When Elvira Bell saw the television at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics advertising vascular screenings, it immediately caught her eye.
At 59 years old, she had no major symptoms—just the occasional headache and fatigue. But that was normal, right? Her husband, Clint, had had a few headaches lately, and there was a family history of heart disease.
Vascular screenings are a simple, painless way to check for aneurysms and blockages in the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. When Elvira realized the price for the three screenings was only $50, she made appointments for herself and Clint. They would get screened together.
“I wanted to be a supportive wife and go with him,” she explains. “Our appointments happened to be scheduled on his birthday, and he didn’t feel like going that day. I encouraged him to go.”
Clint checked out great—no blockages, healthy arteries. All was good. Then, it was Elvira’s turn.
“It was such an easy test to take,” shares Elvira. “The registered vascular technologist was calm and professional. Even when she paused and said, ‘I need to make a phone call,’ I felt at ease.”
The technologist was calling vascular surgery to confirm what she thought she saw: Elvira’s right carotid artery had 90 percent blockage, while her left side had 80 percent blockage. Anytime there’s a blockage that severe depriving the brain of oxygen and blood, it could lead to stroke or affect you later in life.
“I felt like a walking time bomb after that,” she shares.
Soon after, Elvira met with Dr. Scott Charette, vascular surgery, to discuss next steps. She immediately had a CT scan to get a clearer picture of the blockages, and scheduled surgery for the following week on her right side, and then again in February on her left side. “Both of my parents had seen Dr. Charette in the past, so I had built trust in him,” she shares. “He’s an awesome doctor. I knew I was in great hands.”
“Even though I had to have surgery, I feel so incredibly lucky,” explains Elvira. “I was headed toward a stroke and didn’t even realize it. I had no warning signs. Since I had the vascular screening that potentially saved my life on my husband’s birthday, he said it was the best birthday gift he’s ever received,” smiles Elvira. “It was $50 well spent.”
While she didn’t have noticeable symptoms before the blockages were removed, Elvira does notice an increase in her overall energy level today. With her family history of heart and vascular disease, including a brother with a massive heart attack, another brother with several stents and an uncle who experienced a heart attack and stroke in his 40s, genetics are not in Elvira’s favor.
Looking forward, she plans to do what she can to prevent future vascular problems, including exercising more regularly—by lifting weights and walking often—and eating better for overall health.
Stroke, peripheral arterial disease and abdominal aortic aneurysm are serious, non-cardiac-related vascular diseases. Early screening can help prevent life-threatening conditions or long-term disabilities. Anyone over 50 should be screened. If you are under 50 with any other risk factors, you should also be screened. Learn more about risk factors and tests performed.
Vascular screenings take place Mondays at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics. To schedule an appointment, call 701.732.7620.