I heard a radio commercial for a new noninvasive heart test called Coronary Artery Screening. During the commercial, Mike Coli told how this new test saved his life. He had no symptoms of heart disease, and yet the test indicated that he did have substantial blockage. I had heard enough: I made an appointment to take the test. My results were excellent: I had no heart disease. After writing an article for my newspaper about my experience, I wanted to interview someone whose life was saved by the test.

With Mike and his wife, Maureen, we discussed Coronary Artery Screening. The interview that you are about to read took place with a man that could have died of a massive heart attack. He had no symptom of his heart condition. Without Coronary Artery Screening, this interview would never have taken place.

Al: First of all, what nationality is Coli? Where did your people come from?

Mike: I'm Italian. The history of the name is interesting. In the 17th century, Count Cola from Germany invaded a northern portion of Italy and ruled it as a feudal lord. He married an Italian woman and his descendants carried his name until some time in the 18th century when it became Coli.

Al: As one of the Count's recent descendants, where were you born and raised?

Mike: I was born and raised in the Chicago area. I went to grammar school at St. John Vianny. I attended high school at the Judson School in Scottsdale, AZ. Later, I graduated from Elmhurst College with a major in Business Accounting.

mike1.jpg Al: What do you do for a living now?
Mike: I'm a president of a local Teamsters Union.

Al: How did you get started in the Teamsters?
Mike: I was a parking lot attendant. And I have been a Teamster member since 1968 or 1969. During that time, I was a union steward and a trustee. Then I filled an unexpired term of a president who died while in office. I've run for election as president three times. This coming election will be my fourth.

Al: Tell me about your family.
Mike: I'm married to my wife, Maureen. We met through a friend and have been married twenty-five years next January. We have three boys - 20, 18, and 14.

Al: What's it like being married to a union president?

Maureen: It's interesting because Mike makes life interesting.

Al: From what I have heard about your husband and his Coronary Artery Screening results, life has been interesting. After getting my results back, I was very relieved to find that even with my family history, I had no measurable heart disease. In addition to being relieved, I was impressed by the test itself as a way to screen for early detection of coronary disease. I write a newspaper column and thought that my readers could benefit from this test. I sent a copy of the article to Richard Saunders at Heart Check America. We talked over the phone several times since then, and he set up this interview. How did you hear about this test?

Mike: I first heard a commercial for Heart Check America in which Dr. Kondos of the University of Illinois Medical Center ran through a list of the risk factors for coronary disease. Factors like weight, high cholesterol, family history, cigarette use, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stress. Out of the seven, I had six. After that, I decided that I should look into the test. I went in and took the test, and a week later I had the results. I found out that my coronary arteries were really clogged up. I was in the top few percentile of people with potentially serious heart disease.

I made an appointment at Mayo Clinic and several days later I was admitted. At that time, they were not familiar with using a CAT scan in diagnosis of heart disease.

They gave me all of the traditional heart tests including an angiogram. The angiogram determined that I was ninety-percent blocked in six locations in my arteries. The worst blockage was at the top of the heart. My cardiologist said that it could have closed within a couple of months, that I would have had a massive coronary, and that I would have certainly died. Who knows why we do things, but the Coronary Artery Screen literally saved my life. I had no symptoms and had six blockages that required triple bypass surgery.

mike2.jpg Al: That is scary. Half a million Americans die each year from heart attacks. One third of them never had any symptoms either.
Mike: That's true, but I thought I was pretty healthy. Seven or eight years before I had the test, I changed my lifestyle because I'm a diabetic. I started running every day, I became a vegetarian, I had already stopped smoking a dozen years before, and my weight was good.

Al: Why did you take the test if you had been taking care of yourself?
Mike: The diabetes. I've been an insulin-dependent diabetic for fifteen years. I had gone for about eight years controlling my diabetes fairly well, but my doctors were telling me that I needed to do better. It was then that I started a stress-management program along with the exercise and diet.

Al: Do you recall what your cholesterol numbers were before you started your new regimen?

Mike: My cholesterol was about 280! After I became a vegetarian, started to exercise, and lost weight, my cholesterol dropped to 160. I was able to do this with just diet and exercise.

Al: Do you take an aspirin everyday?

Mike: I take an aspirin everyday along with Zocor. Also, I take a pretty heavy-duty vitamin supplement.

mike3.jpg Al: Maureen, has Mike's situation changed your eating habits?
Maureen: Partially. I took the heart test after what happened with Mike. My results came back negative. But I feel that everyone can benefit from a healthy diet that is low in fat. Before Mike and I changed our eating habits, my cholesterol was around 200 and has gone down to about 180. We both had to do something about our cholesterol, and we did.

Mike: Here's a story that is hard to believe. It's about someone who didn't take the initiative. A year before I had my test and surgery, our next door neighbor had a mild heart attack and went on medication, changed his diet, and started walking a lot. But he was really scared about his condition. When I had bypass surgery, it really shook him up. After all, I looked healthy and ran every day. Three weeks after my surgery, he came over for a drink and to talk. I was feeling and looking pretty good. But he was really upset about my needing surgery. That was in December that I had my bypass surgery. In April, we went over to his house. I asked him how things were going with his heart. His wife said, "Don't even ask him. He won't go to the doctor."

So, I asked him how long it had been since he had seen his cardiologist. He said that it had been about nine months. He went on to say that he was afraid that they would want to do surgery on him.

I said, "You are not of afraid of dying, but you are afraid of them cutting on you so that they can fix you? That doesn't make any sense."

That was on Sunday. Monday he finally made an appointment and died of a heart attack that Wednesday.

Al: People often fear finding out something that is potentially life threatening. Because of that or because of the fear of getting it fixed, they don't act. Richard Saunders tells a story about another person who was touting the heart scan to a friend. The friend responded, "What difference will this scan really make? You are going to die of something." The other replied, "Yes, I will die of something, but it won't be from ignorance."

Mike: That's certainly true.

Al: My getting a clean bill of health, as far as my heart is concerned, has given me a new lease on life. How has having triple bypass affected you emotionally?

Mike: It has made me re-evaluate a lot of things. We think in terms of living to seventy or eighty. However, with diabetes, one modifies that outlook a little. If someone told you that you have five or ten years yet to live, would you keep doing the things that you are doing now? I asked my doctor about what I could expect my life expectancy to be.

mike4.jpg Al: What did he say?
Mike: As far as the heart disease issue is concerned, he's known people to live an additional twenty-five years. But, with the diabetes, it is a big question mark. He said, "I wouldn't wait until sixty-five to start enjoying myself if I were you." I do try to enjoy every day that I have.

Al: Maureen, how does Mike's prognosis look to you?
Maureen: I'm a positive person. I try to look on the positive side of everything. I believe that if you think positively, it helps your general health. For example, if Mike's diabetes hadn't kicked in when it did, he might not have started to take care of himself. And as for the heart disease, new technologies are coming along everyday. Did you know that they can now do a single bypass arthroscopicly?

Mike: In addition, they have come up with two procedures for those suffering from heart disease. One is to puncture a lot of holes in your heart to increase blood flow to the heart. The other is gene therapy. They injected a gene into the heart of a man with severe coronary heart disease. Within three weeks, tests indicated that the heart was growing new arteries from peripheral blood vessels. I believe that if those suffering from heart disease can hang on for another five years, the new technologies will give real hope to those with heart disease. For me, my concern is more with the diabetes that ravages the body.

Maureen: I am convinced that it was the diabetes that caused the heart disease.

Mike: With diabetes, you die from the things that go wrong with your body because of the diabetes.

mike5.jpg (20824 bytes) Al: How serious is your diabetes?
Mike: I take six shots a day and test my blood eight times a day. I use the Mayo Clinic's Sliding Scale, which I invented three years before they did. I discovered it, and they named it.

Al: How was that?
Mike: When I first went to Mayo's, I talked to them about how I cared for my diabetes. I told them what I did, and they told me that they had never heard of anyone doing it that way. I take a long-acting insulin as a base once a day. Then I take regular insulin every time I eat. It is important to eat small and frequent meals during the day. I think that the reason that they hadn't come up with this before I did was that if you were to give yourself six shots a day, you would soon run out of sites for the injection. But, I use a medijector. It is a needleless injector. I could literally give myself a shot a hundred times in the same place without damaging tissue.

The medijector shoots a real small stream of insulin that comes out of the tip with such speed that it penetrates the skin. The advantage of this over the needle is that as soon as the insulin gets under the skin, it disperses. When you use the needle, the insulin pools under the skin causing it to take longer to get into your system. In addition, using the hypodermic syringe doesn't allow you to reuse that site for a long time.

Al: You see the need for a healthy lifestyle and the heart screening test; you are alive because of making these changes and getting the test. Has your conversion to aggressively take care of yourself had a positive effect upon the eating habits and lifestyle of your children?

Mike: As teenagers, they think they are made of iron and feel indestructible.

Maureen: When their father came home from the hospital, he showed them the incision, but it didn't make much of an impact upon them.

Mike: The twenty-year-old stopped smoking for awhile and then went back to it. The eighteen-year-old took the surgery a little more seriously. The fourteen-year-old would rather go to a fast-food restaurant then to eat a healthy meal at home.

Maureen: If it is a choice between junk food and healthy food, they will take the unhealthy food. They will wise up, given time-but it will take time.

mike6.jpg Al: Mike, someday we will all run out of time here on earth. What do you want written on your epitaph? How do you want to be remembered?

Mike: I guess that everyone has some kind of legacy that they leave behind. For me, I hope that I will have raised good citizens. I'm really only concerned about my children growing up to be good citizens. If we are successful in doing that, all the other things that I might accomplish really aren't that important. If my kids are good people and they try to help other people, I will be happy with that legacy.

Al: Maureen, what do you think of Mike's response?

Maureen: I agree with Mike's answer; he does love his family. Also, he feels strongly about things and is a good leader because he can generate that feeling in other people. I'm proud of him.

Al: Mike, thank you and Maureen for your time and willingness to be interviewed. Any thing that you would want to add?

Mike: Get the test. Call 1-800-NEW-TEST.