The gift of a HeartSmart

Parkview started offering the EBT test to the public in 2004. The scan is used to identify cardiac issues before they escalate to something severe, like a heart attack. In 2010, it was renamed the HeartSmart scan.  The title was catchier, but the technology and the goal remained the same: To measure plague buildup in the arterial walls and create a care a plan. Since 2010, Parkview has administered 22,373 scans in Allen County alone. Mark O’Shaughnessy, MD, PPG – Cardiology, tells us more about the benefits.

The scan saves lives. 
In 2013, when he was 58, Jim Braun’s mother passed away unexpectedly. At the urging of his wife, a Parkview employee, Jim scheduled a HeartSmart scan as a precaution just one week later.

“I have never had health issues, so it was humbling when my wife suggested I get my heart checked. But I agreed and thought, ‘Ah, let’s just get this out of the way.’ I knew I was healthy,” Jim said. 

Jim, an avid runner since age 50, completed numerous marathons and half marathons. A typical week meant completing 50-70 miles, often alongside young, highly competitive athletes. “I wanted to stay young, and to do so, I thought I had to run faster than everyone else.”

On Saturday, Jim completed a half marathon in Chicago. The following Tuesday, his HeartSmart results arrived. “It was all moderate. And then, on the very last page, last paragraph, there was a note from the radiologist. My aortic root was enlarged, at 5.1 cm (a normal measurement is 2.7 cm). My wife looked at it, went down the hall and started making calls. I was in for testing the next day.” 

Jim was the exception for aortic enlargement. He was completely asymptomatic; No issues, no difficulty breathing, not overweight, not diabetic, never smoked. The scan found something he never knew he had. The scan also revealed Jim had a bicuspid valve instead of a tricuspid valve, which was adding to the enlargement of the root. His bicuspid was only 50 percent functional. The other 50 percent was calcified. The condition could have been there for five days, five months or five years. But the risk was undeniable. “The surgeon told me, if it ruptured, he had 30 seconds to save me. That woke me up.”

The $50 test proved life-changing for Jim. “I thought there was nothing I couldn’t conquer. I love to challenge myself physically. And now, here I was, forced to slow down and limit myself. It really just forced me to change my perspective on life. I have one heart, and I have to take care of it. I’m so grateful to be here. Life is so precious.”

The lesson in Jim’s experience is ultimately one of the danger in making assumptions about your health. “This stuff only happened on the news. It happened to other people, not me.  No one would have predicted I would have a heart issue. I think about the days I would run 20 miles from home, and what could have happened … But I just had no idea. If I wouldn’t have taken that HeartSmart scan, if I wouldn’t have seen it in black and white, who knows where I’d be. It was an awakening. I tell family and friends all the time to go get the scan. If you feel sluggish, if you have a family history, if you have any risk factor at all, it’s beneficial.”

These days, Jim’s running habit has changed just a bit. The man who once ran as many as 15 half marathons a year, is content staying a little closer to home. “I still run and challenge myself, but I don’t feel like I have to prove myself against other people. I know where I’m at and I know when I can run long and when I have to run short. A good 8-mile run changes my whole day. I feel good again. But the competitive fire has faded away. Being on blood thinners, I have to be careful, for my family. And that’s OK.” Especially since Jim and his wife welcomed a sweet little grandson earlier this week.

 

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