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A Cath Lab visit, a life saved and a lesson shared

Mary Gintick
Mary Gintick
Mary Gintick, 39, of Westerly wants to tell her story to help other women.

The fact that a cardiologist used Westerly Hospital’s state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory to quickly and accurately diagnose a critical blockage in one of her arteries, potentially saving her life, is only part of what she wants to share.

“I want to tell women that they should listen to their bodies,” she said. “When you think something’s wrong, you should have it checked out. And younger women should know that this could happen to them, too, especially if they have a family history and other risk factors. Cardiovascular disease – it’s not just an old man’s disease.”

Gintick is right, said George Bourganos, MD, the cardiologist who identified her arterial blockage after she presented at the Westerly Hospital Emergency Department last spring.

“It’s unusual but not unheard of for a woman of this age to have such a serious coronary artery problem,” Dr. Bourganos said. “A lot of women at this age will not go to the doctor thinking, ‘It can’t be my heart.’ Mary was smart. She had a critical blockage, and her symptoms were a precursor to a heart attack. In our new Cath Lab, with our state-of-the-art imaging, we were able to quickly and accurately provide a diagnosis. Without overstating it, the prompt response probably saved her life.”

Like many women, Gintick tried to talk herself out of getting help. She’d been feeling tired and not herself. But it wasn’t until the pain struck in the middle of the night that she acted.

“It was right down the middle of my chest,” she said. “I got back into bed and tried to talk myself out of it. I said to myself, there’s nothing wrong, it’s just anxiety, but I knew that something wasn’t right, so I woke up my husband and I said, ‘I need to go to the emergency room.’”

Telling her story recently, Gintick wiped back tears.

“My son is six years old,” she said. “My dad, he died of a cardiac event at 42, when I was just seven. Growing up, I knew that heart disease was in my family, but I have three brothers, and I always thought it would be them. I was overweight and smoking and eating the wrong things, but I didn’t think it would affect me the way it might affect my brothers.”

As soon as she arrived at the hospital, the emergency team took the case seriously. Even when her pain subsided for a time, caregivers assured her she did the right thing, getting checked out.

Gintick was admitted for observation when Dr. Bourganos entered her room to explain what they’d found. A blood test revealed a cardiac event that would require further testing in the Cath Lab.

“We clearly saw a blockage that we knew would require a stent as soon as possible,” Dr. Bourganos said. “We explained this to Mary and told her we would need to transfer her to L+M Hospital, which is fully equipped and licensed to do both emergency and elective angioplasty and stenting of arteries near the heart.”

A day later, Gintick was heading home to be with her husband and her son. And to start a new life.

She signed on for cardiac rehabilitation at Westerly Hospital. She changed her diet. She lost 30 pounds. She quit smoking. She started walking for exercise.

“Cardiac rehab was really helpful,” she said. “It’s really nice to have that carryover with people who know your history and can help you through. They kept me motivated. I’m eating more Mediterranean foods now. And instead of chips, I’m having fruit with my sandwiches. I don’t order fries any more. “I feel young,” Gintick continued, “and I am young. It’s kind of amazing to me that all this happened. In a way, I’m kind of happy that it happened, because now I’m aware of it. I’m glad I found out now so I can make the changes before it’s too late. Because, I want to be here. For my husband, for my son.”