Screening Surprise: Catching Larry’s Heart Condition With a Simple Score

Larry Schepers working in his garden

For Larry and Judy Schepers, cultivating an annual garden of flowers and vegetables in the backyard of their Jefferson City home is a tradition.

The retirees make time to visit their kids and grandkids in Jefferson City and Atlanta, Georgia, and Larry still enjoys playing a round of golf a few times a week. But around the house, that garden is their pride and joy.

"I mow the grass and till up the plots each year," Schepers said. "Judy does all the stuff that looks good in the yard. We have tomatoes and other vegetables every year that she cooks with."

In the spring of 2023, Larry noticed the work of turning the soil with a spading fork left him feeling more and more drained. It wasn’t as easy to enjoy an 18-hole outing either. And although he knew he wasn’t getting any younger, Larry didn’t think his exhaustion had much to do with his age.

Kevin Lease, MD
Kevin Lease, MD

During an annual checkup Schepers mentioned this feeling to his doctor, Kevin Lease, MD. Lease promised Larry that the doctors at MU Health Care would help him find out what was going on. One of the tests he helped the Schepers schedule was a Love Your Heart Cardiac Screening.

"The screening was very easy, very simple," Schepers said. "It took less than an hour and cost $120 without insurance. And it gives you and your doctor a lot of useful information."

This evaluation takes less than an hour, and by using a blood draw, a blood pressure check and a low-radiation CT scan called a coronary artery calcium scan, helps the cardiovascular experts at MU Health Care classify your risk of developing heart conditions like heart disease, and of suffering a heart attack.

Brian Bostick, MD
Brian Bostick, MD

Brian Bostick, MD, the director of MU Health Care's Heart and Vascular Clinic, is one of the doctors who reviews test results, particularly the calcium scan, to tailor heart care to the individual needs of each patient.

Elevated calcium near the heart is strong evidence of plaque buildup which can directly cause heart attacks. A coronary calcium scan is the best way to noninvasively assess the condition of the arteries.

"The Love Your Heart Cardiac Screening really helps to define your risk better," Bostick said. "The risk calculators we use currently have a wider margin of error and the coronary calcium scan can reclassify your risk significantly. Particularly when a screen is negative for any signs of disease, it really lowers the risk of heart disease substantially."

Even though his other test results — cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood glucose — showed he was at low risk, the coronary calcium score said otherwise. His cardiac calcium score was 1900.

"Dr. Lease told me, ‘That's the highest number I've ever seen,'" Schepers said. "That got my attention right away."

Although Larry had come to his doctors without any obvious symptoms of heart conditions, he had a family history of them in his father and son. The coronary calcium score from his Love Your Heart screening warranted a referral to interventional cardiologist Arun Kumar, MD.

Arun Kumar, MD
Arun Kumar, MD

Kumar performed a heart catheterization procedure, which found a 90% blockage in Schepers' right coronary artery. Kumar placed a stent to open the blockage and greatly lower the chance Schepers would have a heart attack in the future.

"Larry's screening results really showed us that he was exactly who the Love Your Heart Cardiac Screening was designed for," Bostick said. "Larry was someone who, like most of us, doesn't have symptoms until an event happens. This scan caught a likely event before it happened."

Schepers' first appointment with Lease was in May, and in June his blockage was cleared. As a participant in MU Health Care's cardiac rehab, which includes physical exercise and diet and nutrition classes, he was happy to learn a lot of the things he and Judy had already been preparing in the kitchen were heart healthy.

"My wife is a great cook, and we eat a lot of fish and chicken, not so much red meat," Schepers said. "A lot of what we use, tomatoes and various vegetables, come from our garden."

Like the annual renewal that comes with each spring, and enhanced by refreshing the soil, Larry's energy has been renewed now that his heart blockage has been cleared.

"Had I not taken that test, I wouldn't have the peace of mind that I have today," Schepers said.

MU Health Care's heart experts recommend a Love Your Heart Cardiac Screening for people who have:

  • A family history of heart disease
  • A history of smoking
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
Schedule a