KANSAS CITY, Mo. — February is American Heart Month. A Warrensburg, Missouri man is finding a new way to keep his heart and family healthy. He credits doctors at St. Luke’s Hospital for bringing genetic testing to his attention.
Joe Gilbert said genetic testing has been a game changer in their family, allowing them to identify the problem before it even starts and make changes in their family.
In 2011, Gilbert held on to everything important -his family – as his life flashed before his eyes. While in the military, he passed out during a fitness test and needed CPR.
“Turns out his heart just stopped,” said Dr. Andrew Kao, the medical director of the Heart Transplant at St. Luke’s. “Over time his heart functions slowly started deteriorating.”
Gilbert discovered he has serious heart issues and now has a defibrillator in his chest.
“You can deal with faintness, dizziness, lack of breathing,” Gilbert said.
His family has a long history of heart issues. His grandfather died young and his mother died at just 27 years old.
Gilberts doctor, Kao, also knew two of Gilbert’s uncles had heart transplants.
“We knew there had to have been some genetic cause,” Kao said, “You know, lightning doesn’t strike four times.”
“The knowing helps. so that way you can make the life style changes,” Gilbert said.
Since then, everyone on his mother’s side got the test, plus gilbert’s wife and kids.
His cousin tested positive – he was able to get a heat transplant.
Gilbert’s 15-year-old son also tested positive.
“It doesn’t mean they’ll develop heart failure but they’re at higher risk then any of their other family members,” Kao said.
Gilbert encourages others who have heart failure to get tested, too.
“It’s a life changing deal. because once you figure out things you can do to prevent it,” Gilbert said, “With my son, i’m trying to keep him more active, i, myself am trying to walk more.”
Dr. Kao said if doctors catch the condition early enough, medication can help many patients, so history does not repeat itself.
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St. Luke’s is now looking into providing genetic therapy – treatment for people once doctors find the problem.