My name is Edie Sinagra Constantine. In 2008, I had a new job at Mass General and was planning my wedding to Bill Constantine, a wonderful man who worked here for 37 years.
A few days before my wedding, coming back from a celebratory lunch, I saw an information table manned by MGH staff. They offered free carotid-artery screenings, a quick and easy way to evaluate stroke risk. The staff urged me to get the stroke screening, but I felt I was in great health: I exercised, had low cholesterol and didn’t smoke. Plus, I was too busy to take a break.
Back at my desk, I couldn’t concentrate. I thought about my mother who had died 15 years earlier from a stroke caused by blocked carotid arteries.
This energetic woman was left with paralysis, memory problems and a loss of independence. On a ventilator for months, she couldn’t communicate. It was a painful way to say goodbye.
Why hadn’t she gotten stroke screening? She was a chronic smoker. I turned to my colleague and said, “I’m going to get screened.”
“I’m grateful I thought twice about the stroke screening offered at MGH. Otherwise, I might not be here to appreciate my husband and family, including my new grandchildren.”
I thought I would return within minutes. But after the stroke prevention test, the vascular technologist gently but firmly told me to call my primary care physician immediately.
An ultrasound the next day confirmed my right carotid artery was blocked, and I needed surgery right away. The surgeon assured me I could wait until after my wedding tomorrow, but if I had stroke symptoms—changes in vision, speech or strength—to go to the emergency department.
The next day, I married the man I loved. But before my scheduled surgery, my vision became blurry while driving. I went to the MGH Emergency Department immediately and was soon in surgery. Fortunately, 24 hours later, I went home.
I’m grateful I thought twice about the stroke screening offered at MGH. Otherwise, I might not be here to appreciate my husband and family, including my new grandchildren.