Heart scan prevents heart attack in unsuspecting young realtor

February 14, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Chris Cobb, 48, a realtor from Naperville, never would have thought he was on the verge of a massive heart attack. An athlete for most of his life, Cobb was in great shape. Up to a few years ago, he had played rugby for the Chicago Blaze Rugby Club for over two decades, beginning in college.

When Cobb’s teammate and close friend Mark urged him to get a heart scan, he didn’t think it was necessary. But Mark had recently had a heart scan that uncovered cancer, and insisted he should go. Thankfully, Cobb listened.

In November, Cobb had the heart scan at Edward Hospital. The results of the scan showed a moderate calcium build-up, so Cobb was told to meet with his primary care physician and a cardiologist for further tests. Cobb waited for about six months, not thinking it was urgent.

But during that time, Cobb’s mother had a mild heart attack and needed open heart surgery. He decided not to postpone it any longer and went for an EKG.

The results of the EKG were normal, but because of an extensive family history of heart problems (which affected Cobb’s father, aunt, uncle and both grandfathers), the cardiologist wanted to schedule a stress test.

A week later, Cobb had the stress test — and failed it. That’s when things moved quickly. About 20 minutes later, Cobb had an angiogram. When he woke up from it, he was told he would need open heart surgery the next morning.

Cobb says he and his family were surprised at the news. He had always been healthy and fit, and had no symptoms leading up to this. “In hindsight, my endurance for cardiovascular exercise was not as good as it used to be, but I just thought it was because I was getting older,” he says.

The next morning, Cobb had triple bypass surgery with cardiothoracic surgeon Bryan Foy, M.D., system medical director, cardiac surgery, Edward-Elmhurst Health, also with Cardiac Surgery Associates— the same doctor who performed his mother’s surgery just weeks earlier.

"Dr. Foy was fantastic. You know when you’re meeting with doctors and you feel like they have one foot out the door already? He was not like that. He took his time with me. He wanted to make sure all my questions were answered,” says Cobb.

Cobb stayed in the hospital for four days. "The equipment and the care at Edward Hospital was state-of-the-art. I was really impressed with every one of the nurses and technicians. They were just very friendly and personable. They wanted to make sure that I was comfortable. I got a lot of attention," he says.

After the first week back home, Cobb was already walking about a half mile to a mile a day. Today, he says everything is healing perfectly and he is already back to work and running 2-3 miles, 5 days a week.

“I do feel like my energy is actually better than it was before the surgery,” says Cobb. When he went for his post-op stress test, it went so well that Cobb was told he doesn’t need to return for six months.

“I feel very fortunate because most people usually find out about this through a heart attack. I had 90 percent blockage in my main artery, 90 percent blockage in the widow maker, and 65 percent blockage in two other arteries,” says Cobb. “I could have had a heart attack at any time, and they said I would not have survived it. It would have been a quick end.”

Because of his “new heart plumbing,” Cobb says he was told he has a good healthy heart for the next 50-60 years. And since he never had a heart attack, he had no heart damage.

Cobb credits his good friend Mark for urging him to get the heart scan. “If Mark didn’t encourage me, I wouldn’t have gotten it,” he says.

“I feel like I lucked out. I’ve got a new lease on life.” He even feels he could return to playing rugby, although his wife, who supported him throughout the crisis, rebuffed the idea. Instead, he says he’ll continue with cross training exercises each day.

His advice to others? “Don’t take your health for granted. Get the heart scan done no matter your age or level of fitness. It saves lives,” says Cobb.

Learn more about and schedule a heart scan at Edward or Elmhurst Hospital.

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