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Bob’s story: Inexpensive test flags heart woes

Monday, February 6, 2017

By: Jeff Ash

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Male walking in field outside


Asked whether her husband was a cooperative heart patient, Mary Vogel just laughs.


“Oh, no,” she says. “He wasn’t.”


That’s why she’s telling his story.


Bob Vogel, who’s in his mid-50s, farms in southern Door County, between Brussels and Sturgeon Bay. It’s hard work. He shrugs off all the little aches and pains that come with the territory.


“He has this ‘Oh, there’s nothing wrong with me’ mentality,” Mary says.


But as 2015 wound to a close, Bob tired easily. He was out of breath. He didn’t want to go walking.


So they visited their family doctor in Green Bay. They thought it would be a routine checkup, with Bob reminded again to do a better job of controlling his diabetes. Instead, the doctor urged Bob to get a coronary calcium scan.


That’s a CT scan of the heart. It detects and measures the amount of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries. That buildup of calcium, or calcifications, are a sign of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.


“If he wouldn’t have asked for that, my husband would be dead right now. His screen was over 500, so we knew right away there was something wrong,” Mary says.


“That’s only a $50 test that anyone can do, and it saved his life.”


A stress test followed, administered by Dr. Ciprian Nedelcu of Aurora BayCare Cardiology.


Bob “flunked that, of course. We knew he would,” Mary says.


Maybe stents will do the job, they thought. Instead, they were told Bob needed triple bypass heart surgery.


“We went from thinking, ‘We can handle this,’ to ‘Oh my God, this is bad,’” Mary says.


Dr. Alexander Roitstein of BayCare Clinic Cardiothoracic Surgery performed the triple bypass in late January 2016, roughly a month after Bob’s coronary calcium scan detected a potential problem. Bob spent six days in the hospital and did cardiac rehabilitation for three months.


After the surgery, Bob was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that increases the risk of stroke and further heart disease. An ablation procedure was performed to restore Bob’s heart rhythm to normal.


Bob also had a cardiac monitor implanted. It’s a small device that notifies clinic staff if Bob’s heart goes into atrial fibrillation or if he stops breathing.


“He has this key fob so if he doesn’t feel right, he can put it up to his monitor,” Mary says. “If he says ‘Oh, I have a flutter’ or ‘Oh, my heart is racing,’ we can track it.”


As it turns out, all of Bob’s heart care is long overdue.


“Apparently he’s had four heart attacks that we didn’t know about,” Mary says. “He’d think, ‘Oh, I must have just pulled a muscle.’ He would just go in the house and lay down for a while when he wasn’t feeling well.”


Even though Bob wasn’t always the easiest patient, the doctors and staff at BayCare Clinic and Aurora BayCare Medical Center smoothed the way.


“I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” Mary says.


“We didn’t have any doctor who didn’t explain everything to us from A-B-C to start to finish. … And the nurses in outpatient – they’re a hoot! Everyone from the valet parkers – (whom) we got to know well – they were wonderful. People treat you like family.”


Dr. Alexander Roitstein sees patients at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. For information, call 866-433-7953.


Dr. Ciprian Nedelcu sees patients in Green Bay and Marinette. For information, call 800-236-6309 or request an appointment online.


This interview was conducted by Jaime Leick, a free-lance writer.

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