Avera Medical Minute: Preventative cardiac care

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Taking care of our heart for many of us is a no-brainer, and for one man it was a life-saver.

Scott Feekes has been a truck driver for decades -- a job that requires a physical every two years.

"Back in '93, it was time for my DOT physical, so I went to the doctor," he said. "I wasn't feeling good. I was always tired, exhausted. I explained my symptoms. He said, 'Let's do some checks.'"

So Feekes set up his appointment at North Central Heart -- a division of Avera Heart Hospital -- with Cardiologist Dr. Mike Hibbard.

"Ran a bunch of tests, led to another and another," Feekes said. "Determined I had a Mitral Valve Prolapse, and a double bypass needed to be done. My arteries were 90 percent plugged. That's where my story starts."

"He was pretty sick when he first showed up into our care," Hibbard said.

Care -- which started nearly 30 years ago.

"He was having a heart attack, had a valve that was leaking severely," Hibbard said. "Heart just wasn't pumping blood, and his lungs were filling with fluid."

He underwent open heart surgery and had a mechanical valve put in. Now he maintains a yearly checkup with Dr. Hibbard.

"He puts me on a treadmill and works me hard like a mule," Feekes said. "He takes care of me. We've had a great relationship since '93. I don't have a family doctor, per say. That's how much I trust him."

He said that care is really important to him.

"I lost my father, I was only 14, he was 38," Feekes said. "Died of a massive heart attack. So I know it runs in the family, and it's very important. I don't want to leave my family behind. I've got four kids. I want to take care of myself. Not just for myself or my family, also for my job. Driving truck, I don't want to have a heart attack and run over and kill someone. It's important for me to try and stay healthy."

"We see people from all professional lines of work," Hibbard said. "A lot of people, that don't think about their health, don't realize how many jobs nowadays you wouldn't be able to get if you didn't take care of yourself."

Feekes said a healthy heart is like a healthy truck...

"The biggest thing is air pressure," he said. "Brakes run on air, for many years, windshield wipers run on air. If you lose pressure going down the road, it'll stop you. Just like it sometimes happens to your blood vessels or heart, you'll fall over."

...and adds -- don't take your health for granted. If something is wrong, get checked.

"If your symptoms are being tired or exhausted, I came in and that's when they found my problem," Feekes said. "I had super high cholesterol. If you have clogged arteries and your heart is trying to compensate that, it's just a bad deal. I know a lot of men -- 'I can get over this.' You're working with people who have a great bedside manner. They'll find your problem. I just love these people."

If you have questions about your heart health or want to schedule a screening, visit www.avera.org.