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posted: 2/1/2014 8:00 AM

Kane County coroner gets health screenings himself to promote them

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  • Video: Coroner's health screening

  • Kane County Coroner Rob Russell is prepped for a heart CT scan during his heart and vascular screening at Advocate Sherman Hospital's outpatient center in South Elgin. The scan revealed plaque in his arteries.

       Kane County Coroner Rob Russell is prepped for a heart CT scan during his heart and vascular screening at Advocate Sherman Hospital's outpatient center in South Elgin. The scan revealed plaque in his arteries.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Kane County Coroner Rob Russell watches the monitor during a carotid artery ultrasound, part of a heart and vascular screening.

       Kane County Coroner Rob Russell watches the monitor during a carotid artery ultrasound, part of a heart and vascular screening.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • CT Technologist Kat Kearney chats with Kane County Coroner Rob Russell after his heart CT scan Advocate Sherman Hospital's outpatient center in South Elgin. Russell was in the scanner less than 30 seconds.

       CT Technologist Kat Kearney chats with Kane County Coroner Rob Russell after his heart CT scan Advocate Sherman Hospital's outpatient center in South Elgin. Russell was in the scanner less than 30 seconds.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Sherman Health Community Wellness Coordinator Jill League delivers immediate test results to cardiologist Dr. Raminder Singh to discuss with Kane County Coroner Rob Russell. The screening takes about an hour.

       Sherman Health Community Wellness Coordinator Jill League delivers immediate test results to cardiologist Dr. Raminder Singh to discuss with Kane County Coroner Rob Russell. The screening takes about an hour.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • A peripheral vascular screening is done on Kane County Coroner Rob Russell. His blood pressure was checked on all four limbs.

       A peripheral vascular screening is done on Kane County Coroner Rob Russell. His blood pressure was checked on all four limbs.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Dr. Raminder Singh, Advocate Sherman Hospital's medical director of acute myocardial infarction, discusses some test results with Kane County Coroner Rob Russell, who got some test results immediately, others the day after.

       Dr. Raminder Singh, Advocate Sherman Hospital's medical director of acute myocardial infarction, discusses some test results with Kane County Coroner Rob Russell, who got some test results immediately, others the day after.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Rob Russell invested an hour in taking some basic heart and vascular tests.

By the next day, Friday, the 46-year-old Kane County coroner knew he had to make some real lifestyle changes, lest he run into serious -- and potentially fatal -- health issues in the next few years.

Russell underwent elective screening offered by Elgin's Advocate Sherman Hospital to kick off American Heart Month in February.

By sharing his test results -- and personal details about his health -- Russell hopes to inspire others to take charge of their own health.

"I think one of the things that stops people from coming in is, I don't think they want to know, so they get really nervous about what the results might be," Russell said. "I would rather know."

The $170 screening, about half the regular cost, includes an electrocardiogram (EKG), peripheral vascular screening (ABI), carotid artery ultrasound, abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound and a heart CT scan. Screenings for blood pressure, body fat composition and glucose are included, as is a total lipid panel.

All his tests came back OK except his heart scan, Russell said.

"They can see a certain amount of plaque in the arteries inside the heart. They calculate a score, and I'm on the bad end of the score for people my age," he said.

"It's not actual blockage, but if don't take corrective action now, within five years it might be bad, or even too late. It's not life-threatening at this point. It just shows the need for me to make some lifestyle changes. Basically, get up and get moving and lose some weight."

Heart-related conditions are the number one cause of death in the U.S., something Russell witnesses daily on the job. Many of those who die of heart attacks as young as in their 40s don't get annual physicals or screenings, he said.

Sherman Hospital recommends the screening for people ages 40 to 70 with one or more of the following risk factors: diabetes, a history of smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease.

Russell's father was a smoker who died at age 63 of heart issues.

Still, Russell said, he's largely responsible for the state of his own health.

He was in good shape as a football player at Northern Illinois University, he said, but over time he became inactive as he took on the responsibilities of being a husband and a father to four children.

He could now stand to lose 50 pounds, he said, and is taking medication to control type II diabetes, elevated cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as a daily aspirin to prevent blood clotting, he said.

"I have been doing some things right, which is good," he said.

People often are unaware of the hidden risks of heart disease or simply confused about what they should or shouldn't do in terms of their health, said Raminder P. Singh, Sherman's medical director of acute myocardial infarction.

The screening is for people who have no symptoms, because if you have symptoms, you should see your doctor, Singh said.

"The beauty of this is that all this is modifiable or correctable by lifestyle changes," Singh said. "Exercise, diet, quitting smoking."

He said even though the reduced cost of $170 for the screening may be steep for some people, it should be viewed as a long-term investment that could prevent greater health-related expenses down the line. Some health insurance providers might reimburse patients for some, or even all, of the expense, said Tonya Lucchetti-Hudson, Advocate Sherman's director of public affairs and marketing..

People should feel empowered -- not scared -- by whatever results they get, Russell said.

"There is no silver bullet, there are no promises, but it stands to reason that if you take reasonable -- reasonable is the key -- measures to prevent some of this stuff, things can turn out fine," he said. "That's really what it's about, placing yourself in the best position to win."

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