Judith Ann Zoebelein
Revisional Knee Surgery Patient

Revisional Knee Surgery Patient

Sister Judith Ann Zoebelein had a knee replacement in 1998, but learned in 2012 that she needed revisional surgery. Leaving her home and the cobblestone streets of Italy, she returned to the United States, and entrusted her care to MidState Medical Center.


Robert Milligan, Jr
Bilateral Knee Replacement Patient

Bilateral Knee Replacement Patient

When Robert Milligan could no longer play tennis without severe pain, he turned to MidState Medical Center for a bilateral knee replacement. Now he says the clock has turned back 40 years...


Carol Bailey
Robot-Assisted Hysterectomy Patient

Robot-Assisted Hysterectomy Patient

When Carol needed a hysterectomy, she turned to MidState. Find out how our robot-assisted surgery program helped her recover faster with less pain ...


Raymond Hawes
Prostate Surgery Patient

Prostate Surgery Patient

Like many men, Raymond suffered from an enlarged prostate. Hear how MidState used advanced laser technology to give him fast, pain-free relief ...


Stephen Miller
Knee Reconstruction Patient

Knee Reconstruction Patient

A rugby accident left Stephen with a badly damaged knee and ankle. Learn how his decision to have reconstructive surgery at MidState made all the difference in his recovery ...


Staci Roy
Colorectal Cancer: Preventable, Treatable, Beatable

"When you hear that word, your whole world flashes in front of you"

For some people, the thought of getting a colonscopy makes them cringe. Fortunately, if there's one thing you should know about getting a colonoscopy, it's that the experience is not nearly as bad as you think.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and former patient Staci Roy wants everyone to know that getting a colonoscopy is something people "just need to do" to appropriately screen for colon cancer. "Colon cancer is different. You can survive it if doctors find it early," she said emphatically.

Five years ago Staci visited the emergency room with intense abdominal pain caused by an appendicitis. She had surgery to remove her appendix, but her follow-up CT scan showed unidentifiable abnormalities in her colon. It turned out that Staci's appendicitis was actually caused by a golf ball-sized tumor that was pushing on her appendix.

Just weeks after ringing in the New Year, Staci got the diagnosis that changed her life: she had colon cancer. "When you hear that word, your whole world flashes in front of you," she said. In January 2004, Staci had 14 inches of her colon removed, and then underwent chemotherapy for nine months.

Staci was only 38 when she received her diagnosis, 12 years before doctors recommend screenings. While Staci is now cancer free, she gets a colonscopy every 2 years. She is almost five years cancer-free, the time when doctors can say she is in remission. "I'm praying to get that 'I'll see ya when I see ya' from the doctor," she said.

Knowing your family history of colon cancer is critical since those with first and second-degree relatives are advised to begin screenings at age 40, versus age 50, when the general population should be screened.

Staci encourages people not to listen to what others have to say about the experience. "The worst part of a colonoscopy is the prep, and now it's not as bad as it used to be. The rest of it is a breeze. You don't even know; it's not painful or invasive by any means," she said.

If it's time for you to get screened, you can make an appointment with one of our physicians at the Digestive Health Center by calling 694-8585.

Richard Varrato
A Patient's Story

"I want to thank you for saving my dad's life ... I can't express my feelings other than I love you guys and girls"

When Tom Varrato's father visited the emergency room last October for what he thought was a bad stomach bug, he had no idea how serious his dad's condition was until doctors discovered he needed life saving surgery to correct a dangerous ischemic bowel.

Richard Varrato, a vibrant 83-year-old from Meriden, described the pain in his stomach as severe. Doctors and clinicians at MidState's Emergency Department performed a CT scan and other tests to get to the root of Richard's problem, but the diagnosis was not good. Richard had an ischemic bowel, better explained as a heart attack in the stomach, characterized by loss of blood flow to the intestines. This condition usually occurs in the elderly population and can be fatal.

Richard's surgeon, Louis Meyer, MD knew he would do everything in his power to help, but warned that Richard might need a colostomy bag. Despite the overwhelming risk of surgery, it went successfully. Dr. Meyer removed seven and a half feet of Richard's lower intestine and was able to reattach his digestive tract properly.

In response to his experience, Richard's son, Tom, wrote, "I want to thank you for saving my dad's life. Dr. Meyer is an unreal surgeon. All of the staff was fantastic. I can't express my feelings other than I love you guys and girls. Through a tragic beginning there's a fantastic end."

Susan Claflin
The Art of Giving

"Mostly, I was scared. Having the program to participate in helped take my mind off everything. "

In 2005, Susan Claflin, of Cheshire, was diagnosed with breast cancer. During her treatment, she took her daughters, Jesse and Brooke, to an art program at MidState geared towards children whose relatives had been diagnosed with cancer.

The program had a positive impact on Jesse, and as a result, Jesse is giving back to the MidState Art Therapy Program as part of a special Bat Mitzvah project in conjunction with Congregation Kol Ami, where she had the opportunity to contribute to the community in a meaningful way.

In Jesse's Bat Mitzvah speech, given in August 2009, she explains how MidState's program helped her:

"Participating in the program made me feel better at a difficult time. I was 9 or 10 years old, and I kind of understood what was happening with my mom. Mostly, I was scared. Having the program to participate in helped take my mind off everything."

"For my Mitzvah project, I decided to donate art supplies to MidState Medical Center's Art Therapy Program for cancer survivors. The program that I'm donating to helps people after they are ill to cope with their sickness. I relate to the circumstances of these people because of the history of my family. Because of this, it seemed like a perfect idea to donate art supplies to make sure that these types of programs continue to exist."

Thanks to Jesse's heartfelt donation, cancer patients who participate in the Art Therapy Program will be able to continue to express their feelings through a variety of artistic mediums, including beads, jewelry, watercolor paints, colored pencils, and craft paper.

Elmer Gonzalez
It's Never Too Early To Know Your Risk For Heart Disease

"The family history was there, but I never thought it would happen to me. I knew what it was like for my parents, so I stayed fit and did what I could to avoid it"

A Heart Attack Can Happen When You Least Expect It

"I'm a statistic." Those were the words of 39-year-old Elmer Gonzalez, a local Meriden resident who suffered a heart attack early last year. Aside from being a diabetic with a family history of heart disease, Elmer was a young, active male of normal weight, who was not the typical heart attack patient.

"The family history was there, but I never thought it would happen to me. I knew what it was like for my parents, so I stayed fit and did what I could to avoid it," said Elmer.

Unfortunately, Elmer could not avoid the disease that had affected his family for years. After suffering from weeks of what he described as an acid reflux feeling in his chest, he decided to visit his doctor. Several tests revealed that Elmer had severe blockages in three arteries and scar tissue in his lower heart chamber, evidence that a minor heart attack had occurred without him even knowing it. Doctors recommended he undergo an intense five-vessel bypass surgery, the only option to treat his condition.

Our Heart Center Can Get You Back on Track

While his surgery was successful, Elmer still had a long road to recovery. That's where the expertise of our Heart Center's cardiac rehabilitation program comes in. For three days per week for 12 weeks, Elmer learned how to manage his heart disease. He and a specially trained nurse started with goal setting, which for Elmer, consisted of continuing education, modifying his diet, and increasing his physical activity.

His program was comprehensive and completely personalized to reflect his needs. Of major concern was his diabetes, which until he came into contact with cardiac rehabilitation, he never monitored correctly. "I took some diabetes classes here and learned to control what I eat, which plays a big factor in heart disease," explained Elmer.

MidState's Diabetes Center is part of the Heart Center and specialized advanced practiced registered nurses develop specific education plans to help patients make therapeutic lifestyle changes for their ongoing health and wellness.

Elmer continued, "I also spent one hour a day on the cardio equipment doing the treadmill and bike, lifting light weights, and stretching. In the last three to four months, I've lost 25 pounds."

During Elmer's workouts, cardiac nurses monitored his heartbeat, blood pressure and other vital signs. Additionally, he was taught how to monitor himself to achieve long-term success.

Elmer graduated from the Heart Center's program in late October, and while he always did routine walking, he now works out five days per week on his equipment at home.

He attributes MidState's cardiac rehabilitation program as a major player in his speedy recovery: "I worked with a phenomenal team of nurses who were instrumental in my care. I couldn't ask for a better group of individuals. When I was going through this, everything was unknown. I thought, one day you're vibrant and alive, and in a matter of seconds, hours, or days, that could change. The nurses were extremely supportive during my difficult time. I rate them an A+."

The Heart of the Matter is Prevention

According to MidState cardiologist and medical director of the Acute Coronary Syndrome program, George Spivack, MD, there are a number of factors that can increase your risk of heart disease, including hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and as in Elmer's case, a family history of heart attack and diabetes.

In fact, as Dr. Spivack puts it, "Diabetes is increasingly becoming the single most important risk factor for heart disease in this society. When we look at the cause of death in many diabetes patients, it usually stems from heart disease."

Yet the general population of people, and even those who have diabetes, doesn't fully understand the relationship between the condition and heart disease, and how imperative it is to keep diabetes under control. In a recent study, Dr. Spivack said, people with controlled diabetes received tests to assess their risk, and one-fourth of them were completely unaware they had significant heart disease.

These patients and others at general risk need to take greater efforts to prevent the development of coronary artery disease. Director of MidState's Cardiac Service Line and cardiologist, William Farrell, MD, says, "It all boils down to diet and exercise. Eating non-processed foods that are high in fiber and low in fat makes a difference." And regular exercise can also offset your risk. What does the term "regular exercise" mean? It means dedicating a specific time of day for working out, above and beyond physical activity that occurs during the course of your normal day.

"Your physical activity doesn't have to be very aggressive for the purpose of preventing heart disease. It's dependent on age. If you are young, then moderate exercise should be intense, but if you're older, moderate may simply mean walking," stressed Dr. Spivack.

Many heart disease risk factors are silent, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, so if you are concerned with these issues, the important thing to do is see your doctor for a physical.

Specific tests, such as stress tests, can assess the condition of your heart and arteries. Dr. Farrell notes, "Stress tests are a good way to pick up heart artery disease if it's severe, but the vast majority of heart attacks occur when arteries are only 20% blocked. To pick up artery blockage early, there are non-invasive techniques that allow us to look around the bend of the road and figure out where you'll be in 10 years." One of these techniques is a CT scan that measures the calcium content of the arteries, which ultimately has a correlation with the degree of heart disease. A very specific ultrasound can also check the carotid arteries in your neck.

The American Heart Association provides a comprehensive online risk assessment that serves as a stepping-stone in prevention efforts. By age 40, everyone should know their general risk and assess it every five years. To take the assessment, visit www.americanheart.org/riskassessment.

Joe and Debbie Cadena
The Power Behind You Is Greater Than The Obstacles In Front Of You

"After going through cancer once, you're not as afraid of the "c" word,"

"The good thing about MidState is everyone is like family here"

When you recite your wedding vows, you never imagine that the first part of the words "in sickness and in health" will actually bear meaning in your own life. For one married couple, those words have hit too close to home. Joe and Debbie Cadena have been married for 14 years, and in the last 6, both have each faced the life-changing challenges of cancer.

Debbie, a Meriden resident who works for a pharmaceutical company, was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2002. Doctors estimate that her large tumor started as a small polyp seven years earlier, when she was only 38. After chemotherapy, radiation and surgery at MidState, Debbie's battle with cancer was over, but her husband's was only beginning. Joe was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2004. He was also treated at MidState, and was cancer-free until he relapsed last October.

"After going through cancer once, you're not as afraid of the "c" word," said Debbie. Joe is currently undergoing a study trial stem cell transplant treatment, in which 70% of cases have favorable outcomes.

Debbie said she places all her trust in the physicians who work at MidState's Cancer Center. "I have full faith in this facility," said Debbie. Joe couldn't agree more, and said, "The good thing about MidState is everyone is like family here."

Despite Joe and Debbie's struggles, they focus on the things they love to make it easier. Joe is a local musician and vocalist who often plays at Gouveia Vineyards, George's II, and Borders in the Meriden Westfield shopping mall. "That's what keeps me motivated through treatment," said Joe. For Debbie, laughter with family and friends always got her through another day. She said it "helped me start the healing process."

In 2004, Debbie was invited to speak at MidState's annual Cancer Survivors' Day. She mostly talked about putting life into perspective, not taking things for granted and achieving your dreams. But one of her greatest pieces of advice, she recalled, was this:

"Always remember who's in the driver's seat - you are."

Tammy Raccio
Donating Breast Milk Saves Lives

"I wanted to breastfeed for all of the benefits - decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses"

Tammy Raccio delivered her son, Anthony, at MidState Medical Center three months ago. She knew she wanted to breastfeed immediately. "I wanted to breastfeed for all of the benefits - decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses. This is an investment in my kids," said Tammy, who also has a six-and-a-half-year-old son.

But Tammy went one step further. She also donates her milk on a regular basis to the Ohio Milk Bank. To date, she has sent over 11 gallons of breast milk, which the milk bank dispenses by prescription. The milk is often used for premature babies on an outpatient basis. Before Tammy could begin donating, she went through a rigorous screening process that included blood tests and permission from her son's pediatrician.

Tammy heard about the milk bank from the Family Birthing Center's lactation consultant, Dawn Flohr, RN, IBCLC, who teaches moms how to have a successful breastfeeding experience.

According to the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, breastfed babies have fewer deaths and illnesses during the first year than those who are fed formula. The antibacterial and antiviral properties of breast milk reduce and/or decrease the severity of infections an infant has. Breast milk is also easier for babies to digest and there are less allergic reactions associated with it.

Breastfeeding provides health benefits for moms, too. Studies have shown that moms who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and delayed menstruation and fertility.

Dawn holds a weekly breastfeeding support group at MidState to help moms maintain a positive breastfeeding experience and to provide a forum to share concerns and successes. Check the calendar of events for offerings.

For more information on how to donate breast milk, visit www.hmbana.org.


Bill Grant
A Survivors Story

"I never thought doctors could have such a wonderful staff"

Bill Grant recently turned 85. Born in New Haven, he moved to Meriden many years ago to be with his wife and her family. His successful career with Western Electric (now what we know as AT& T) allowed him to travel all over New England before he retired at the spry age of 57. Having lived through the Great Depression and World War II, Bill says he's always felt lucky and blessed to make it through such hardship.

But in 2005, life threw Bill a curveball: a prostate cancer diagnosis. Doctors discovered that his PSA levels were elevated following a routine physical. After more testing, the diagnosis was confirmed. Despite the option to start treatment immediately, Bill decided to wait a few months so he could travel to Florida for the winter as he always did. He was 80 at the time - and he vowed that nothing was going to stop him from living his life - not even cancer.

When he returned from his trip in 2006, he began a series of 41 radiation treatments that brought him to MidState everyday. "I never thought doctors could have such a wonderful staff," said Bill, of MidState's radiation therapy team.

Fast-forward to four years later and Bill's prognosis is positive. He enjoys spending quality time with his wife of 61 years and has two adult children. "I always felt I had a good life," he added. There's no doubt that his upbeat personality and optimistic spirit have helped him along the way.

Sidebar to story: Prostate Cancer Facts

Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in males with an estimated 192, 280 new cases expected in 2009. It is important to know that prostate cancer is treatable if detected early.

Beginning at age 50, men with an average risk of prostate cancer should have a digital rectal exam, as well as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Elevated PSA levels can signal prostate cancer. Men at a higher risk, such as African Americans and those with a strong family history, should discuss screening options with their healthcare provider at age 45.

When signs and symptoms of prostate cancer do occur, they depend on how advanced the cancer is and how far the cancer has spread. Although symptoms can include urinary problems, they are usually the result of benign prostate problems. Here's what to look for:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen; or
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.