WWJ Health Reporter: This Heart Test Saved My Life

"I was a walking time bomb for a heart attack"

Dr. Deanna Lites
April 23, 2018 - 12:55 pm

A heart test you may need, but likely haven't heard of, could be a lifesaver. 

WWJ's Health Reporter Dr. Deanna Lites doesn't smoke, she exercises, she's at a healthy weight. She doesn't have high blood pressure or diabetes, although she has had high cholesterol.

While reporting on seven heart tests for $70, she decided to get tested herself to demonstrate the story, even though she had no complaints of chest pain or shortness of breath.

One test was a calcium scoring test, which is a CT scan that looks at your coronary arteries. The test took a few minutes, and in a busy day Dr. Lites almost skipped it.

But it saved her life.

"I was very shocked," Dr. Lites said about her reaction when after the initial test, the doctor told she had heart disease. Living a healthy, active life, Dr. Lites has no clue she had a heart problem. 

A follow-up EKG showed she had a normal heart rhythm at rest that became abnormal when she exercised. 

"That freaked me out because the night before I had been playing tennis," Dr. Lites said.

What is this test that saved her life?

"It's a relatively simple test with a tremendous degree of accuracy as to whether there is atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries or not," explains Dr. Shukri David, a cardiologist with St. John Providence. 

After finding out she had a high score, she underwent more heart testing and learned she was a walking time bomb for a heart attack or worse. One of her heart arteries was 99 percent blocked, two others 75 percent.

"About half of all patients with cardiac events felt like you felt," David said. "I feel good; everything's good, and then they say: What happened?"

Dr. Lites required four stents, underwent the surgery with Beaumont Hospital Dr. Simon Dixon, and went right back to work. She feels well and is sharing her experience in the hopes it might encourage others to get the test ... and it could save more lives.

"I'm very grateful and it's just a reminder that if you haven't had your heart worked up in awhile, it might be a good thing to do," Dr. Lites said. "A lot of times people do not have symptoms. I'm not alone in that case. You can go now, it's mother's day, it's father's day, it's a birthday. I've had friends go together and get the heart testing. That way, if you find out you don't have a problem, it's a great feeling. And if you do, you can get help from a doctor to do whatever is necessary."

Many hospitals around metro Detroit offer heart screening tests and CT calcium scoring testing, including Beaumont Health Systems (info here) and Henry Ford Health System (info here).  For information about testing at St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield, St. John Hospital in Detroit and St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, call 1-866-501-3627. ​