Cardiac Health Remains a Priority, Even During COVID. Have You Scheduled Your Next Screening?
Most of us don’t see a doctor unless injured or something is obviously wrong. According to health experts, this is the worst way to try and stay healthy. Preventive health care, including check-ups and annual screenings is a far more effective way to manage your health. At the same time, we live busy lives, and especially in COVID times, it can be difficult to get yourself in for regular check-ups. Yet, these check-ups can literally save your life. This is even truer if you have a family history of certain conditions, like cardiovascular issues or certain cancers. Annual screenings can greatly increase your chance of survival in the face of serious disease.
Meet Chris Chandler. Affable, well-liked, and married to the Chief Human Resources Officer at INTEGRIS Health, Chris is the type of person who really should get his annual screenings, especially considering he has a family history of heart disease. But often, it’s the people who know they should be getting regular check-ups most who avoid them.
“I get it completely. I think there are a lot of people with bad family health history that truly have a fear of knowing what their health looks like for them,” Chris explains. “It’s a balance of do I really want to know, and can I handle what it might entail.”
Currently recovering from quintuple bypass surgery which removed major blockage, Chris reflects on his experience.
“I watched both of my parents battle serious health issues and they were not folks that appeared unhealthy. My mom has had two heart attacks and two quadruple bypasses and she battled and survived breast cancer. Her health issues started in her forties. I lost my dad to esophageal cancer when he was 64. When my preventive journey started for me, I was reluctant. Plain and simple, I didn’t want to go through what I watched them go through.”
Of course, none of that matters. Despite not exhibiting symptoms, Chris had blockage in five vessels. This would be the case whether or not he got screened. Luckily, his wife Wendy convinced him because of his history he absolutely needed to get screened. Initially, Chris pushed back, citing COVID concerns. How should one balance their need for preventive health care with the inherent risk of visiting the doctor during a pandemic?
“It’s an interesting question and my wife, Wendy, and I had a really candid conversation about it prior to me scheduling my heart scan. It’s understandable to be a little concerned with going to a hospital where sick patients may be. The fact is, more people go to the grocery store and restaurants where the environment is a lot less controlled. I can’t think of more controlled environment, especially in regards to safety protocols and standards, than a hospital.”
Chris is correct. Health care facilities, doctor’s offices and hospitals go above and beyond to protect everyone. Chris’ hospital, INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, makes preventive health care a priority through stringent safety protocols, which allowed Chris to get the heart scan that saved his life.
“When I met with Dr. Sparling, he told me that I needed bypass surgery,” Chris recalls. “It literally took my breath away. I didn’t understand how or why this was happening honestly. I hadn’t noticed any symptoms prior to give me concerns.”Dr. Jeffrey Sparling, an Interventional Cardiologist at INTEGRIS Health, says this is not uncommon.
Turns out, family history is one of the first risk factors a cardiologist assesses in case like Chris’. Getting your annual screenings is imperative, even if you’re not experiencing symptoms, even in COVID times.
“Family history of coronary artery disease in a first degree relative is a major risk factor for heart blockage, so Mrs. Chandler’s insistence that her husband be evaluated was appropriate,” concurs INTEGRIS cardiology specialist Dr. Aleicia Mack, who was part of Chris’ heart care team. “Under most circumstances cardiac care should not be delayed. The fact that Mr. Chandler presented for evaluation despite concerns regarding COVID resulted in a timely diagnosis and better outcomes.”
Chris’ INTEGRIS heart care team was rounded out by Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Craig Elkins who performed the successful quintuple bypass, certainly prolonging Chris’ life. And while having a heart care team as experienced as Chris’ made all the difference, he was blessed elsewhere, too. In the health care industry herself, Wendy understood the importance of encouraging her husband to get the care he needed, even during a pandemic.
“Without a doubt, I can’t imagine going through this experience without my beautiful wife, Wendy,” he says. “She was a total rock star through the whole experience. She was so caring and reassuring that it was all going to be fine.”
So, what changed Chris’ mind about getting serious about his health?
“It took a while, but I realized it wasn’t just about me,” he says. “I had to be the example for my daughters who could inherit the same issues. This is a family journey that we’re all experiencing together.”
For those vacillating on getting the care they need, Chris understands, he was one, too. Yet he reminds us, “You owe it to yourself and the ones that love you to take care of yourself to the best of your ability. Being proactive with your health care can provide you a better quality of life and extend your life potentially.”
For Chris, Wendy and his family, the future is bright. The team of INTEGRIS Health heart care specialists were just happy to have been given the chance to help. So many things could have gone differently if Chris hadn’t listened to his wife and received the care he needed.