Gena B. was not too concerned when she began gasping for breath after two minutes of walking on a treadmill in the spring of 2008. She was experiencing a recurrence of her asthma so she went to see her primary care physician at Austin Regional Clinic. Until that point, she was “very healthy” and only saw her doctor for annual check-ups and colds.
“I went in and I said ‘I just need an inhaler so I can work out,’” Gena recalls. But after her doctor examined Gena he told her that her breathing was normal. To Gena’s shock, he then referred her to a board-certified cardiologist for a stress test. In retrospect, Gena thinks her primary care doctor knew that something serious was going on. He joked about the stress test, “If anything happens you will be in the right place.”
Her doctor immediately telephoned the cardiologist to discuss Gena’s case. Gena noticed this was different. “Another doctor would just refer you to another doctor and you’re on your own,” Gena says.
The stress test “went poorly” and, after making an appointment for an angiogram for the following week, Gena went home feeling her worst. “I never recovered from the stress test.“ Gena recalls. “All weekend I was exhausted. By Sunday, I couldn’t even get up from the couch.”
On Monday, Gena called the cardiologist to report her exhaustion and was instructed to go to the heart hospital immediately. Gena’s angiogram showed a 95% blockage and she had a stint implanted in her heart.
“Fifteen minutes with my doctor changed my everything,” Gena says. She believes that a less thorough doctor may have sent her home because her case did not necessarily point to heart disease. She was only 46 years old and had no symptoms other than shortness of breath at the gym. “I owe him so much,” Gena says. “He took me very seriously. If he hadn’t, I probably would have had a heart attack. I don’t know what would have happened.”
Today, Gena feels great. Five times a week she enjoys hour-long visits to the gym where she works out on an elliptical machine and trains with weights. She feels blessed to have regular visits with her Austin Regional Clinic doctor who closely monitors her health.