Firefighter George Baker’s family has a history of heart problems. So, when the Farmington Hills Fire Department offered him a free coronary screening in December, he took it. By April, 61-year-old Baker was on the operating table for open-heart surgery.
“I’ve been under the care of a cardiologist for three decades, and they never identified this (issue),” Baker said. “And after one test, I knew everything I need to know. And when I got the numbers, I was scared.”
Baker’s screening showed he had more blockage and buildup than 98% of people his age. Now, he can continue to stay active and hike. But, most important said Baker: He is alive.
The free coronary artery calcium scoring screenings, offered to the Farmington Hills fire and police departments by Dr. Justin Trivax, are the result of a partnership with Beaumont Health.
The screening, which often costs about $100 and is not usually covered by insurance, finds a lot of abnormalities that require follow-ups, even in young and otherwise healthy individuals, Trivax said.
“It’s interesting, we find that the people who you least expect it do have coronary artery calcification,” Trivax said. “We’re finding incidental things as well, such as pulmonary nodules. We’re finding fatty liver disease in a lot of police and fireman. This is just a test that isn’t typical, but it should be.”
The idea to offer free screenings to first responders came from Trivax’s two teenage daughters.
“We started this program with my sister and my dad, who is obviously a cardiologist,” said 16-year-old Tessa Trivax. “And we just wanted to make sure that all the first responders and people who help save lives have the opportunity to get screened and make sure that they don’t have a heart attack while they’re on the job saving everyone in all our lives.”
The Hearts for Heroes initiative began in December with three Saturdays where first responders could schedule their free screenings. The second round began Aug. 14 and will continue through the next two weekends.
Trivax conducts the screenings while Tessa and her younger sister Sienna are working to raise money to expand the program to other cities. They’re even in the process of designing merch.
Farmington Hills Fire Chief John Unruh said about 40% of the department has gotten a screening, and that Baker’s story really inspired others to get checked too, even if they think they’re healthy.
Staff Lt. Dennis Firment from the Fire Department got his screening on Saturday.
“The first time this came around, I didn’t take advantage of it,” Firment said. “You know, I saw George and I knew that he always stayed active at work. And his story came out. So it’s just another thing that I can do to make sure I’m healthy.”
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Firment said he’s employing the “swiss cheese” method of protecting himself — everything he does to stay healthy, from exercising to eating healthy to taking advantage of this screening all add a layer of protection.
“Every time I grab my phone and look down at it, I got a picture of my family. I got my wife, my three boys, I got my dog in there,” Firment said. “That’s who I’m accountable to, so I’ll take this test to make sure that I stay healthy so I can be there for them.”
Contact Emma Stein: firstname.lastname@example.org.