Marilyn Pipes

content-first-person-marilyn-pipesCalcium scoring test warned her of heart attack risk

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.”

Go to the calcium scoring page.