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Mobile medical scans flag the danger signs

Published Sep. 27, 2005

Dick Barros was sitting in his Punta Gorda home with a cup of coffee reading the paper one morning when he saw an advertisement that caught his eye.

A mobile unit with a scanner for heart disease and cancer was in town and accepting customers. He made an appointment, had the tests done and got the surprise of his life.

"The test showed moderate to severe calcification in some of the arteries in my heart, an indication that there was blockage," he said. He quickly took the results of that test and a second test by a different facility to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland and ended up with a triple bypass in late June.

"I never had any symptoms of heart problems," said the 70-year-old retired United Airlines pilot. "I don't smoke, I'm active, I eat well and my mother just turned 90. I thought I was going along quite well."

He said a cardiologist at the clinic told him "maybe the first pain I felt would be my last."

Barros credits the test with saving his life.

The mobile unit is one of two built by a new Clearwater company, Life Scan 2000, started by Clearwater resident Gina Johnson. The Tampa native worked for Life Line Screening and Heart Scan Service before going into business for herself.

"I saw a need," she said. "The screening enables people to be made aware of conditions that are all but impossible to detect by any other means. It's not enough anymore that because we don't have symptoms, we are presumed to be well. Most diseases are found in late stages after the damage has occurred. This CAT scan screening service is an attempt to help that situation."

Johnson said her mother may have benefited from the technology.

"I'm 44, and my mother was my age when she had her first heart attack, after she had passed a stress test with flying colors," she said. "My mother has had bypass surgery twice, and my father had a stroke and died in 1996. With my family history, I'm a true believer in the value of medical screening."

Johnson started the company Dec. 1, 1999. It has grown from a staff of three to 30, including three radiologists and a physician who follows up on the tests. Dr. William S. Maxfield, a former chief of the radiation department of Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans, is the company's national medical director, Johnson said.

Life Scan 2000 quickly outgrew an office in the Feather Sound area, and last month it moved to its new corporate office in a two-story, 7,000-square-foot building at 19995 U.S. 19 N, next to Clearwater Mall.

The company's first mobile unit arrived in March and began traveling throughout the state, offering heart, lung, abdominal and pelvic scans. A second unit arrived last month and is working in Georgia. A third unit, Johnson said, is to arrive here by the end of the month and leave for Texas.

Each unit is built and assembled in Ohio by Calumet and Picker at a cost of more than $1-million, Johnson said. The units are each 63 feet long and 14 feet high. Inside, each is equipped with a high-speed spiral CT scanner. The customer lies fully clothed on a table that moves through an open ring scanner. Each scan _ heart, lung and abdominal/pelvic _ is $195 and takes 10 minutes. All three scans can be done for $535, Johnson said.

Since the first mobile unit has been on the road, it has identified "stage one lung cancer, significant coronary heart disease, esophageal and kidney cancer, a lot of hiatal hernias and other problems," said Johnson.

"I've told everyone I know, including a bunch of airline pilots, about the test," Barros said.

Iron Horse condos

under construction

Architect Steve Spencer, designer of the Iron Horse Condominiums, said the $1.7-million project is under way at 22nd Street in Indian Rocks Beach. Each floor of the two-story building will have only two units. Each will have a view of the gulf, vaulted ceilings and 1,900 square feet. Each of the four units is priced at $425,000, he said.

Architectural features include large balconies shaded by a pitched roof and rear balconies that are accessed via a spiral stairway.

Real estate associate

gets special designation

Bob Feld of Prudential Tropical Realty at 2548 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater, has been designated a fine homes specialist by Prudential Real Estate Affiliates. He has 20 years experience in real estate work and for the past three years has worked at Tropical Realty, focusing on high-end properties in Pinellas County.


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