February 1, 2018

When a Heart Scan Saves Your Life

When Carrie’s physician recommended a calcium CT score, she had no idea it would inadvertently save her life.

Carrie has always put her health as a top priority. An energetic, healthy woman, she eats right, loves to work out, always keeps up with her annual check-ups, and has even completed a marathon. Carrie is an all-around healthy mom with a beautiful family, and little to worry about when it comes to her health.

Carrie & Family
Carrie & family

However, when Carrie suddenly lost her sister, an autopsy revealed that a heart condition may have played a role in her untimely death.  So when it was time for her annual physical, she mentioned this recent event to her HMG primary care physician, Dr. Elizabeth Palmer. “I vaguely shared that with Dr. Palmer, who suggested I have a cardiac CT calcium score. So, we scheduled an appointment for the scan.”

Calcium CT Scan
Calcium CT Scan

A cardiac CT calcium scoring test is a quick, painless CT scan of your heart. It takes detailed images of your heart and its blood vessels to calculate your risk of developing Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). The test does not use contrast dye, so there are no needles to worry about, and takes only 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

After Carrie had her calcium CT, HMG called her with the results.

“I remember we were on vacation at the beach. They told me my heart score came back great, which I had expected. But, they discovered something of slight concern in the lung area…”

Something of slight concern? In the lung area? But this test was just for the heart. How can that be?  Little did Carrie know, when the cardiac CT calcium scoring is performed at HMG, not only does a cardiologist read the test and look in depth at the heart, but a radiologist also reviews it for any signs of issues with the surrounding areas captured in the images.

This was a new experience for Carrie. She had always taken such good care of herself. How could this happen?

“After they gave me the news, I just wanted to come home,” she reflected. “The vacation, for me, was over. I couldn’t stop thinking about what this could mean. Would my children grow up without a mother?” But she couldn’t panic. Not yet. She had a husband and two kids to think about. Hopefully it would turn out to be nothing.

After returning from her trip, Carrie had the biopsy and didn’t have to wait at all for the results. “It was announced really fast, they didn’t make me wait.” They came back into the room and said,

“It’s cancer”.

Cancer. Nothing brings out feelings of fear and doom faster than the word “cancer”. After the initial shock, she was referred to the oncologists at Duke, where a team of specialists wasted no time in formulating a treatment plan. She promptly had the right middle and top lobes of her lung removed and began the recovery process.

Carrie after her surgery
Carrie after surgery, heading back to Kingsport to recover

“It just fascinates me that something the size of a pea was discovered, and was removed so I could live.” Since then, Carrie has had several tests, all of which have come back cancer free. She was incredibly fortunate to have caught it early. Most people aren’t so blessed. All because she had a $69 cardiac CT calcium scoring at HMG. A test that was meant for her heart ended up saving her life.

Carrie at Duke
Carrie celebrating at Duke. She had just found out she was cancer free.

“It was a blessing in disguise, more than anything you could imagine, this gift of life,” she said. “The opportunity to raise my children and be a wife.” It was an emotional moment when she was asked what she would say to the radiologist who found the tumor.

“If I were to say thank you to the folks at HMG, I would be speechless,” she said, choked up. “How can you thank somebody for giving you back your life?”

Though she hasn’t met the radiologist who made the discovery, Carrie knows what she would do if given the opportunity. “I would want to have my kids and my husband with me, and let them say thank you as well. Because that one person who took the time, does he know that he saved my life? I would just say thank you for giving me the chance to be a mom…words would be hard to chose. Maybe just say ‘look at my family and what you’ve done for these children.'”

Carrie & her children
Carrie enjoying life with her two kids

Carrie encourages everyone to schedule a cardiac CT calcium scoring for yourself or a loved one, plus the HMG Healthy Heart Gift Card makes the perfect gift. It’s only $49 during the month of February, in honor of American Heart Month. With this heart scan, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your test results will be read by both a cardiologist and a radiologist, which is exclusive only to HMG. When it comes to your health, we believe in being thorough, and extending opportunities. If that extra effort had not been there for Carrie, she may not be standing here today sharing her story with you.

Buy your Healthy Heart Gift Card, online today! Only $49 during the month of February (normally $69).