David Legasse: Finding The Gift in Each Day
David Legasse: Finding The Gift in Each Day
Story by Walinda West | Photos by Todd Wood
David Legasse has a message: If you feel something, say something. That advice saved his life
Diabetes has been a part of David Legasse’s life for more than a decade. In that time, he has learned to live with the disease and knows the signs that indicate his sugar levels are too high or too low—when he needs something sweet or when a complete meal is in order.
Last year, the owner of The Salt Table shops felt something different. The then-71-year-old, who was generally in good health, was feeling more tired than usual and had experienced an episode of feeling faint, which sent him to see his primary care physician at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Primary Care in Pooler.
Legasse’s doctor, Knar Mesrobian, who practices family medicine and has seen Legasse since 2018, became equally concerned over his new symptoms.
“She listened to my heart and didn’t like what she heard,” Legasse said. “I’ve had a heart murmur all my life and I had told her about that, but she didn’t like the way it sounded this time.”
A Doctor’s Life-Saving Catch
Legasse said Dr. Mesrobian knew that fatigue was an unusual symptom for him because he is typically full of energy. Blood work revealed nothing to indicate another problem, so Dr. Mesrobian assumed Legasse’s heart was the source of his new complaints. She immediately referred him to a cardiologist for further evaluation.
“It was Dr. Mesrobian’s observation that something wasn’t quite right during my checkup and her referral to the heart team may have very well saved my life,” Legasse said. He said he is certain that he is living today because Dr. Mesrobian listened to him.
“She pays attention,” Legasse said. “I know she’s incredibly busy and treats all her patients the same, but when I’m there I feel like I’m the only thought on her mind, like there’s no one else in the office but me.”
Dr. Mesrobian said that as she gets to know her patients, she is often able to pick up on both significant and subtle differences in their health—differences the patients may not have recognized.
“I’ve had patients come to simply establish care, but in their preliminary screening, we’ll find diabetes she said. “And they’ll have no idea because they feel fine. I tell patients continuity and preventative care are important. Consistency gives us a home base.”
Had Legasse just continued on, not worrying about getting his heart checked, who knows what sort of consequence that might have had, Dr. Mesrobian said. Legasse said he knows exactly what may have happened. “I don’t know that I’d be sitting here today,” he said. “I feel like I owe my life to her.”
Dr. Mesrobian told Legasse that she believed it was a good idea to get a specialist involved, especially since the risk for heart disease goes up as you age and the practice didn’t have much historical information on his murmur.
An ultrasound revealed Legasse had moderate-to-severe valvular disease. Valvular heart disease is when any valve in the heart has damage or is diseased. The normal heart has four valves or chambers that keep blood flowing in the right direction. In some cases, one or more valves don’t open or close in the proper way which causes blood flow through the heart to the body to be disrupted.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.5% of the U.S. population has valvular heart disease, but it is more common in older adults. While some people with valve disease are symptom-free, symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness or fainting, fever, rapid weight gain or irregular heartbeat.
Treatment for valve disease depends on the heart valve affected and the type and severity of the disease. The condition may be treated by medication or in some cases, the disease requires surgery to repair or replace the heart valve.
Within just a few days of his recovery, Legasse said he was able to take long walks through his neighborhood. After a week he was back at work, with cardiac physical therapy for four weeks post-surgery.
“The heart hospital team was absolutely fantastic,” Legasse said. “I don’t think you can find better medical help anywhere.”
Since Legasse’s surgery, he said he has been preaching the importance of listening to your body to anyone who will listen. Picking up on those cues, he said, saved his life.
“I have made this a crusade,” he said. “I have had several people say ‘you’ve made me pay more attention to my health.’” His advice to his friends is the same advice he took himself. “Go in for regular visits and if something is bothering you and it’s unusual, don’t put it off.”
Just eight months after his surgery, Legasse said he feels great. He went into his 72 birthday in November 45 pounds lighter. Legasse said he doesn’t feel his age and joked that he is told he looks much younger than his physical age.
Adjusting Life & Business Priorities
Heart surgery, coupled with a pandemic that has kept customers away from brick-and-mortar stores all around the country, forced Legasse and his wife, Carol, to reevaluate and reimagine The Salt Table, which features the couple’s own brand of salts, seasoning blends, teas, sugars and other flavors. With six stores in the area, The Salt Table celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
Compared to when the store first started, which depended on foot traffic, 25% of its sales are now online. Legasse said this is the company’s biggest and most profitable year to date.
“With Covid we had time to reevaluate and think things through. As a result, those decisions have paid off,” Legasse said.
Legasse said his illness has given him an appreciation of all the things that matter to him. “You can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “I am not an evangelist, but I have a strong belief that God was watching over me. What I know is that every day is a gift.”
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of heart attack warning signs. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience:
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
Other possible signs, including breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
For more information about heart conditions, visit www.heart.org.