Joyce Jacobs

The Heart of it All: Joyce’s Story

Joyce Jacobs knows heart health, inside and out.

As a Heart and Vascular Prevention and Wellness Nurse Navigator at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Joyce works with

cardiac patients each day. She has also worked with the CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit (CVMHU) team for the last eight years. This mobile unit tours the Tristate area, bringing screenings, risk assessments and education to the community close to where people live and work.

The screening is quick, convenient and gives patients a big-picture view of their heart and vascular health by detecting abnormalities. The testing available in the CVMHU can indicate if you’re at risk for heart disease, stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and peripheral artery disease. An additional test checks for a common heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation.

Mobile Heart and Vascular Screenings

Seven years ago, at age 59, Joyce decided to make an appointment at the CVMHU to check on her own heart health.

“It’s such an easy, non-invasive test,” says Joyce. “My doctor didn’t prescribe it, but I’m proactive about my health, and I wanted to know – how am I doing?”

As an avid exerciser and healthy eater, Joyce wasn’t expecting the technician to find anything on her screening. She was surprised when the results of her carotid ultrasound showed mild plaque on the left side and moderate plaque on the right side of her neck. Blockages in the carotid arteries can pose a risk for stroke, and may indicate problems with other arteries, such as those that feed the heart.

“I was young enough that we decided to keep an eye on it,” says Joyce. “But life took over. I was supposed to have the test repeated, and I just kept putting it off.”

Years later, fate intervened when Joyce found herself on the mobile unit when there was a lull between patients, so she decided to undergo another screening carotid ultrasound.

Joyce was stunned to receive the news that her carotid artery blockage had escalated from “moderate” to “severe.” She underwent a carotid duplex test at the Florence Wormald Heart & Vascular Institute at St. Elizabeth and met with St. Elizabeth Vascular Surgeon, Dr. Kevin D. Martin. Testing confirmed the carotid artery disease diagnosis, but because Joyce wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, her team decided to repeat the test in six months.

“I have no family history of heart issues, I exercise, I eat healthy, and my numbers looked great,” says Joyce. “As long as things stayed good, we were all pleased.”

Concerning Heart and Vascular Symptoms: “I Knew I Wasn’t Fine.”

Everything went smoothly – until Joyce started having memory issues in June 2021.

“I was repeating myself and forgetting things,” says Joyce. “My symptoms started to mimic TIA symptoms – and that’s when Dr. Martin told me it was time to have the carotid endarterectomy.” TIA stands for transient ischemic attack, a temporary period of symptoms that are similar to a stroke, which can be warning sign for a full stroke.

On September 22, 2021, Joyce underwent the procedure to remove plaque deposits in the artery to increase blood flow. Her surgery was a success, and today, Joyce is thrilled to share her story and raise awareness about the importance of checking in on your cardiovascular health.

“You think you’re doing okay, but you might not be,” says Joyce. “The screening is completely painless, and it can make a tremendous difference in your health.”

Joyce believes that stress had a significant impact on changing her plaque buildup. She tragically lost her husband in an accident six years ago and cautions others going through a stressful time – especially amid the pandemic – to stay on top of health screenings and regular checkups with their physician. Many people with coronary heart disease and vascular conditions do not have symptoms, so a simple cardiovascular screening could save your life.

St. Elizabeth CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit Near You

The CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit (CVMHU) provides cardiovascular risk assessments and screenings at convenient locations throughout the TriState area. The screenings take about 30 minutes, and you'll receive initial results right away, along with a one-on-one discussion with a health educator on actions you can take to reduce your risk. The team, led by a St. Elizabeth vascular surgeon or interventional radiologist, reviews each screening result. These are also sent to your doctor and are available in MyChart.

Tests Available Through the CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit

Screenings performed at the CVMHU are quick and painless and include:

  • Carotid ultrasound.
  • Heart risk assessment (both cholesterol and blood sugar).
  • Peripheral vascular screening (looking for leg blockages).
  • Abdominal aneurysm screening.

Patients are welcome to use a Health Savings Account (HSA) to cover the cost of the screenings in the CVMHU. Individual cardiovascular tests are $25, and all four tests are $100. Patients who receive any other screening on the van can get an additional test for atrial fibrillation at no additional charge.

For information and screening locations, visit the CVMHU calendar or call (859) 301-9355 (WELL). A physician referral is not needed to schedule an appointment.


Learn More About Freedom from Smoking

Freedom from Smoking is a FREE 7-week tobacco cessation program developed by the American Lung Association and offered to you by St. Elizabeth Healthcare. For additional resources on how to quit smoking, please click here. For more information or to register for the next session, please call (859) 301-5570. Call today. It can be your start to a new life without nicotine!