March 21, 2008
Chance Vascular Center screening saves life of MGH employee

A walk through the MGH Main Corridor may have saved the life of MGHer Edie Sinagra, staff assistant for the Center for Faculty Development. Sinagra, an employee for 21 years, was passing through the lobby Feb. 12 when she stopped to greet her friend, Lauren Ellis, administrative director of the MGH Vascular Center. Ellis and other Vascular Center staff were working at an information table offering visitors carotid artery screenings — a quick and simple method of measuring fatty deposit levels in arteries to evaluate an individual's risk for a stroke.

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

LIFESAVING DISCOVERY: Sinagra, right, with Irina Staroselskaya, the vascular technologist who performed Sinagra's screening

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

"Never in a million years did I ever think I had a clogged artery," says Sinagra. "I was a walking time bomb."

Glenn LaMuraglia, MD, of MGH Vascular Surgery, was to perform the procedure to relieve the blockage the following week so that Sinagra could enjoy her Valentine's Day wedding to William Constantine, a recently retired MGH electrician. However, shortly after her wedding and only days before her scheduled surgery, Sinagra began experiencing blurred vision and numbness. Her daughter, Annemarie Tesora, RN, an MGH Emergency Department (ED) nurse, immediately brought her mother to the ED, and from there Sinagra went directly into surgery. It is believed that she may have had a series of mini-strokes, and Sinagra says she likely would have dismissed her symptoms had she not known about the blockage.

"Carotid artery stenosis is a very serious condition," says Michael R. Jaff, DO, medical director of the MGH Vascular Center. "But many people are not familiar with the risks of artery blockage or vascular disease in general, which include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, weight and family history. Knowing these risks can prevent 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. "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 MGH family. I am so grateful for the friendship and kindness shown to me and my family through every step of this process."

For more information about MGH Vascular Center and upcoming screening events, e-mail mghvascularinquiry@partners.org.

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