This story involving KCTV5's Carolyn Long took an unexpected and scary turn.
Long was making some calls for the KCTV5 investigative unit, but instead of reporting the story, she became the story.
A few weeks ago, the investigative team asked Long to help them out with a heart health story, so the 15-year veteran of the KCTV5 newsroom called a cardiology nurse to set up an interview. But what happened at the end of the call changed the focus of the story and Long's life.
For 15 years, Long has brought viewers daily headlines and reported on countless stories on heart health, so the investigative team asked her to call local cardiologist Dr. Anthony McGalski to follow up on a story about the heart health of student athletes.
What the investigative team didn't know was that for the past three months, Long had been experiencing heart palpitations, a very intense fluttering of the heart. Sometimes the flutter would get more intense than just a bup, bup, bup.
Long described it as feeling kind of like on a cartoon when you see the character's heart is moving very quickly. She said the feeling was usually momentary and then it was over. So, Long mentioned it to the cardiology nurse. "I said, 'Is that something I should pay any attention to?'" Long said. "And she said, 'Uh, yeah! Why don't we make you an appointment?'"
Long said she's telling her story to viewers because she made the same mistake many women make. She's 42, in great shape and has never smoked. She reasoned that the flutters didn't hurt, and she just flat out didn't have time to get to a doctor.
"I have got to fit work in my day. I've got to fit my daughter's school life in the day. I've got to get home. I've got to make dinner. I've got to get homework done. I've got too many things to do," she said. "Where in the world am I going to find time to go to this doctor, who's going to send me to this doctor. Where's the time coming from. I mean, I just don't have time."
But when Long mentioned her heart issue to the cardiology group at St. Luke's Hospital, they insisted that she make time. Her symptoms turned out to be serious enough that they gave her a small portable heart monitor and told her to wear it 24/7 for a month, removing it only to shower.
The monitor is connected with a small sticky pad, and when you get to the doctor's office, you connect one cord here and I have the same thing up here and all of it connects to this big sort of beeper thing, Long explained.
Sure enough, within days of putting on the monitor, the machine started alerting the cardiology lab about a problem. Long noticed something, too. Every time she climbed the stairs, "beep." Took her dog for a walk, "beep." "I was washing dishes once and the monitor would go off ... beep," Long said.
It happened while the KCTV5 crew was following her for the story. She was walking up the stairs when there was a flutter and "beep."
Long's results end up at McGlaski's office, the same cardiologist she originally called for her other story about athletes. Turns out her insurance plan covers the monitoring. And as for her concerns she had about having time to see him, the entire process, from the first initial visit to picking up the monitor, took about an hour.
"So I'm going to finish out 30 days, and then I'll ask the nurses and try to figure out what we have so far and then let you know what it is," Long said. "If we don't find anything dangerous, we can also try low doses of medicine, such as a beta blocker."
McGalski explained everyone's heart has two functions. One is to pump blood and the other is an electrical function. The good news is that Long's heart is pumping just fine. What the doctors don't know yet is what is causing her electrical problems.
"If they're more severe, then we go the next step and have the patient see an electrical specialist or an EP doctor," McGalski said.
Long said it was a valuable lesson to her.
"Here I am, the one on TV telling women not to ignore their heart health," Long said. "It's not the old man disease anymore, and here I am working on a story and I've become the story."
Doctors say women's symptoms vary greatly from men's and can present as indigestion, nausea or severe fatigue. Long said she'll let viewers know what she finds out.