Dr. Matthew Budoff with Steve Corbett and Family
Dr. Matthew Budoff with Steve Corbett and Family

Steve Corbett's job as a Los Angeles County firefighter requires he be physically fit and healthy. His role as the father of six kids under the age of 12 also means he needs to be at the top of his game so he and his wife Arelyn can juggle the needs of a large family.

At age 35, good health was something Steve took for granted. That's why, when he had some shortness of breath, he attributed it to a nasty chest cold. Still, he mentioned it to his doctor went he went in for his yearly department physical. During the appointment, he also had an abnormal result on his treadmill stress test. Concerned, his physician referred him to Dr. Matthew Budoff, a cardiologist at Harbor-UCLA Medical center and a researcher at LA BioMed.

Steve found himself in Dr. Budoff's office at 8 a.m. the next morning. After undergoing a CT scan of his heart, Steve listened with disbelief as Dr. Budoff explained one of the major heart arteries was blocked. He later learned this blockage is often called “the widow maker” because a resultant heart attack can be deadly.

The next day, Steve underwent angioplasty to clear the blockage and had a stent inserted in his heart to prevent further problems. The result? "I feel great," he says.

Steve was off work for six weeks, passed the Fire Department's required physical and is back on the job. He has no restrictions on his activities and even mountain bikes again, when he can find time. Dr. Budoff told him it helped that Steve made good lifestyle choices regarding diet and exercise before the diagnosis.

Something Catastrophic

"It happened so fast," Steve reflects on the diagnosis. "There was a problem and we fixed it," he says matter-of-factly. But he still thinks about it sometimes.

"How long would it have been until something catastrophic happened?" he wonders. Fighting fires is physically taxing. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for firefighters. Sometimes it hits home that if the blockage wasn't diagnosed, his kids might be growing up without a dad. As a result, he is immensely grateful to Dr. Budoff and the team at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for the urgent diagnosis. "It's actually more scary looking back," he says.

He appreciates the compassionate care he received from Dr. Budoff and his office staff. "They were beyond caring," he says of the treatment he received. "I felt like I was in great hands the moment I walked in."

Whenever Steve and Arelyn had questions, Dr. Budoff was there with answers that reassured them. "He takes his time with each patient and goes over the medical information carefully," Steve says. "I really appreciate and respect him." Steve and Arelyn live almost two hours from Dr. Budoff's office and yet choose to make the drive because of the care Steve receives. He continues to see Dr. Budoff for checkups and has passed each with flying colors.

Lucky Catch

Has the experience changed Steve? "It was a lucky catch during the physical," he says of the diagnosis. He finds himself even more appreciative of his wife and children. He makes his family the focus of his life, not his work, taking advice from older fire fighters. He is perhaps more grateful than he was for the gift of family, though they were always a priority.

He is also grateful to Dr. Budoff. "There are six kids who have a dad because of him," Steve points out. He made it through the procedure with no restrictions and no major life changes. "I got a second chance."

Steve and his family expressed appreciation for everyone who supports the physicians at LA BioMed and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Steve savors his second chance and plans to enjoy his family even more as a result. There is no better outcome than that, in his mind.