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A Life-Saving Sign



For years Roger Brooks had been trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

Working out regularly, monitoring his blood cholesterol and staying generally active kept this 69-year-old Brandon city councilman feeling strong.

In fact, Roger felt so good that he had no idea that a family history of heart disease had left him with a cardiac system with serious issues. A simple screening test got him the information he needed to save his life.

“I’m here today because of this routine test,” Roger said. “That test allowed us to do what we needed to do before I had a heart attack.”

A family legacy

Roger, who has retired from the military and post-retirement jobs in computer sales and with a fraternal organization, had known that heart disease was in family. His father, two brothers and several uncles have had coronary bypasses.

“My Dad had his bypass surgery when he was 61 years old,” Roger said. “I remember him asking the doctor, ‘If I let you go in and mess with my plumbing, how many more years will I have?’”

So when Roger’s doctor asked him to consider getting a basic heart screening this summer, he put it on his schedule. Although he showed no outward symptoms of problems with his heart, one of the tests had problematic results.

Signs of disease

A coronary calcium scan, a special x-ray test looking for the buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart, showed that he too had issues with his heart health. A score of 400 indicates that a patient may have heart disease. His test results came back at 2,700.

Soon Roger was consulting with a cardiologist who told him that his arteries were clogged enough that even angioplasty, a treatment to try to clear the blood vessels, wouldn’t be likely to work. Within days he was scheduled for bypass surgery with cardiovascular surgeon John VanderWoude Jr.

“By this point in time, I decided I would just take it as it comes,” Roger said, sitting in his living room. “Everything was a surprise so all I could do was to go with it.”

The Brandon City Council member had bypass surgery on Sept. 21 and soon was starting cardiac rehabilitation. Because he was in otherwise good shape, he bounced back quickly from the procedure and missed only two briefings and one council meeting.

His wife, a retired nurse, and his two adult daughters, cared for him in the days following the surgery. They made sure he followed the orders and did what he was supposed to do, he said.

A quick recovery

“My rehabilitation went with virtually no complications,” Roger said. “Other than my heart, I’m a very healthy man.”

Roger is now back to the hobbies he enjoys, working on his computer down in his office, which he calls the “Eagle’s Nest” due to his collection of photos and sculptures of the bird. He works on genealogy and is in the process of scanning pages of a diary kept by his wife’s grandmother.

“I’ve got no restrictions anymore to keep me from doing what I need to be doing,” he says.

Roger says he’s told his doctor how thankful he is for the heart screening tests and the fact that his doctor recommended that he do it.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me how surprised they were that I needed the bypass,” Roger said. “If your doctor doesn’t recommend the screening, ask him about it. It might save your life.”

Posted Date: January 2012

A Life-Saving Sign

Roger Brooks was healthy and active, but he had a family history of heart disease. A simple screening test showed that he was in serious danger of a heart attack without immediate treatment.