Friday, October 3, 2008

An Eye-opener: What Screenings Can Do

A walk through the main hospital corridor may actually have helped save the life of Massachusetts General Hospital employee, Edie Sinagra.

An employee for 21 years, Sinagra was passing through the lobby February 12 when she simply stopped to greet her friend, Lauren Ellis, Administrative Director of the Mass General Hospital Vascular Center.

Ellis and other members of the Vascular Center were working at an information table offering visitors carotid artery screenings – a quick, simple and noninvasive method of measuring the levels of fatty deposits in the arteries and helps evaluate an individual’s risk for a stroke.

“My cholesterol has always been fine,” says Sinagra. “I am an exerciser and nonsmoker, so I never thought I was at risk of an artery blockage. But, my mother and grandmother both died from strokes, so I thought I should take the opportunity to get screened.”

Sinagra’s carotid ultrasound screening showed that she did indeed have a severe blockage, and Vascular Center staff members immediately referred to her primary care physician. A second test conducted in the Warren 9 Vascular Laboratory, found that her right carotid artery was blocked approximately 90 to 99 percent.

“Never in a million years had I ever thought I had a clogged artery,” says Sinagra. “I was a walking time bomb.”

Surgery to relieve the blockage was scheduled to take place with Glenn LaMuraglia, MD, of Mass General Hospital Vascular Surgery, for the following week so Sinagra could enjoy her previously scheduled event – her Valentine’s Day wedding to William Constantine, a recently retired electrician at Mass General.

Just days after her wedding and only days before her scheduled surgery, Sinagra began experiencing blurry vision and numbness. Her daughter, Annemarie Tesora, RN, a nurse in the Emergency Department, immediately brought her to the hospital. Sinagra went directly to surgery. It is believed that she may have had a series of mini-strokes, but Sinagra said she likely would have dismissed those symptoms had she not known about the blockage.

“Carotid artery stenosis is a very serious condition, but many people are not familiar with the risks of artery blockage or vascular disease in general,” says Michael R. Jaff, DO, medical director of the Mass General Hospital Vascular Center. “Being aware of your risk factors, which include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, weight and family history, is important in preventing serious complications.”

Now, Sinagra hopes to make everyone aware of the need to screen for vascular disease, and she thanks her colleagues who helped treat her through this experience. “It was an eye-opener to be on the receiving end of care here at Mass General,” she says. “When you work here you become part of the Mass General Hospital family. I am so grateful for the friendship and kindness shown to me and my family through every step of this process.”

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