Patient Jim Pepper
“I had heart trouble and didn’t know it.”
Jim Pepper considers it fortuitous that he participated in a research study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
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“There’s a good possibility that I would not be here if I had not done the study,” Pepper said. His wife had enjoyed being part of a previous Wake Forest University study evaluating the impact of diet and exercise on osteoarthritis of the knee.
She saw an ad in the newspaper for a research study that looked at the pumping function and the blood vessels of the heart to evaluate the risks of developing congestive heart failure in participants between the ages of 55 and 85 who have high blood pressure and/or diabetes and/or coronary artery disease
“I thought I’d like to do it,” Pepper said. The purpose was to see if congestive heart failure could be predicted in people with certain conditions. Pepper’s blood pressure, cholesterol and weight were being watched closely. “I wasn’t having any symptoms. I had regular checkups. My doctor and I were addressing my risk factors,” Pepper said.
As part of the study, Pepper received a series of free medical tests, including a cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging or MRI of the heart. Subjects received a medication to speed up the heart to a level similar to how the heart would function if they were on a treadmill.
“After the testing, I was wheeled into the screening room, where one of the doctors pointed to the screen that showed what happened when they cranked up my heart. The doctor told me that the results suggested a blockage, or it could have been a false positive,” Pepper said.
“You know, I might have experienced a symptom or two along the way but I always attributed it to something else,” Pepper said. “For example, one hot summer day I felt faint on the golf course. Possibly that could have been the clogged arteries – the problem was already there,” Pepper said.”
Jim Pepper and his wife, Linda
Pepper was referred to a Wake Forest Baptist cardiologist, who recommended a heart catheterization. “They gave me a local anesthesia and saw that my left main artery was 90 percent blocked and my right main coronary artery was 80 percent blocked. They took me to the first available OR and had to do the open heart thing.”
Pepper had a triple bypass followed by 36 sessions in the cardiac rehab program at Wake Forest Baptist before returning to work as a certified financial planner. Pepper made great progress. “My weight dropped 17 pounds and my cholesterol is under control,” Pepper said.
"It’s scary,” Pepper said. “You know they call heart disease the silent killer."