Heart disease was just about the last thing on 60-year-old Frank Tetterton’s mind. A former college football player, the Atlanta-area real estate developer had been active all his life and exercised regularly. Early in 2009, he felt great after walking two rounds of golf. He even had a complete physical exam, which he passed with flying colors.
Just a few days later, he began his regular exercise routine by lifting weights. However, soon after he got on his exercise bike, he began to feel pain in his shoulder. He thought he might have pulled a muscle or aggravated an old shoulder injury.
“I’ve had a few athletic-related surgeries in the past,” says Frank. “I thought I had just overdone it with the weights.”
A few days later though, while walking outside in his horse pasture, he started to feel shoulder pain again. He went back in the house and turned on a football game. While watching the game, he decided to call his good friend, Dr. John Bright Cage, a cardiologist in Nashville.
“He told me to go outside for a light walk and then call him and tell him how I feel,” Frank recalls. “When I took the walk, I noticed some discomfort, but overall I felt okay. I decided not to call him back once I got back inside.”
Dr. Cage wouldn’t let Frank ignore the symptoms though. On Monday he called Frank and urged him to visit Dr. Jeff Marshall, M.D., FSCAI, an interventional cardiologist and the director of the cardiac catheterization laboratories at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Georgia.
At his appointment with Dr. Marshall, Frank took a stress test, sometimes called a treadmill test. After a few minutes, Frank began to feel chest pain. Dr. Marshall also conducted an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to take a picture of the heart. He told Frank they would need to go to the cath lab, that he likely had a condition called stable angina.
Angina, or chest pain, can be a sign that blood flow to your heart is being blocked. Stable angina is a condition where the chest pain is predictable. For example, you may experience chest pain when you are active that stops when you rest.
During the catheterization, Dr. Marshall discovered that one of Frank’s coronary arteries was 99 percent blocked. He opened the blockage with a balloon-tipped catheter and placed a stent, a tiny metal scaffold that helps keep the artery open.
Frank only had to stay in the hospital overnight. He quickly noticed a difference. When he returned home, he felt no chest or shoulder pain.
“I felt better right away,” says Frank. “In fact, that weekend, only three days after I left the hospital, I was able to go hunting.”
A few days later, he was back to riding a bike. Since that time, Frank has continued to improve his diet and resumed his exercise routine. He now takes a blood thinner, which all patients who receive a drug-eluting stent must take for at least one year, and a cholesterol-lowering medication.
“I couldn’t believe the pain I was feeling was a sign of heart disease,” says Frank. “Previously, I had no signs or symptoms of heart disease. I’m glad I was able to uncover this blockage early and be treated.”
“Patients may not know the signs of heart disease,” adds Dr. Marshall. “People with heart disease don’t always have the Hollywood-style symptoms that would indicate a heart problem. But any time you feel unusual pain, especially if it’s limiting your activities, be sure to talk to your doctor.”
While some people suffer sudden, dramatic symptoms of heart disease, others experience mild symptoms that gradually appear and begin to limit their activities and quality of life. It is important to talk with your doctor about any unusual symptoms or pain