women discussing heart scan

My Heart Scan: The Real Life Impact

I lost a friend two weeks before Christmas to a heart attack.

He had just been to the doctor and given the “all’s well” diagnosis we all hope to get at our annual check-up. My friend was tall, lean, looked to be in perfect health. Yet on December 15, 2016, he drove into DC for a meeting and, while sitting around the conference table with his colleagues, had a heart attack. EMT was called and he was transported to the hospital.

In next few hours we received a text that my friend James had had a heart attack. Not long after, another text–he had passed away. I was stunned! I could not believe it. I had just seen James a few weeks earlier at our granddaughter’s birthday party and he and his wife were talking about the new house they had just purchased and how great it was going to be.

To this day it does not feel real.

What are you going to change?

When tragedy hits, it is easy to tell yourself all the things you are going to change about your life. “I am going to spend more time with my husband.” “I am going to let the petty things go; it’s not important.” Or, “I am going to eat healthy and exercise and be here to watch my grandchildren get married and have families of their own.” Priorities!

Then life happens. Work is crazy busy. Family responsibilities creep in. Other people in my life need me and my needs get pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

But then I remember – I want to be at the weddings of my grandkids. I want to hold their children. I want a long, healthy life with the man I love more than anyone in the world. This life is a gift. I don’t want to waste it. So what steps can I take to ensure a long, healthy life?

Prevention is the key! I can’t control everything about my health. But I can control the steps I take to be proactive and prevent unnecessary illness. So besides my eating and exercise, what else can I do? I realized this is where an elective imaging scan can be an amazing resource in my journey. And Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg, right in my backyard, offers several preventative Health Scans. (Not to mention, they are extremely affordable! Here is my experience with my heart scan and why you should not hesitate to get your heart scan done ASAP.

What it was like to get a Heart Scan

Scheduling was too easy to be true (but it was!). No phone call, unless you like that kind of thing. I went to the MIF web site and clicked on Chat. Within minutes of chatting with Sherri I had my Heart Scan scheduled. There was a confirmation call a couple of days before my scan with minimal paperwork and instruction. “Don’t have any caffeinated drinks the morning of your scan and wear a shirt that buttons”. That’s it – those were all the instructions I needed.

women preparing for a heart scan

I arrived 20 minutes early and was greeted by Jackie. She handed me a tablet so I could sign in and pay, and then waited to be called into the room. 10 minutes later Linda came to walk me back to the room. “I love your top,” she said.

She sat me down in the hallway just outside the CT room. About five minutes later I was talking to Shelly, the technologist that would be doing my scan. She asked a few questions and explained how the scan worked. “It takes about 5-8 minutes and the machine will talk to you. It will tell you to hold your breath. All you have to do is follow the instructions the machine gives you.” She had me lie back on a table that would go into the CT Scanner (which looks like a donut – important to me because I am claustrophobic), she placed a pillow under my knees, raised my arms above my head and place three electrodes on me – two on my upper chest and one on my left side.

The scan was quick. The table I was lying on moved in and out of the “donut,” stopping at times. The machine told me to “hold my breath” three times, and I could see the timer count down so I knew when it was almost time to breathe.

Shelly walked me back out to the hallway where I waited for the Radiologist to talk to me about my scan. It took about 15 minutes for him to read over the scan and then call me into a private office. He explained to me how Calcium Scoring works and told me that my score is 0. Perfect! Exactly what I was hoping to hear. He said that score is good for five years and means that my likelihood of having a heart attack within those five years is low – but of course not impossible. In five years I will do this again, no question.

But then…a surprise.

But here was my surprise – when they do a Heart Scan they also look at other organs that are in that picture, including the lungs. The Radiologist wanted to show me that he found 4 nodules in my lungs. They are all small and he was not concerned because I have no risk factors for cancer, such as smoking. He suggested I talk to my doctor and that she may want to have me check the nodules again in six months or a year.

I went home feeling both relieved about my calcium score and also a little concerned about my lung nodules. I remembered, after I left his office (you never remember when talking to the doctor!) that I had lived in the San Joaquin Valley (in California) for 10 years before moving to Virginia. Valley Fever is a very real thing in the San Joaquin Valley! I called and left a message for the Radiologist letting him know. The next day he called and left me a message leaving his direct phone number. What doctor does that!? I called him back and discussed the possibility of Valley Fever with him. He gave me his opinion and he said to call him anytime.

It is inconclusive at this time whether or not it is Valley Fever, and I will follow up with my doctor. But I am amazed that I went to get a Heart Scan and found out something about my lungs.

I was very impressed with the level of service and care I received at Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg. It is empowering to know that I have choices about my health care. I can schedule a Heart Scan myself, of my own free will, and know the results. MIF is not just an outside source for imaging tests, but has become part of my personal health care team.

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