A new test discovered an extraordinary buildup of calcium in George Ogle's heart. (February 23, 2010 / WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 6 o'clock, February 23, 2010
EVANS, Ga.---This week, News 12 is encouraging you to be Smart Heart. We're teaming up with University Hospital to bring you the stories of heart attack survivors. You may just hear the warning you need in the nick of time.
For one Evans man, a trip to the golf course ended with finding so big even doctors were stunned.
At 77, Lt. Col. George Ogles has seen the world...but what he and most technology couldn't see inside his heart almost killed him.
George remembers what happened 15 months ago like yesterday. "I was in good shape!" he said. "But suddenly I was going up a hill, the toughest hill on our course, and dragging a little cart, and I noticed I was breathing a little harder than normal."
Although he was in shape, and had a cholesterol and blood pressure measure most would consider ideal, George, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, wasted no time. He saw his cardiologist later that day.
At the appointment, George's doctor suggested using a new machine called a 64 slice CT scanner. It's new technology that had only been in use about a year and a half at that time. It examines all sides of the heart with a snapshot photo that gives doctors something new: a calcium score that tells doctors how much calcium is built up in your arteries.
George says his doctor was stunned. "He said, 'George, you have the highest count we've ever run across.'"
A calcium count of 400 is considered extremely dangerous for anyone.
"He said, 'Your count is 8,000.' 8,000!" George exclaimed. "20 times that of 400! He said, 'You've got a ticking bomb for a heart.'"
Six of George's arteries were blocked. Doctors ordered a five-hour bypass surgery.
For George, the discovery brought other eye-opening answers. "I thought maybe that's why both my parents, all four of my grandparents and my two brothers had died at ages earlier than mine. They also had it but never knew it," he speculated.
After three months of therapy, George was alive and back in the game of life on the course, and at home able to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife last December.
But he still has work to do. "I came out of it very thankful, but first thing I thought was there are a lot of people out there just like me. Especially men over the age of 50 who have calcium buildup and they don't know it. They're a ticking bomb."
Today, George says his heart is full. "There's a lady that a lot of people know from 50 years ago, Minnie Pearl on Grand Ole' Opry. Her favorite thing to say was 'I'm just so glad to be here', and that's me. I'm just so glad to be here, to be able to play."
Doctors say calcium build up is genetic. So George urges you if you have family history of heart disease, especially men over the age of 50, you need to consider having this test.