Simple physical gave Glendale firefighter a new lease on life

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- It was a misdiagnosis that nearly cost a Valley firefighter his life.

Glendale firefighter Dennis Dorrance was struggling to breathe, but he said a routine physical exam at work is what saved him. Dorrance was treated at Biltmore Cardiology, diagnosed with a condition he didn't even know he had. Now, Dorrance hopes his story is a lesson to other firefighters, as well as others who have physically demanding jobs.

Dorrance works long hours at the fire department, putting his body through the hottest of temperatures, carrying hundreds of pounds of gear and climbing numerous flights of stairs.

"Since about late 2015, I was experiencing -- I was short of breath all the time," said Dorrance.

Dorrance said he was first diagnosed with Asthma, but after being treated and using his inhaler, the condition got even worse.

"I was going to go see a doctor about early-onset dementia," said Dorrance. "I couldn't think clearly. My wife would ask me questions, I couldn't get them out. I couldn't say my wife's name. I couldn't say my daughter's name."

A few months later, it was a happy coincidence that Dorrance got his annual routine physical at the Glendale Fire Department's health center.

"It was VO2 Max [maximal oxygen consumption] testing that made all the difference," said Dorrance. "I hope all fire departments go to that."

The staff referred Dorrance to a cardiologist, who diagnosed him with coronary artery disease. After the HeartFlow Analysis, a non-invasive cardiac test by HeartFlow, they scheduled him for cardiac catheterization and angiogram, where they placed a stent in his coronary artery.

After the procedure, Dorrance said it was unbelievable, as he was back to his normal self within a week.

"I could breathe!" said Dorrance. "I couldn't believe it!"

Now, Dorrance has a message for others.

"If they're having difficulty breathing, keep pushing until you find the right diagnosis," said Dorrance.

As for Dorrance, he is now doing push-ups, and says running a few miles is not a problem. He is now in his late 50's, but said but has the energy level of a 30-year-old.

Coronary Artery Disease Information from the Mayo Clinic

Coronary Artery Disease Information from the Cleveland Clinic

Coronary Artery Disease Information from the American Heart Association

HeartFlow resources