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MedQuest student’s practice sonography leads to life-saving discovery of staff member’s heart ailment

By Berry Craig
Special to NKyTribune

One Lexington man has something extra to be thankful for this week – his effort to help a young sonography student may have saved his own life.

Chris Ward was working in the admission’s office at MedQuest College in Lexington in October, when a student from the school’s sonography program asked if she could do a heart scan on him for practice.

Chris Ward receives a sonography from MedQuest student Jessica Begley (Photo provided)

Students in the sonography/echocardiography program frequently ask staff members for help because they want to practice using the equipment and reading the results. Ward, himself a MedQuest graduate, was happy to assist. Neither he, nor the student, were expecting anything out of the ordinary.

“We do these scans a lot,” said Jessica Begley, who will graduate from the sonography program next summer. “But we are always looking at young, healthy people. I just expected to see another normal heart.”

Right away though, Begley noticed something unusual in Ward’s heart. There was a significantly enlarged ventricle and an abnormally dilated aorta. To be sure, she repeated the procedure and took his blood pressure, finding it to be dangerously high. Untreated, he was in danger of having a stroke.

Begley was so concerned that she drove Ward to the emergency room.

“It was hard not to feel like she was overreacting,” said Ward. “Because I felt ok and was only getting a scan to help her out. But the hospital confirmed what she said – that it was super important that I came in.”

Ward said that Begley stayed in close contact with him as he was seeing doctors and getting treatment, making sure that he got the care he needed. He is now using his MedQuest dental assisting certificate to work at a Georgetown periodontal office.

Jean Roberts, program director for the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program, said this kind of experience makes a big impression on all the MedQuest students. “They all know that the work they are learning to do is important, but that first experience of catching something… that’s a moment you never forget.”

Ward said it’s hard to think about how differently things could have turned out. “What if I’d not been there that day, or if I had said I was too busy to do the scan,” he said. “I’m really lucky.”

As for Begley, she said it has made her feel even better about her career choice.

“When you go into healthcare, you know you will help save lives,” she said, “but I didn’t expect to save a life that day, while just a student. This has made me feel like I picked a career that will make a difference.”

Berry Craig, of Mayfield, is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.

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