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Words for the heart

Vicki Vance was sent a sign – a life-saving message that showed up at her doorstep printed in black and white.

“I just happened to read a story in the paper about a woman who had a heart screen at Sanford Health,” says the 63-year-old. “A problem was found during her heart screen, which potentially saved her life.”

Vicki wasn’t immediately moved to schedule a heart screen. Not until her mother, who also read the same article, encouraged her to get screened. Other than diabetes, Vicki had no glaring reasons to be concerned about her heart health.

“I have no family history of heart disease, and I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms,” she says. “My blood pressure and cholesterol were both just fine. So a heart screen wasn’t something that crossed my mind a lot.”

Still, for some reason, Vicki scheduled a heart screen. And it proved to be one of the smartest decisions she could have made. Because this decision, according to Vicki, unequivocally saved her life.

During the scan at the Sanford Center for Screening in April 2014, her initial results all came back normal. Because Vicki was diabetic, the technician also ordered a cardiac CT scan to check for calcium deposits in the coronary arteries.

“I was shocked at my results,” Vicki remarks. “The technician told me that my calcium score could range from zero to 400 or more. My number was 2,850.3, which is off the charts.”

Vicki’s first reaction was that the test must have been a mistake. But the technician trusted the results and recommended Vicki see a cardiologist as soon as possible.

Holly Boub, clinical manager of prevention and wellness at the screening center, says the screening services are available to all adults between the ages of 25 and 75, regardless if they have symptoms or not. And no referral is needed.

“Even if you don’t suspect anything, you can come in and at the least get a baseline screening to know where you stand,” Holly says. “But we may also be able discover a problem, so you can take appropriate action before it’s too late – just like Vicki.”

After an initial visit with Sanford Health cardiologist Taylor Dowsley, MD, Vicki was delivered more shocking news. Her PET scan and angiogram showed serious blockage in her coronary arteries.

“I had four blockages over 90 percent,” Vicki says. “I couldn’t believe it was possible, considering I had no symptoms at all. How could I be walking around, living my life with this going on inside me and not know it?”

After this discovery, she was kept at Sanford’s facility until she could have surgery. Her cardiovascular surgeon, Roxanne Newman, MD, told her open heart surgery was required as soon as possible.

“Dr. Newman is a very special doctor, and I couldn’t have asked for better care,” Vicki says. “I needed a quadruple bypass, which is a serious surgery, but the recovery was a breeze for me.”

Now Vicki is back to living her life almost exactly the same as before her surgery.

“Sometimes it doesn’t even seem real that I had this done,” she says. “But it was real – all too real. It’s really quite amazing how it all came together.”

Vicki now gladly shares her experience, just like the woman she and her mother read about. Her friends and family are scheduling their own heart scans and Vicki hopes to help as many people as she can.

“What if I, too, could help save someone’s life by telling my story,” she says. “If I hadn’t had that heart scan, I don’t think I would be here right now.”

For more information on heart screens visit sanfordhealth.org, keyword: screening.

Posted Date: March 2015