Patient Story

A Caring Team That Changes Lives

March 11, 2019

Kevin’s life had slowed down due to his heart issues, but the caring team at Ascension St. John Hospital had the skill to give him a second chance.

Kevin TomkoAs most people do that want to increase their daily activity, Kevin Tomko usually parked far away from the office entrance at the Chrysler automotive plant where he works, to get a long walk in every morning. The daily trek to the turnstile entrance was one that was routine to him, and purposeful toward keeping healthy.

As a Navy and Air Force veteran, he was no stranger to physical activity, but over the last year he noticed that he was beginning to feel tired and out of breath during the slightest activity. He was also starting to experience a slight arm and jaw pain, and he suspected a heart concern. These concerns caused him to slow down dramatically and he was growing frustrated and understandably disappointed in his overall health. He had lost the quality of life he once had.

The adjustments that had been made to his medications over the last few months didn’t improve his symptoms and Kevin kept thinking about the heart attack he had several years ago. Deep down he knew he needed to see a heart doctor that could handle his individual situation, which he feared might end up being a little more complex than most.

Kevin decided to do something to change his quality of life. He scheduled an appointment with Dr. Edouard Daher, an interventional cardiologist and Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit. Dr. Daher reviewed Kevin’s medical history and ordered a stress test. The results made him suspect there might be a severe blockage in one of Kevin’s arteries.

After performing a cardiac catheter procedure, Dr. Daher confirmed his suspicion that Kevin had a 100% obstruction of his right coronary artery, and he appeared to be suffering from Chronic Total Occlusion, which is the total obstruction of a coronary artery for a time-period of at least 3 months. A very serious situation.

“These obstructed arteries have been typically treated with medicine in the past or with bypass surgery” states Dr. Daher. “I discussed with Kevin the pros and cons of proceeding with an angioplasty procedure for his blocked artery. This is done only in very few medical centers in the United States due to the high complexity of the procedure and higher risk of complications” Dr. Daher continued. Kevin agreed to the procedure because of the severe health limitations he was experiencing, and the fact that the medication therapies were not helping.

In March of 2018 Dr. Daher performed this complex angioplasty on Kevin’s blocked coronary artery and was successful in restoring the blood flow. “My life and activity level have completely changed for the better” states Kevin. “I can do the things I want now, that I couldn’t do before the procedure. It’s like night and day” Kevin continued.

“The successful outcome of this complex procedure would not be possible if it wasn’t due to the expertise of Cath Lab staff and nurses at Ascension St. John Hospital working as a team with our physicians” states Dr. Daher. “I cannot stress this enough. We provide the high quality care because of the synergy of our total team and their expertise. We have a complete and total focus on excellent outcomes at Ascension St John Hospital. I believe we have the best heart team around.” states Dr. Daher.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), most people “…. don’t act quickly enough to make it to the hospital on time for help. Of the people who die from heart attacks, about half die within an hour of their first symptoms…. before they reach the hospital.” The NIH also reminds us that “any time you think you might be having heart attack symptoms or a heart attack, don’t ignore it or feel embarrassed to call for help. Call 9–1–1 for emergency medical care, even if you are not sure whether you’re having a heart attack.”

It’s also important to know that heart disease doesn’t always come with symptoms. Many times the symptoms only appear once the heart disease has progressed to something more serious. That’s why getting a heart scan is so very important. Ascension heart doctors in southeast Michigan encourage you to find out about the health of your heart and call today for a heart scan.

During the heart scan screening, a cardiac computed tomography (“CT”) scan of your heart and the surrounding area is performed to look to look for calcium buildup within the walls of your coronary arteries. The presence of any calcium buildup is used to calculate a “calcium score” that, when combined with your other health information, helps doctors to determine the risk of coronary artery disease (“CAD”).

The results of a heart scan are used by a cardiologist in conjunction with information about your overall heart health and any of your personal risk factors to determine the next best steps. Personal risk factors include but are not limited to high blood pressure; high blood cholesterol levels; a family history of premature heart disease; diabetes; tobacco use; being overweight, obese or physically inactive.

Those who may benefit from the heart scan include:

  • Men over the age of 40 and women over the age 50.
  • Those with a family history of heart attack at an early age.
  • If you have been told by a doctor that you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or diabetes.
  • Those who are current or past smokers.

Those who should not have the Heart Scan:

  • If you are pregnant you should not have this test. During the CT scan, patients are exposed to a small amount of radiation.
  • Those who have previously had a heart attack, coronary bypass surgery or a coronary stent should not have this test because it won’t provide any additional information.
  • Men under age 40 and women under age 50 should not have this test because detectable calcium is not likely.

If you have questions about having a heart scan, you should discuss this with your cardiologist. To schedule a heart scan at Ascension St. John Hospital call 866-501-3627 press 3.