Veteran Atlanta doctor faces his own heart scare

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As an internal medicine physician, Dr. David Anderson spends most of his days on his feet at Grady Memorial Hospital.

"On average, I do about 2 miles a day, here at the hospital, going from floor to floor," Anderson says.

So, in January of 2017, when the now 61-year old Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine experienced chest pain while walking in Midtown with his wife, Anderson figured it had to be the cold weather making his chest ache.

"And when we stopped, the chest discomfort went away," Anderson remembers. "I knew immediately, that this was not the cold weather. This was angina."

Angina is pressure or squeezing in the chest.

It's a classic sign of a heart blockage.

But, Dr. Anderson didn't want to alarm his wife.

So, he said nothing all weekend, and the pain didn't come back.

"I came to work like I usually would on Monday, saw my patients here at Grady, and then alerted my doctor to what was going on," Anderson says. "And, then, the ball started rolling."

Two days later, Anderson was being rolled into a cath lab, undergoing a procedure to look for blockages in the blood vessels of his heart.

Afterward the procedure, he turned to his wife, whom he'd finally let in on his secret.

"I asked her, 'Well, how did it go,'" he says. "She would not give me an answer. She said, 'Wait until the cardiologist comes in to tell you the results of your tests.'"

That's when Dr. Anderson learned he had multiple blockages and would need open heart surgery.

But, he felt, strangely lucky.

"It could have been worse," he says. "I could have been going along my merry way and just had a massive heart attack that could have taken me out."

Dr. Anderson's heart scare, he believes, made him a better physician.

"This was my first major illness," he says. "I was now the patient. It gives you a whole different perspective as to what the patients go through."

In hindsight, Anderson says he probably shouldn't have ignored his chest pain.

"So, my message would be, do not play doctor on yourself," he says. "Alert your personal physician."