/80....with no medication. My LDL bad cholesterol was 128 -- in range for me. I've never had a chest pain, shortness of breath, or a heart attack. As a matter of fact, two weeks before during the Christmas holidays, I did the treadmill at home for 35 minutes and covered over 1.5 miles....no pains, no shortness of breath.

David immediately set up an appointment for me with a cardiologist, Dr. David Rizik. We visited on January 22 and agreed to do a Nuclear Stress test. He felt that it could be something; but with my excellent health and lack of heart symptoms, it would probably be nothing. On January 27th I went for the test. Once I'd reached 85% of expected heart rate a nuclear dye was injected. At 5 minutes and 33 seconds, they stopped the test. I wasn't even breathing hard or sweating. I had a lot more endurance to go.

I didn't know that for the last minute my heart was in V Tach which is a lethal cardiac arrhythmia. David later told me that if I continued exercising, there's a good chance I would have had a cardiac arrest. I would have expired!

I was scheduled for an angiogram the following Wednesday, February 5th, at Scottsdale Healthcare. While on the table and semi-conscious, I heard Dr. Rizik call upon my wife, Leona, to be sure she could hear me in the room; then, my son David who was on the phone. He continued to advise all who could hear that although he's paid for putting stents in, if I were his father, he would have me do at least a triple bypass, since my blockage was between 70 and 80% throughout. He further said that he had Dr. Riley in the room to look at my heart on the screen and that Dr. Riley had cleared his schedule for the next day, Thursday, to do my procedure. Furthermore, he said I was a thoracic surgeon's dream to work on, since the central part of my heart and my valves were in excellent condition. Evidently, my heart condition was known as a widowmaker and, according to David, I may have had only one year left.

Dr. Riley performed the surgery the next afternoon, February 6th, and did a quadruple bypass. Fortunately, no bleeding, and recovery has been without incident.

I have two important thoughts to leave with you:

1. I had no knowledge that anything was going on inside my chest. I've always had great energy and endurance. But, my son saw something in me that he didn't like and pursued it, because he's not only a doctor who evaluates by protocol, but also, because he listens to his "gut"

2. I, in combination with my wife, Leona, gave David life. And he's now given life back to me, and I'll be eternally grateful for his education, detail and "gut" reaction. I don't feel special about this since I've seen him react similarly throughout his medical career with other patients.

If there's a moral to this story, it's this: If you're in the peak of health, you really don't know what's going on inside. Do what's necessary to be sure you positioned to live your life the longest and fullest you can. Many people might have said, "Heck, I'm not getting any special evaluation test done that's not covered by my insurance." Well, that could wind up hurting you more than spending a few bucks for your life!!