Kevin W. of Alexandria, Virginia has always been a man with a mission. Following 30 years of service in the United States Navy and the Pentagon, the 63-year-old retired Navy Captain now works as a consultant for numerous business and non-profit enterprises and volunteers time to many military organizations.
In the summer of 2021 he was on a more personal mission: to take his wife and 13-year-old daughter, Grace, to Hawaii, where they would visit Pearl Harbor and hike the volcanic cone known as Diamond Head.
Shortly before the trip, Kevin began experiencing shortness of breath, which he attributed to his age and the lingering effects of a recent bout with covid-19. Despite his lifelong dedication to keeping himself fit with exercise and a good diet, the nonsmoker had a worrisome family history: his father had died of a heart attack at the age of 50, when Kevin was only 18. Kevin was also 50 when his daughter, Grace, was born. “Grace told me she wants me around until I’m 100,” says Kevin, “so I decided to get my symptoms checked out.”
Kevin scheduled a visit with Dr. Raymond Vlacancich, a cardiologist at Virginia Heart. A coronary angiogram, which uses X-ray imaging, showed multiple severe life-threatening blockages in three vessels -- a diagnosis confirmed with a cardiac catheterization at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
“Dr. V advised me to postpone my trip to Hawaii, which I was reluctant to do because I wanted to show my family the beauty of the region where I had been stationed during my time in the Navy,” explains Kevin. “But Dr. V convinced me I would be making a huge mistake. I remember he said to me, ‘Kevin, Hawaii will be around for a long time and we want to be sure you will be around for a long time, as well.’”
“This was definitely a difficult conversation,” confirms Dr. Vlacancich, who successfully persuaded Kevin to have emergency coronary artery bypass surgery to restore blood flow and oxygen to his heart. “However, from a clinical perspective, we consider this to be a best case scenario. We were able to quickly detect and correct a patient’s severe heart disease and avoid what could have been a tragedy.”
Kevin and his family rescheduled their trip to Hawaii for the summer of 2022 and he was able to climb Diamond Head with a healthy heart. His new mission is to help educate the public about heart disease, which remains the number one cause of death for both men and women.
“Especially for those with a family history, even if you have no symptoms, you need to focus on prevention and be sure you see a doctor on a regular basis,” says Kevin.
“We have many tools available to diagnose heart disease in the early stages,” adds Dr. Vlacancich, "and most of our patients can expect excellent outcomes when we are able to intervene in a timely way.”