Marshall's Story: A life saving Father's Day gift

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About a decade ago, Marshall received a Father’s Day gift that would soon change the course of his life. Marshall received a call from his daughter, Kari, who shared with him that her employer, Prevea Health, was offering heart calcium scoring, a simple exam that can detect plaque build-up in the arteries. She purchased the exam for her father as a Father’s Day gift, and strongly encouraged him to schedule the screening.

As a nurse practitioner with Prevea Heart Care,  Kari Gondeck, DNP, APNP, FNP-BC knows the importance of heart calcium scoring as a means to spot the early stages of heart disease while there’s still time to stop it. But, Marshall didn’t follow through to schedule the exam and kept putting it off. Kari stepped in and scheduled the appointment before Labor Day.

Living in Shawano at the time, Marshall and his wife Shirley headed to the heart calcium scoring appointment. During the exam, a special high-speed CT scanner is used to measure calcium in the arteries. It's pain-free and non-invasive. The scan takes approximately 20 to 30 seconds, but from start to finish the appointment takes approximately 15 minutes.

The scan detects the areas and density of the calcium on the arteries and establishes a calcium score. The score may range from zero, which is normal, to several hundred or more. A calcium score is calculated based on the amount of plaque detected in the CT scan.

Afterwards, Marshall and Shirley went out to eat and spent some time shopping. Around 10 p.m., the couple returned home and had messages waiting on their answering machine from Prevea Health.

One week later, Marshall underwent surgery at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, undergoing a heart stent procedure. Dr. Todd Fergus, a board-certified and fellowship-trained interventional cardiologist, performed the procedure putting three stents in an area that had 95% blockage – all as a result of what was found during Marshall’s heart calcium score. During the procedure, a surgeon was on standby in case open heart surgery was needed. Thankfully, Marshall did not need this level of involvement. However, one month later, he had two more stents put in.

A stent is a tiny tube that helps keep the arteries—the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body, including the heart muscle—open.

Marshall’s advice to those considering the heart calcium scoring--“To anyone in a similar position, go in right away and have the test done. If you have any symptoms, get it done.”  Dr. (Peter) Fergus told me, ‘if you wouldn’t have had this done, you would not be enjoying Christmas.’”

Those who benefit most from a heart calcium scoring are, in general, men over 30 and women over 40—or if you have risk factors such as high cholesterol levels, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, tobacco use, overweight or obesity or are physically inactive.
Since then, Marshall has had an additional stent put in and is incredibly grateful for the care he continues to receive with Dr. Fergus.

Today, Marshall maintains an active lifestyle, enjoying hunting and fishing. He and Shirley tend to three large vegetable gardens at home in Butternut, Wis.

“We tend to put things off, even symptoms and we think it’s no big deal or a part of aging. I could have very easily dropped over dead. I gave my daughter permission to use me as an example – for both my stubbornness in delaying the test and her persistence in making me get the test.”, said Marshall. “My daughter saved my life.”

Heart calcium scoring is available at Prevea Health for $100 and is reimbursement eligible with flexible spending accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRA). Because this test emits a low dose of radiation, a referral from your primary care provider is required. You may call your primary care provider’s office to request a referral or, if you are a Prevea patient, you may message your health care provider through the MyPrevea app to request a referral. To learn more or to schedule an appointment call (920) 433-8329 in Green Bay and Oconto Falls or (920) 459-5171 in Sheboygan.