Survivor profile: Calcium Score Scan discovers blockage in man’s heart

Heart disease survivor Marty Townsend poses with his wife Robin on their 47-year wedding anniversary. Courtesy of Marty Townsend

If Marty Townsend could give any piece of advice, it would be not to put all your eggs in one basket – so to speak. “If something is wrong, don’t rely on the results of one test,” he said. “I relied on just one test and it could have killed me.”

The first time Townsend experienced chest pain was in October 2011; he was walking into the Pepsi Center in Denver to watch a Colorado Avalanche hockey game. “I suddenly felt a powerful constriction in my chest,” he said. As soon as he got home, Townsend scheduled an appointment with his primary physician, who suggested he undergo a chest stress test. The test showed no abnormalities and healthy heart chambers. Over the next three years, Townsend’s chest pains only intensified, to the point he had to stop mid workout. He was playing racquetball three days a week and alternating cardio and weight exercise.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and part of the therapy is you have to exercise, so I was working out about two hours a day,” Townsend said. “But, I’ve never been a couch potato.” The pain got so bad, he decided to get it checked out again.

Townsend had another stress echo test, which he couldn’t even complete due to chest pain. “The ultrasound indicated no blockages or problems,” he said. “Fortunately, my cardiologist had told me about the Calcium Score Scan.” Townsend had the test done in December 2014.

As soon as his doctor received the results, he called Townsend and told him to stop exercising immediately and take a few Nitroglycerin tablets. He scheduled Townsend for an angiogram and possible angioplasty the following week. Though he has no family history of heart disease and has always been active, the camera used in the angiogram found a 95-percent blockage in one of Townsend’s arteries – the cause of his chest pain. Christian Simpfendorfer, MD, a cardiologist at Penrose-St. Francis, inserted a stent into the affected artery, and Townsend was cleared to get back out on the racquetball court the next month.

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Pikes Peak Newspapers, Editor

Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for six years. She studied journalism at Kansas State University and enjoys biking, skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

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