Unusual Valentine’s Day gift credited for saving man’s life

Dean Illingworth talks about heart scan Valentine’s Day gift that helped save his life. (WISH Photo/Felix Rodrigues-Lima)
Dean Illingworth talks about heart scan Valentine’s Day gift that helped save his life. (WISH Photo/Felix Rodrigues-Lima)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Buying flowers or candy for your significant other on Valentine’s Day are the go to gifts, but what about a heart scan?

For Dean Illingworth of Indianapolis, this Valentine’s Day might not have happened were it not for a gift he and his wife gave each other two years ago: a heart scan.

“The heart scan actually saved my life,” Illingworth said. “They have a big ring and a table that goes into it, and as you go into it, the ring takes pictures.”

While her scan showed no major problems, his was a different story.

They told him he was “a candidate for one bypass, maybe more, we’ll find out when we get in there,” he said. “The doctor said I probably would have been dead within six months.”

It turned out he needed triple bypass surgery, and after months of recuperation, he’s back to work doing all he can to live a doctor-recommended heart healthy lifestyle.

“It’s what you eat, it’s how you exercise, those kinds of things help the most to keep your heart healthy,” Dr. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber with Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital said. “And you can do that by watching your fat intake, keeping your weight down, exercising whenever possible.”

Doctors say any time of the year is the right time to get your heart checked out, but notice more couples, especially older ones, are doing this for each other.

“At least once a year, we can go over all of those risk factors and look to see if there’s something that we need to be taking care of,” Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber said.

For Illingworth, who had the procedure done at St.Vincent Heart Center of Indiana, it’s something he’s glad he did, and recommends getting screened to almost anyone he meets.

“It’s a pre-emptive strike so to speak, but with a lot of support from family and friends, I’m here today feeling good,” Illingworth said.

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