A Matter Of The Heart

By Hannah Robertson

One day in March 2021, Rickey Harvey was attending a Heart Health Check his wife, Susie, had signed him up for. He had no symptoms but was prompted to attend the Heart Health Check given his family health history. He has relatives who have Factor V Leiden, a genetic blood-clotting disorder due to a mutation of the blood’s factor V protein, and one of his siblings recently suffered a heart attack. A short three months later Rickey was on the operating table.

Rickey’s story goes to prove the significance of preventative healthcare. The Heart Health Check program at Boone Hospital Center is designed to catch potential cardiovascular issues before they become a problem. The program includes a laboratory analysis to evaluate cholesterol and risk for developing diabetes, a cardiac calcium score screening using compute tomography to check for calcium deposits in the walls of your heart’s arteries, and an Advanced Body Composition Assessment which measures fat versus lean mass with a quick, low dose x-ray exam. Rickey received a call from Boone just a few short hours after the Heart Health Check.

He tested negative for Factor V Leiden, which was a relief, but it was then he learned that he had a high calcium score. The score of this test reflects the total area and density of calcium deposits. The higher the score, the higher your risk of heart disease. His results indicated he needed further care and testing and he was referred to Cardiologist Trung H. Tran, MD with Missouri Heart Center. Rickey participated in a cardiac stress test which entailed walking on a treadmill that makes your heart work progressively harder while an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors your heart. They also performed a cardiac catheterization where they found blockages in multiple arteries. It was then they realized the severity of Rickey’s condition despite appearing outwardly as perfectly healthy. It was a scary time for both Rickey and Susie, as this was the first big health issue they faced together. The damage was extensive, to the point he was not a candidate for stents. Instead, Rickey would need triple bypass surgery—and soon.

Within a couple of weeks of his second round of testing, it was time for his surgery. He had his triple bypass on June 28, 2021. Recovery took several weeks, and Rickey found it very difficult to stay still, not work, etc. During his recovery time, he suffered a mild stroke after pushing himself a little too far. Because of this, Rickey was in two forms of therapy beginning in September; Outpatient Therapy with Boone’s Therapy program to help him regain strength after his stroke, as well as the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program to help strengthen his heart. These days alternated, with Rickey spending part of each weekday in a form of therapy. He enjoyed his time there though, appreciating how the staff pushed him to the point of satisfying exhaustion and taught him how he could improve his health.

Rickey attended these classes for roughly two months and was coming along nicely until he had to stop because of an infection. He began wearing a wound VAC to assist in healing, but at the time of this story, he is in the hospital and we are wishing him a speedy recovery. Rickey has been transferred throughout the hospital floors, through various departments and physicians, and says he has received “excellent care everywhere he goes.” He also said that in addition to the nursing staff treating him well, the food service staff has been great to him.

Susie describes the experience from the Heart Health Check as “life-saving” and appreciates that the surgery was performed proactively rather than after a terrible event. Despite a bump in his journey, Rickey has been an excellent example of the value of the Heart Health Check and preventative healthcare in general.