A Survivor Survives – And Helps Us Survive to Help Others
By Steven L. Goldberg, MD
The most common theme of my blogs for the Journal of Invasive Cardiology has been that we have an image problem. I have now had an opportunity to do a little something about that, after SCAI took a suggestion of mine and made something happen. One night last winter I sat back in my chair and flipped on the TV. I immediately saw a teaser for an upcoming segment for the finale of that season’s show Survivor, talking about how football commentator and former coach Jimmie Johnson claimed that Survivor saved his life. By chance I happened on the moment when Coach Johnson was going to discuss his interest in the show Survivor, and I was intrigued as to how Mr. Johnson felt that Survivor could have saved his life. So I deferred changing channels to Sportscenter and endured the commercials following the tease. Jimmie Johnson was a former coach of the Miami Hurricanes and the Dallas Cowboys, winning College Football National Championships and Super Bowls, so is one of the most successful football coaches of all times. Apparently, he has been a very big fan of the television show Survivor and submitted himself as a possible competitor on the show a few years back. As part of the screening, it seems they do a treadmill stress test, which in his case apparently was not only positive, but high risk. If I piece together the sequence of events properly, this prompted a cardiology evaluation and eventual cardiac catheterization, which seemed to have revealed a high risk lesion which was stented. A few years later he resubmitted an application for Survivor, and this time passed all of the screening and was accepted. He didn’t last too long on the show – apparently his celebrity worked against him - but according to what he shared on the finale, the time he spent on Survivor was one of the most grueling experiences he ever had. He claimed that this was more physically demanding than the two a-days or three a-day practices he endured when he played football, which sounds quite demanding, especially since he played for the legendary Bear Bryant. Yet, after receiving his coronary stent, he weathered these physical demands without any problems with his heart. This reminded me of patients of mine – such as one who climbed Mount Ranier after having his entire LAD stented, and another man in his seventies who dropped on the tennis court with an anterior myocardial infarction while playing in a tournament, and is now the number one ranked player for his age in the Northwest, having had a successful primary PCI and stenting. As I watched Coach Johnson tell his story, it occurred to me how valuable it would be to have his story told, to share with the world that this is what we do – we help people feel well enough to do what they want to do with their lives – to accomplish their goals, no matter how physically demanding. OK, so maybe Coach Johnson did not win Survivor, but I thought his story was moving – and important for the world to hear. I mentioned this to my colleague, Larry Dean, at that time President of SCAI, and he suggested I contact the folks at SCAI with this thought, eventually resulting in Coach Jimmie Johnson’s Public Service Announcement. A link to the SCAI website regarding Jimmie Johnson’s Public Service Announcement is: http://www.scai.org/Press/detail.aspx?cid=d30eeef8-e731-4329-b4b8-bb50ec7feb0e. There is an additional link to watch the video. It is great that SCAI recognized this opportunity and did something to help correct the public image of interventional cardiology. I am hopeful this is only a start. It is time the public understood the value that the interventional cardiology community brings to patients with heart disease, allowing them to live their lives the way they want.
Steven L. Goldberg, MD is the Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, where he is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine. He also serves as the Chief Clinical Officer for Cardiac Dimensions, Inc., a small biotech company in Kirkland, Washington.