I've always worked at staying healthy, and at 62 years old I am super active: I enjoy skiing, bicycling and dancing—I can stay out on the floor when younger guys have to sit. I've had asthma all of my life, however, and my symptoms began getting worse. My wife and I, knowing the reputation of National Jewish Health, flew to Denver for one week of tests and treatment.
Little did I know that I would soon find out how good they are at cardiology.
No Stone Left Unturned
The week was winding down, and I had learned some new things about myself. I had acid reflux, which I never knew, and sleep apnea, but nothing that would cause the symptoms I was experiencing. The National Jewish Health team kept looking. I had no family history of heart problems, but as part of their diagnosis I completed a stress test and an electrocardiogram. Those tests revealed nothing to worry about, but my physicians were determined to leave no stone unturned.
Dr. Donald Rollins looked at an image and saw what could be calcium deposits in one of my coronary arteries. On Thursday afternoon—the day before we were to go home—he ordered a nuclear stress test to investigate further. Because National Jewish Health has amazing in-house imaging capability, the test was done the next morning. It was read by cardiologist Andrew Freeman and showed an extremely subtle finding very seldom seen. As such, Dr. Freeman called for a cardiac catheterization to determine the extent.
When the results came back on Friday, Dr. Freeman gave me the news: 80 percent of my left main coronary artery was blocked. I mumbled something about having it checked out when I got home, and he looked at me and replied, "You need bypass surgery, and you're not going anywhere."
My jaw dropped. I was immediately put on a heart monitor, and on Monday I underwent open-heart surgery that solved the problem.
Seamless Treatment and Cross-Discipline Communication
Back in Utah, I marveled at how quickly everything had taken place at National Jewish Health. I didn't have to schedule and wait for tests, and I didn't get referred to another specialist at another institution. What I did at National Jewish Health would have taken months anywhere else. My pulmonologist and cardiologist communicated with each other and worked as a team. My treatment across two fields of medicine was seamless.
I later found that, untreated, I would have had a 50 percent chance of dropping dead within a year. National Jewish Health's proactive and aggressive testing and their cross-discipline communication saved my life. My wife and I are now huge advocates of this approach to medicine.
I got a lot of get-well cards from friends, and over three-fourths of them said "can't wait to see you on the dance floor." I'm not back there yet, but I'm on my way.
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