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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Bobby 'Slick' Leonard survives aneurysm and urges screening

"If you don't get operated on you got a 15 percent chance of living out the year," Leonard said his doctors told him.

INDIANAPOLIS — At 88 years old, Bobby "Slick" Leonard recently escaped an imminent health threat and he wants the same thing for you. The beloved and former Indiana University basketball player, NBA player and coach and long-time Pacers announcer had an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

"We refer to them as the silent killers or the ticking time bombs," said Dr. Brent Marsden a vascular surgeon at Ascension St. Vincent Heart Hospital in Carmel. "In general, people don't know that they have it, they're completely asymptomatic. They don't cause a problem until they go on to rupture and take people's lives," Marsden explained.

Leonard remembers the blunt prognosis from his team of medical doctors.

"If you don't get operated on, you got a 15 percent chance of living out the year. That woke me up a little bit. But they said if you do get operated on and it is successful, you got a 99 percent chance of living out your life," Leonard said.

Leonard opted for a minimally invasive surgery at Ascension St. Vincent Heart Hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving. 

"With the stent repair that we were able to do for him. He was able to get home within a day and really have no functional limitations. He would be able to go back to the basketball court and the broadcast booth within, you know, 48 hours," Marsden said.

Leonard is still surprised his life was in such danger, and yet he was symptom-free.

"I didn't know I had it!" Leonard exclaimed.

Leonard feels fortunate the aneurysm was detected in time for a fix and that's what he and his medical team want for you too. 

Credit: WTHR
Bobby "Slick" Leonard shows Anne Marie Tiernon some highlights of his trophy room.

Marsden says most people who have aneurysms don't know it.

"One of the things that kind of keeps myself and my partners up at night worrying about who is out there and when are they going to have a problem?" Marsden said.

The undiagnosed cases are all the more frustrating to Marsden, because detection is relatively simple. He says patients, however, are unaware, unmotivated, or unsure if they should get screened.

A tri-vascular screening can detect abdominal aortic aneurysms. It's similar to the ultrasound used for pregnancy. But for vascular issues, the medical staff is looking to see how blood is flowing through your neck, your stomach, and your legs. If there's an issue, you can pursue a fix.

Leonard says his screening took a matter of minutes and he's grateful for the discovery which saved his life.

"It's so simple. I did this to make people understand if I can help you...get to that hospital or doctor's office and get that ultrasound done for 10 minutes and save your life. You gotta go," Leonard said.

For Check Up 13 on February 13, 2021, the Ascension is providing the Tri-Vascular screening to qualified Hoosier patients at a reduced $79 cost.

To qualify:

  • 55 years or older with 2 risk factors:
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Smoking (current or past)
  • Family History of stroke, aneurysm, PAD

Locations:

  • Avon
  • Anderson
  • Carmel
  • Indianapolis
  • Kokomo

 Click here to learn more and register.