Marilyn Pipes was accustomed to doing her own job at the ETMC Quitman hospital and not worrying about other departments. But that was before she took a heart test that, she’s convinced, very likely saved her life.
Pipes works as a dietary/cook aide who prepares food trays and delivers them to patients at ETMC Quitman, adding a personal touch whenever possible. “I pray every morning on my way to work, ‘Lord, let me be a blessing to somebody and let somebody be a blessing to me.’ And they usually are, even though they’re sick,” she said.
She likes to accommodate patients who have special needs, like gluten-free cereal, or preferences, like buttermilk with their meals. “It does a lot for the morale of the patient, who could be blue because they’re not at home. If they call down and want a milkshake, we’ll make a milkshake and take it to them.”
One day the ETMC Quitman radiology manager told employees that the hospital’s imaging department had a new cardiac calcium scoring test that was being offered free to suitable candidates. This noninvasive test uses a CT scan to check the arteries of the heart for calcium, which can indicate plaque buildup.
People who have standard cardiac risk factors – cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and family history – are candidates. With several family members who had heart problems, Pipes qualified.
“So I went down and did it, and the next day I asked (the radiology manager) what my score was. He said it was 590-something. I said, ‘What’s it supposed to be?’ And he said, ‘Zero.’ I said, ‘Uh-oh.’ So he said, ‘My advice is, go to a cardiologist.’ ”
Pipes visited a cardiologist and took a stress test, which showed the need for a heart catheterization. During the procedure the surgeon found a blockage that required surgery, and she had a successful heart operation the next morning.
“The doctor told me I was just that close to having a massive heart attack,” she said. “If I hadn’t had that done I would have been just walking around, waiting for a heart attack.”
Today, Pipes is grateful her hospital offered the test so she could find out about her risk and address it. She is a strong advocate for health tests.
“I’m here because of ETMC. I am a firm believer in taking CT scans, MRIs and the whole bit, because believe me, they can catch things that you don’t know. I am thoroughly grateful to this hospital.”