Oktoberfest fan says vascular screenings produce peace of mind

Eileen and Ralph Jerutka in traditional German attireRetired for two years now, Ralph Jerutka is often on the golf course or on a plane. He and his wife Eileen of Champaign love to travel to Tahiti, Hawaii, Alaska, and, of course, Germany.

They head to Milwaukee, though, to get Braunschweiger because his butcher there makes his favorite sausage just like they do in his homeland.

“I like to live well. That means sausage, bread and beer,” Jerutka said, making one thing clear. “I do not drink American beer. I drink Bitburger.”

He admits those favorites create a rich experience but not the healthiest diet. So, the former Carle Cancer Center researcher set out to learn more about what might be causing his reduced energy level.

Carle began offering a suite of vascular screenings last year to help patients concerned about peripheral arterial disease (PAD), cerebrovascular disease (CVD) and other conditions often related to high cholesterol to determine if lifestyle changes or treatment could help. To schedule a screening, please call (217) 904-7907.

The test confirmed some concerning blockage of the arteries in his neck, but assured Jerutka the vascular systems in his legs and abdomen are fine.

Eileen and Ralph Jerutka in Florida“The screenings were easy. They were worth it for added peace of mind,” Jerutka said.

One of the screenings that cost $99 and are handled outside of regular office visit specifically looks for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). An aortic aneurysm is a weak area in the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Abdominal aortic aneurysms often grow slowly and usually without symptoms, making them difficult to detect.

Who should consider the screenings?

“We’d like to see anyone older than 60 who smokes now or used to smoke, people with a family history of AAA, hypertension, diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and those with high cholesterol,” said vascular surgeon Dr. Brian Beeman, FACS, RPVI.

Jerutka has had two spine surgeries and now attributes the cold, tingling sensation in his feet and legs to his back issues instead of anything vascular-related.

Still, he plans to stay vigilant.

“I’ll see Dr. (Brian) Wheatley for a follow-up in a year, and I’m working with my primary doctor (Dr. Steven J. Sparenberg) to make sure I’m on the right cholesterol medicine to help avoid further buildup,” Jerutka said.

The Jerutka family, including Ralph and Eileen's grandchildrenJerutka moved to the United States for his research and development job in 1990. His children married Americans and live nearby. He’s thrilled to see his young grandchildren a couple times a week for soccer, dancing, gymnastics and swimming, plus they always go to the Gordyville rodeo in November.

October, though, is a big month for the Jerutkas.

In addition to traveling and celebrating Oktoberfest in all their favorite ways, Eileen knits soft, lightweight yet durable prosthetic breasts called Knitted Knockers that women can easily place in their bra after breast surgery, either temporarily or while they wait for reconstruction surgery. She donates them to Mills Breast Cancer Institute during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all year long.

Jerutka recommends everyone enjoy some German food this month. In moderation, of course.

People most at risk for vascular condition include those with high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure or a family history of either, as well as people who don’t exercise, are overweight, have diabetes or use tobacco. At Carle, vascular surgeons, cardiologists, interventional radiologists and vascular nurses all participate patients’ care.

If you are at risk, call (217) 904-7907 to schedule a screening at Carle Heart & Vascular Institute. Or talk to your primary care provider about whether or not a vascular screening is right for you. Patients should consult with their insurance providers about coverage.

Screenings are available to Carle and non-Carle patients.