We always check everyone's blood pressure every time they come to our office. Usually everything is fine and the blood pressure readings are within normal limits. Occasionally, we will see some readings that are slightly elevated, but we attribute that to "white coat" syndrome. I know that it is hard to believe, but some people do not like to come to see us!! (shocking) Last week was different. "Rob" came in to get his teeth cleaned. We hadn't seen "Rob" in about 4 years as he lives in Austin and his work takes him all over the country. He is a set designer in Hollywood and some of his credits are:
"Walk the Line",
"Race to Witch Mountain"
and "Second Hand Lions" to name a few.
Kimberly, one of our hygienists, was visiting with "Rob" and was taking his blood pressure, (like always). She was astounded to see that it measured 217/132. This is dangerously high (normal is 120/80). Thinking there must be some mistake, she retook it 3 times; different arm, different machine. Everytime she got the same reading. A person with a blood pressure reading this high, has a great risk for a stroke.
Kimberly immediately aborted the cleaning visit and we sent him to a local doctor. We didn't hear from "Rob" until later that morning. He called back and said that he had spent all morning in the doctor's office taking different medications until they could control his blood pressure. He told us that if they had not been successful in controlling his blood pressure, they were going to sent him to the hospital.
"Rob" returned in the afternoon to finally get his teeth cleaned. This time when Kimberly took his blood pressure it was 132/86!! Not great, but so much better that before. "Rob" told us that he had not been feeling very well lately, but he didn't think too much about it. "Obviously, it was my high blood pressure", he said. Later that day, Kimberly received a phone call from "Rob's" mother thanking her for saving her son's life, and "Rob" sent Kimberly a nice note a few days later.
"Rob" has been in contact with Kimberly since his not so routine teeth cleaning. He told her that he has bought a home blood pressure cuff to check his blood pressure daily. He proudly states that he now has his blood pressure in the normal zone. He told Kimberly that he felt like we had truly saved his life, or at least prevented a stroke. "Rob" told her that he has become an advocate for routine blood pressure recordings, and that he takes his blood pressure device to the set to check all of his co workers.
We take blood pressure readings every day, all day long, without giving it much thought. Sometimes, in the course of a busy day, it is tempting to skip this mundane task in order to save time. But it only takes 1 person like "Rob" to remind us of what an awesome responsibilty we have in trying to deliver exceptional care to our patients.