My story starts a couple of years ago after getting a fitness exam from Westchester Medical. My PSA test came back higher than normal. The doctor at Westchester advised me to see my urologist for follow-up.
As a little background info, I have been working out with weights and doing cardiovascular exercise since I was twelve years old. I have had a physical examination every two years for the last 34 years of my LAFD career. So I went to my urologist to discuss my PSA results. While there, I told him that I did not feel 100% with my manhood. He said that could be because of stress or some kind of blockage.
Fast forward two years later to July, 2014. I was at my appointment with my family doctor talking to him about my recently diagnosed diabetes. (Side note, it turns out that firefighters have a higher percentage of diabetes than the average Joe, because of our life style). I told him that sometimes after I get home from the fire station and walk upstairs, to the second story of my house, carrying my 50 pound bag, “I just didn’t feel right.” No pain, no discomfort, “I just didn’t feel right.” He suggested I see a cardiologist and gave me a list of names. He recommended a doc upstairs from his office, a Dr. Shareghi in Simi Valley.
Dr. Shareghi suggested a couple of tests. My first test was an echocardiogram. That turned out to be fine. Remember, I have had a physical exam every two years and many 12-lead EKG’s, all coming back fine. The next test, and the one that saved my life, was the Nuclear Treadmill. The Nuclear Treadmill is a test where they start an IV and give you a small amount of radioactive material so they can see the activity in the pictures of your heart and arteries. You start on a treadmill with the IV, 12 lead EKG, and the doctor, who speeds up the treadmill to get your heart rate elevated. Then you stop and lie on a table under a machine that takes pictures of your heart as your exercise heart rate decreases to your normal resting heart rate. When she compared the pictures, the doctor saw two pictures that looked the same – one exercise heart rate and the other resting. To her that meant a possible blocked artery.
At first, I did not want the next test, an angiogram. Dr. Shareghi told me that while she was on call the week before, two men came into the hospital with massive heart attacks. One man was in his middle forties, in great shape, and the other man was in his early fifties like me. I made an appointment a few days later for an angiogram at Los Robles Regional Medical Center.
During the angiogram, the doctor inserted a camera through my femoral artery to check my arteries. I was on the table for only about 30 minutes and awake the whole time. Then the doctor said she was done and walked away. I asked a nurse how it went and he said, “Fine, we just put in one stent.”
I said “WHAT?”
He replied, “Yes, your right coronary artery was 99% blocked and the doctor put in one stent.”
Again I said, “WHAT?”
The Moral of the Story is: If you don’t think it could happen to you, remember I didn’t think it could happen to me. Get tested, if not for yourself, then for your family’s sake.
The Nuclear Treadmill is one amazing test that you should have performed if you just don’t feel right. The other test I recently had was the body scan at the Medical Imaging Center of Southern California (MICSC) at (310) 829-9788. These are fine tests that LAFRA has negotiated for members and immediate family. Among other things, the scan will show blockages that you may have.
If you have any questions you can reach me at Fire Station 8-A or on my cell (818) 648-0390; but only for a few more months since my drop runs out April 2015 and then it’s off to retirement. Remember, if your urologist says you could have a blockage, go see a cardiologist, it changed my life.
God Bless, stay safe, and get TESTED.
By Randy Beach, Capt FS 8-A