How a routine heart checkup kept history from repeating itself.

Ken Carlsoon

When Ken Carlson turned 55 he realized he was the same age his father was when he suffered his first heart attack. Five years later, after having a second heart attack, his father passed away. As a result, Ken decided to take action.

Because of his family history, Ken knew it was especially important for him to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make regular visits to his doctor.  Ken admits it was only about 10 years ago that he finally got serious about his health. "I started monitoring cholesterol levels and doing regular exercises," he says. "I try to eat the right things and take care of myself."

During a routine check-up, Ken asked his family physician about the new advancements in cardiac screening tests and preventive care.  His physician referred him to Palmetto Health Heart Hospital cardiologist Dr. David Isbell. Ken decided to take his advice and made an appointment.

One of the tests Dr. Isbell performed was a cardiac CT. A cardiac CT is a painless test used to look for problems in the heart. The test involves using an X-ray machine to take detailed images of the heart. A computer will then use the pictures that were collected to generate a 3D image of the heart.

Ken only had to wait about 30 minutes before he could hear the results of his test. However, the news wasn't what he wanted to hear. The cardiac CT showed 70, 80 and 90 percent blockages in Ken's left anterior descending coronary artery. This type of blockage is commonly referred to as the "widow maker." This ominous name refers to the severity and location of the blockage. If the blockage is not corrected, death is almost certain.

To restore normal blood flow and prevent a heart attack, Ken needed a heart catheterization and two stents. Dr. Verne Prosser, Palmetto Health Heart Hospital cardiologist, performed Ken's surgery without complication. "It wasn't until after the surgery that I realized the severity of my condition," says Ken. "I thought I was in great health beforehand. I never had any indications of any problems whatsoever."

With the proper care, early detection can drastically reduce the risk of a major heart-related event. For Ken, being in the right place at the right time saved his life. He says, "My experience with the Heart Hospital was nothing but great. From Dr. Isbell and Dr. Prosser, who did the actual Catheterization, to the nurses and follow-up afterwards, to the rehab center and other aspects, the care I received was truly exceptional."

Ken says he hopes other people realize the importance of being your own advocate for your health. Taking preventive measures such as having an MRI and cardiac CT testing could ultimately help prevent heart attacks in the making. "This experience was an awakening. Make sure you take care of yourself at all times," he says. "Take the best of technology that might be available and make sure you stay heart healthy."


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