MacDonald hung up his combat boots in 1966.
Outside of a little arthritis in his hip, MacDonald, 69, thought he was in great health. That perception and an aversion to hospitals and doctors' offices kept him away from both. So when Luann Peck, his manager in the Garden Center at Lowe's of Turnersville, N.J., strongly suggested he take advantage of a free health-screening bus touring Lowe's facilities, MacDonald agreed — reluctantly. Had he not, he said, "I probably wouldn't be here today."
The mobile health-screening unit that visited the Turnersville store is one of two custom-built buses Lowe's launched across the country in 2010 to provide free health screenings to more than 70,000 Lowe's employees over two years. During MacDonald's screening, his blood pressure registered 206 over 111, dangerously high. The screener advised MacDonald to see a doctor. Peck made sure he did.
"I told him, 'This can't go unaddressed,' " said Peck, who befriended MacDonald in 2006 when he showed her the ropes as a new cashier. Aware of his fear of doctors and that he lost his father and brother to heart attacks, she set up an appointment for him with her physician. Peck accompanied MacDonald to the office and stood by him through all the tests. An EKG showed the left side of his heart was enlarged, and he immediately was put on blood-pressure medicine.
"His doctor said without a doubt, he would have had either a stroke or a heart attack," Peck said.
Two weeks later, MacDonald fainted during a morning meeting. He spent a night at the hospital, where MacDonald said further tests revealed blood was not flowing fully to the left side of his heart. But the doctor told him he had escaped any permanent damage. After a week off and the care of a cardiologist, he returned to work with a healthier prognosis.
"I really feel that that bus saved my life," MacDonald said. "I never would have gone to the doctor if Lowe's hadn't provided the screening. And now that I have a family doctor, I absolutely will see him on a regular basis."
About 30% of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, according to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. For many, like MacDonald, the news comes as a shock, especially those who haven't seen a doctor in years.
"A lot of the men we get that come out, their reactions are, 'If it's not broke, why should I try to fix it?'" said Sara Clark, one of the screeners on the mobile-health unit that visited Turnersville. "We remind them that blood pressure is a silent killer. You can't see your blood pressure getting high."
MacDonald is just grateful someone else was looking out for him — and others.
"I'm glad that bus is still going," he said. "If it saved my life, it could save others. There are always people like me who need a little push."