S Len Carter - Patient Stories - About Us - FHN

In His Own Words

‘I am so happy I didn’t ignore the pain in my chest’

Cath Lab Helped Keep Carter’s Heart Healthy

Growing up in the South made Len Carter, FHN’s Chief Human Resources Officer, a big fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Here, he shows off the University of Alabama swag in his office at FHN Memorial Hospital, just down the hall from the Cardiovascular Center, where the FHN Heart Team found and treated two blockages in his heart.

He was walking his dogs on a cold December night, just as he does every evening. But on this night, there was something different – the middle of Len Carter’s chest ‘felt like a toothache.’ He told himself it was from breathing in the cold winter air, and the ache subsided quickly when he went inside. Nonetheless, he told his wife, Liz, about the uncomfortable moment. She encouraged him to share the incident at an upcoming exam with his FHN Primary Care Provider Terry Miller, MD.

After listening to the details of his ‘ache’ and well aware of his family’s history of diabetes, Dr. Miller recommended a nuclear stress test in the cardiac catheterization lab (cath lab), part of the FHN Judy and Virgil Bocker Cardiovascular Center at FHN Memorial Hospital.

“I was injected with isotopes so they could see my heart at rest and again during exercise,” Len explains. “Once on the treadmill, I was quickly out of breath and didn’t have the energy to keep up. Needless to say, I did not pass the test.”


FHN cardiologist Madhu Malladi, MD, and UWHealth SwedishAmerican specialist Rehmat Sheikh, MD*, who partners at the Cardiovascular Center weekly, recommended an angiogram as Len’s next step.

Len was awake for the angiogram. “The cath lab staff told me what I would experience and explained the process in detail to ease any concerns I had. A(n intravenous) line was put in my wrist to inject dye, and I had what is called ‘conscious sedation’ – I was awake the entire time, but did not feel anything. There was absolutely no pain. If I chose to, I could actually watch the wire going into my heart on a screen to my left … and I did watch.

“The test indicated I had two blocked arteries – both of them serious at 90 percent and 70 percent blocked. I had to decide between bypass surgery in Rockford or getting stents at FHN, and I chose the stents.”


Inserting a stent is a minimally invasive procedure designed to keep arteries open and improve blood flow to the heart. One was implanted immediately to remedy the most serious blockage, and the team placed the other stent a week later.

According to Len, “It has been the difference between night and day. I have more energy, less fatigue, and better breathing than before, and my wife says my color is better, too. I can walk the dogs with confidence and carry on with normal life. I am so grateful!”

What does the future hold? Len is planning to take his bride to Sicily for their 40th wedding anniversary this summer, and the trip will be all the sweeter thanks to his improved heart health. In the meantime, he is following a modified diet and is committed to continue working with the cardiac rehab team at FHN Memorial Hospital for a new exercise regimen and nutritional education.

He says, “I am so relieved my wife encouraged me to share my concern with Dr. Miller. That conversation probably prevented me from having a heart attack or heart damage! I deeply appreciate my wife, Dr. Miller, Dr. Sheikh, Dr. Malladi, and the entire FHN Cardiac Team, led by Diane Bardell. I encourage people to make their healthcare provider aware of little things that feel off – they can definitely be a clue that something is wrong. Speak up!”