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Gail Ciarlegio

Listen to Your Heart

In November 2011, Gail Ciarleglio was tired—and breathless. "I was sleeping a lot. With the holidays and everything, I thought I was just a little run down,” the 62-year-old Watertown resident said. Like many women, Gail brushed off her concerns. Three months later, during a routine appointment, her primary care physician diagnosed a problem with her heart.

There's a Test for That

Patients who have risk factors for heart disease should speak with their doctors about cardiac testing.

Saint Mary’s Hospital offers patients two convenient locations for testing: in the Cardiology Department at the hospital or at our outpatient Cardiovascular Diagnostic Center.

“Cardiac testing provides vital information about the heart’s function and can help identify heart disease,” said Dr. Peter Chien, a cardiologist board certified in nuclear cardiology and echocardiography at Franklin Medical Group Cardiology. “Chest discomfort, exertional shortness of breath, or fainting spells may be symptoms of heart disease and warrant cardiac testing.”

Cardiac tests available at the Cardiovascular Diagnostic Center include:

  • stress testing
  • nuclear imaging
  • echocardiography
  • Holter and event monitoring
  • carotid ultrasound

“The center is adjacent to our physician office, so cardiac testing is available on site,” said Dr. Paul Kelly, a board-certified cardiologist with Saint Mary’s Hospital and its affiliate, Franklin Medical Group Cardiology. “Results are promptly discussed with patients and communicated to their physicians. Being able to undergo testing and review results with a cardiologist on the same day enhances convenience for patients.”

The Cardiovascular Diagnostic Center is located at 1320 West Main Street in Waterbury. To schedule an appointment or for more information, call (203) 709-7300. To schedule cardiac testing at Saint Mary’s Hospital, please call Central Scheduling at (203) 709-8601.

When Gail first discussed her symptoms with Dr. Stephen Rubenstein, he suspected heart disease and referred her to Dr. Peter Chien, a cardiologist with Franklin Medical Group Cardiology in Waterbury. Within moments of beginning a stress test, Gail became light-headed and had to stop. Dr. Chien immediately ordered another test, called a cardiac catheterization, which was performed at Saint Mary’s Hospital and revealed that one of Gail’s arteries was 90 percent blocked. Plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart can make the arteries narrow, reducing blood flow. This reduction in blood flow can slow or stop the heart—meaning Gail was at risk of cardiac arrest.

To reopen her artery, the Saint Mary’s cardiac team inserted a tiny mesh stent, and Gail stayed overnight at the hospital. “When I woke up, I immediately felt better,” Gail said. “I had never been a patient at Saint Mary’s before, but the care I received that night and the day after was impeccable. I’d just move and the nurse would come in to check on me.”

On the Road to Recovery

Following her procedure, Gail joined the Saint Mary’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, which is designed to help patients recover from recent cardiac events or surgeries.

Gail successfully completed the exercise program in July, but the following week, she felt mild discomfort in her chest, neck, and jaw. Not wanting to ignore her symptoms a second time, Gail called Dr. Chien, who directed her to the Saint Mary’s Emergency Department.

Again, a cardiac catheterization was ordered, and the test revealed a new problem. A second artery, which had been 10 percent blocked when she was examined in July, was now 80 percent blocked. The news was surprising. Gail had done everything right. She had taken her prescriptions, maintained a heart-healthy diet, and exercised regularly. However, she also has a family history of heart disease. Her mother and
grandfather both suffered from atherosclerosis, which is sometimes referred to as “hardening of the arteries.”

Another stent was placed inside her heart to clear the blockage, and Gail is now doing well. She continues to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle, but she remains watchful for symptoms and has encouraged friends and loved ones to listen to their hearts as well.

Help Yourself

There are certain factors that increase the risk for heart disease, such as age, gender, and family history. However, the most common causes of heart disease can be controlled, and they include:
• being overweight or obese
• lack of exercise
• poor diet
• smoking
• diabetes
If you have one or more of these risk factors, speak with your primary care provider about reducing your risk for heart disease.

To learn about cardiology services at Saint Mary's, visit the Cardiac Services page.

Choose an Award-Winning Cardiac Provider

Gail CiarlegioWhen dealing with something as serious as cardiovascular disease, you want to know the care you’re receiving is the best. In recognition of the outstanding care Saint Mary’s provides, the hospital was listed among the nation’s award-winning hospitals for cardiac and stroke care by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association in an ad featured in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” issue for 2012. Saint Mary’s was recognized for achieving the following awards under the American Heart Association Get With The Guidelines® program:

  • 2012 Gold Award for Coronary Artery Disease; fourth consecutive year
  • 2012 Gold Award for Heart Failure
  • 2012 Gold Award for Stroke
  • 2012 Silver Award for Care of Heart Attack Patients