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Routine physical leads to heart surgery

Aortic valve replacement patient Wanda Headrick

When Wanda Headrick scheduled a routine physical last fall as part of Via Christi’s HealthierYou employee wellness program, her goal was simply to qualify for a $30 a month medical insurance premium savings.

She did that — and more — when that physical revealed a serious health risk requiring open heart surgery.

“Regular physicals and screenings are so important to your overall health, says Ed Hett, MD, who oversees the HealthierYou program. “They can help catch diseases in the early stages when they are easier to treat and the outcomes are often so much better.

“Additionally, they establish a base line of what’s ‘normal’ for you, which can be invaluable later on in life.” 

In Wanda’s case, she knew she had a congenital heart murmur, but it had never been a problem for her.

“I never had any symptoms that would make me think otherwise,” says Wanda, a registered nurse who works in the Neurocritical Care Unit at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.

During the physical the heart murmur detected by her primary care physician prompted a heart sonogram then a visit with a cardiologist. Wanda learned she had a rare aortic valve defect and an aortic aneurysm, which could cause sudden death.

A heart catheter procedure indicated she needed an aortic valve replacement within the month, and she underwent open heart surgery soon after.

“Things happened so fast and I have recovered so well, that I sometimes now think, ‘Did that really happen to me?’”

“Now, I hope my story can help others realize the importance of having a routine physical and getting base line readings,” says Wanda. “I was lucky enough to catch my condition before it ended in permanent heart damage.”



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