Columbiana woman shares how routine wellness visit saved her life

Published 9:48 am Tuesday, April 26, 2022

By EMILY REED | Special to the Reporter

It was a routine prescription refill that prompted Columbiana’s Donna Morgan to visit her local doctor, which ultimately ended up saving her life.

“I went to my doctor because I have a thyroid issue and my prescription was running out,” Morgan, 67, said. “The only way you can get a refill of the prescription is to go to the doctor. While I was there, they asked me if I wanted to have a routine wellness check because insurance covered it, and it was the EKG that came back abnormal.”

Initially, Morgan thought the results of the exam might have been a glitch in the system.

“I was not worried at this point because I felt fine,” Morgan said. “My doctor was persistent though and recommended I see a cardiologist for a stress test.”

Morgan visited Dr. John McBrayer at HeartSouth, who was also her parents’ cardiologist, so he was familiar with Morgan and her family history.

“After I had a stress test and an echo, they detected a problem, and at that point, they would not let me go home,” Morgan said. “They found that the artery in front of my heart had a 99-percent blockage, so I had open-heart surgery at Shelby Baptist.”

Shelby Baptist Medical Center hopes to use Morgan’s story as a reminder to all individuals to not delay in having routine wellness visits.

Morgan’s doctor, Dr. Rhonda Carter, with the Columbiana Clinic, said Morgan is fortunately a great success story of the Medicare Wellness Exams.

“I have a large Medicare population in my practice and try to ensure that each patient gets a Medicare Wellness evaluation once a year,” Carter said. “Since the Medicare Wellness is really more of a patient questionnaire coupled with a few added parts of the medical exam to screen for any unknown disease, it can easily be added to a regular office visit. I have trained my nurses that if a patient is getting their first Medicare Wellness evaluation and has never had a screening electrocardiogram to go ahead and perform one.”

Dr. Carter said Morgan was an asymptomatic patient, and a lot of patients are delaying the preventative visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carter said the CDC estimated 40 percent of Americans have delayed medical care due to fear of the virus or being forced to delay care due to short-staffing in hospitals and physician offices.

“The annual wellness visit also allows physicians a time to review the patient’s chart and see if they are due for any other screening testing such as colonoscopies or mammograms,” Carter said. “As COVID cases decline, and the medicare patients begin to come back in, I am noticing that more diabetics have uncontrolled diabetes, many have elevated blood pressures, almost all women are a year or two behind in their mammograms and screening colonoscopies which were due last year are just now being ordered.”

Morgan said she is thankful that things worked out for her and she was able to catch the problems in time.

“I was headed on a path of destruction and I had no idea,” Morgan said. “I am ultimately really thankful that I decided to have that wellness visit, because if I had not, I think I would have had some big issues.”

Morgan said the care she received from both her primary care physician as well as the nursing staff and medical team at Shelby Baptist were wonderful.

“Everyone was just fantastic, and I am really grateful to everyone who helped me during this journey,” Morgan said.