Patient Stories

A New Perspective on Cancer Care
In her 30 years as an oncologist, Karen Krag, M.D., has always empathized with her patients—to help them cope with their diagnoses, make decisions about their treatment and manage the effects of cancer on their physical and emotional health. She never imagined that one day she would find herself in their position.
Advanced Technology, Early Diagnosis
Her proactive approach to health may have saved Florence Velluto’s life last year. In October 2013, after having her annual mammogram at the NSMC Women’s Center in Danvers—something she has done faithfully since her 30s—Velluto received a call from North Shore Medical Center radiologist Kevin Callahan, M.D., asking her to come back in for another test because he saw something on her exam that didn’t look right.
The Mind-Body Connection
Pervasive and unpredictable though it might be, stress is also manageable. With skills learned through North Shore Medical Center’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, the harmful effects of stress can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated entirely.
Back on the Homefront
“The military is my passion, but the sacrifice my wife and kids make when I’m gone is hard on us all,” says Dr. Peterson, the father of three children. “Leaving my wife to play the role of both mom and dad is always difficult, but it is truly an honor to put on the uniform and serve my country in any way that I can.”
Strength in Numbers
Lynn resident Scott Barlow, 48, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 10 years ago and, by his own admission, didn’t take the news too seriously. “I tried to cut back on soda and stay away from sweets, but I wasn’t very well informed on nutrition and really did the bare minimum,” he says. 
Patient and Family Forums
To provide a forum for members of the North Shore community to have a voice in the care planning and delivery programs at North Shore Medical Center, NSMC has created the Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC).
Urgent Care vs. Emergency Care

If you are experiencing a life-threatening condition, call 911 or go to the Emergency Department at NSMC Salem Hospital.

Finding her Rhythm
For more than a decade, Nicole Smith, 33, of Lynn suffered from what she thought were panic attacks. At least once a month, without any advance warning, her heart would race uncontrollably for short bursts of time—usually just a few minutes—leaving her a bit dizzy and lightheaded when it stopped. A physician she saw as a teenager prescribed an anti-anxiety medication to help her manage her stress.
A Healthy Investment: Eric Checkoway and Bonnie Polan
Eric Checkoway of North Andover has a long history with his primary care physician, Maurice Greenbaum, M.D., which dates back to when he was a high school student living in Newburyport. Over the years, the two have built what he describes as a “close and collaborative working relationship,” and he considers Dr. Greenbaum to be a trusted health advisor and advocate. So, when Dr. Greenbaum became affiliated with North Shore Physicians Group’s (NSPG) new MDVIP Program, he didn’t think twice about signing up.
A Happy Healthy Heart
Longtime Salem resident Joanne Cunningham’s heart has always been filled with happiness. Surrounded by her large, extended family, the cheery great-grandmother enjoys nothing more than spending time with the people she loves.But this life full of love was unexpectedly interrupted when Cunningham’s heart began to race uncontrollably, causing her to experience dizzy spells, shortness of breath and a great deal of discomfort.
A Taste for Good Health
Until last year, Peabody resident Jonathan Sheldon, 34, never denied his appetite for unhealthy foods. “I have always loved fried foods, sweets and lots of other things I probably shouldn’t have been eating,” he says. The long hours associated with his job as an owner of a busy IT engineering business didn’t help matters either, leading him to grab fast food meals on the run. Over time, he began to put on weight.
A Place to Grow
When Kate Meehan went in for her regularly scheduled ultrasound at 34 weeks of pregnancy, she did not expect a reason to be concerned. Her pregnancy had been progressing without incident and her twins, Liam and Maggie, were healthy and developmentally on track. 
A Healthy Investment: Burnett Crateau and Judy Tanzer
Every Friday morning, Brenda Minor, M.D., a primary care physician with North Shore Physicians Group (NSPG), laces up her sneakers and joins a group of patients at the Northshore Mall or a nearby park for their weekly “Walk with a Doc” walking club.
On the Move
To say that Marblehead resident and kindergarten teacher Debra Geaney, 63, is an active woman would be an understatement. A former collegiate gymnast, she has enjoyed athletic pursuits over the years, including ski racing, triathlons, biking, spinning, golfing and even piloting planes.
Enhancing Care for High-Risk Infants and their Families
When Paige Sherman was born eight weeks early, weighing just 4 lbs., 6 oz., she was immediately transferred to NSMC's Special Care Nursery where she received life-saving care, Paige is now a busy and active two-year-old. To better serve patients like Paige, NSMC is planning an expansion and renovation of its Special Care Nursery, another step in the hospital's ongoing enhancement of the patient experience.
Act F-A-S-T For Strokes
After a long night of work at US Airways, all Ron Wilson of Peabody wanted to do was sleep. After a short nap, he got up because he had to take his children to school. But when he stood up, he noticed that he couldn’t feel the right half of his body. When he tried talking, his words were not coming out the right way....
Sharing, Caring at Heart of Irene Willey's Legacy
Irene Willey had a gift for selfless gestures. Whether it was a supportive word for one of the dozens of nurses she supervised in her four decades at Salem Hospital, a handmade doll for a friend’s daughter or a home-cooked meal for a new neighbor, Willey’s gentle touch made others feel cared for. Upon her death in 2009, Willey continued her legacy of giving with a $95,000 bequest to NSMC.
Mind Over Matter
Eight years ago, Todd and Deborah Burger of Lexington were experiencing every parent’s worst nightmare: Their child was in the midst of a life-threatening medical crisis and nobody could help. Her diagnosis turned out to be anorexia, a relatively rare phenomenon among eating disorders in pre-teens, and she is alive today thanks to an astute care team at NSMC.
Lacing Up to Fight Cancer: North Shore Cancer WALK/RUN to Support Renovation of Inpatient Oncology Unit
Ray Levesque, 55, of Saugus was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma in September 2010 and successfully treated at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers and at the inpatient oncology unit at Salem Hospital. He is participating in the 2012 North Shore Cancer WALK to help raise funds to renovate the inpatient unit.
Outsmarting Cancer: Targeted Drugs Fight Lung Cancer
When Wilmington resident Joan O’Beirne, 68, started experiencing shortness of
breath during her daily activities, she had no idea what could be causing it or that
she was about to become part of a pioneering research study.
Hearts in Hand: How a Procedure Through the Wrist Can Save Your Life
For many people, a heart attack strikes suddenly and without warning. For others, however, like Sister Geraldine Burns, Sister of Notre Dame and vice principal at Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody, heart attacks can cause minor symptoms that often go unnoticed.

On the Fairway: Danvers Golfer Trades Constant Pain for Hip Replacement
At the advice of his primary care physician, Anthony Conti, a veteran machinist at Hansen Engineering in Danvers and an avid golfer, went to see NSMC orthopedic surgeon William Murzic, M.D. Dr. Murzic was able to relieve the pain with a cortisone injection, but warned Conti that the relief was only temporary. “As soon as my son’s wedding was over the pain returned and I was back in Dr. Murzic’s office scheduling surgery for a total hip replacement.”
The Power of Healing Your Heart
Steven Brown of Beverly is a survivor. He suffered a heart attack a few years ago, and since then, he’s taken steady steps on the road to recovery. In addition to completing North Shore Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, Brown decided that he needed to do more to change his life and try to prevent further damage to his heart. So he joined NSMC’s Healing Your Heart program, led by retired NSMC cardiologist Harvey Zarren, M.D..
Building stamina through pulmonary rehabilitation
Relying on oxygen 24/7 in order to stay alive is hard to imagine, but for Richard Limone, it is a reality. In April, 2009, Mr. Limone was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP), which limits the capacity of his lungs to hold oxygen, resulting in very low oxygen levels in his blood. Suddenly simple tasks such as walking outside to get the mail or even going to the grocery store were a constant struggle. Mr. Limone feared that he would never be able to venture out of his house again without difficulty.
One Breath at a Time
A year ago, Gretchen Benkert never thought she’d be walking distances or traveling internationally because her asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) made breathing and everyday tasks difficult. In 2010, her physician suggested she enroll in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at NSMC Union Hospital as a way to build up her endurance and improve her lung function.
Warning Signs: Beverly Man Catches Heart Disease in the Nick of Time
Shoveling snow can cause many people to suffer aches and pains, but for Beverly business owner, David Boeggeman, this winter’s annual ritual ended up saving his life. Boeggeman was shoveling a light dusting of snow from his walkway when he felt a brief pain in his chest. “A slight tightness in my chest just didn’t feel right,” said Boeggeman. “I knew I needed to get it checked out because I knew it wasn’t from exertion.”
Coordinated Cancer Care Proves Powerful for Danvers Mom
Danvers native and mother of two, Cynthia House is no stranger to a busy lifestyle. She spent 18 years in the fast-paced, highly competitive field of pharmaceutical sales. Eventually, the chaos of the corporate world took its toll, and House was ready for a drastic switch. Now, at the age of 52, House uses her sales experience to peddle puppy toys and unique bakery items created just for man’s best friend at Dog Spa in Beverly.  That career change couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Waiting Game: Concussion Needs Time to Heal
Kristin Wheeler, 17, president of her junior class and a varsity cheerleader for Swampscott High School, would seem to be an unlikely candidate for a concussion, but she’s already suffered two—the last of which required six weeks for recovery.
Early Detection Danvers Man Thankful for Colonoscopy
“It’s clear that screening can save lives but, unfortunately, statistics show that too many people avoid it,” said Gregg Brodsky, M.D. “Early detection is important and everyone needs to be proactive in assessing their risk of colon cancer.” The most popular method for screening, the colonoscopy, is a painless test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine.
Fast Recovery, Less Pain: New Options for Hysterectomy
Diane Goldenberg underwent a total laparoscopic hysterectomy and says “I can’t believe how quickly I recovered and how good I feel. More women should know about this.”
Knee Replacement is Music to Marblehead Composer
“I exercise, golf, ride a bike, and ski,” explains Mason Daring. “I did all these things before my surgery too, but I was always in pain. It got to the point where I had to do something about it.”
Small Changes Make a Big Difference
More than 20 million children and adults in the United States, or seven percent of the population, are living with diabetes. What's frightening is that nearly one-third of those people aren't even aware that they have the disease.
Family Medicine: Another Option for Your Family
For Lisa Parker of Saugus, a busy mother of a teenager and a pre-teen, the family medicine model meets many needs. “Having one physician for my entire family is wonderful. It is so easy to have all of our care coordinated at one office,” says Parker, whose family sees Christine Valdes, M.D., at the North Shore Physicians Group practice in Saugus.
Brudnicks Put a Premium on Care at NSMC
“There if you need it.” For Swampscott’s Jeffrey Brudnick, these words hold special meaning—both as the owner of a successful insurance business and as the recipient of life-saving care at North Shore Medical Center.
Strike Out for Cancer: Lynnfield Man Battles Back to the Mound
When 53-year-old Tony Doucette on the pitcher’s mound in Lynnfield, you would hardly guess that only weeks earlier he was toting around a backpack loaded with cans of liquid nutrients attached to a feeding tube that snaked into his stomach.

 

Step by Step: A Surprise Diagnosis of Peripheral Artery Disease
When North Reading resident Ellen O’Callaghan had a sudden heart attack at the age of 48, she not only discovered she had heart disease, but she also learned she had peripheral artery disease (PAD) and had four to five times more risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Surviving a “Widow Maker”: Quick actions by NSMC cardiac team saves Marblehead man’s life
It was a hot, sticky August morning, but Marblehead resident Scott MacAllister, 63, was not about to let the heat keep him from heading out for a run. He met up with longtime friend, Steve Flanagan, and the pair began their normal loop around Marblehead Neck. Running partners for more than 15 years, it didn’t take either of them long to notice something wasn’t right.
Learning How to Maintain a Healthy Weight
For most people on the run, making healthy food choices and maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. This is no different for Salem resident Jackie O’Donnell, 62, who has struggled throughout her life to keep unwanted pounds off.
The Case for Early Detection
Between raising her two children with her husband Gino, managing a busy household and working full time, Peabody resident Karen Schrader, 47, didn’t normally take a lot of time for herself. But one night last September, while washing dishes, she realized that she hadn't had a screening mammogram in several years. With a history of benign cysts in her 20s and 30s, she knew she was overdue.
Fast Treatment at a Stroke Center is Key to Survival
It was a Saturday night like any other. Peabody resident Robert Kelly, 84, and his wife, Peg, were at home watching the evening news on television. Suddenly, Kelly, trying to comment on the story they were watching, realized he could not form a single word. Whenever he tried to speak, noise would come out of his mouth, but it was nothing close to the words he was trying to say.
What the Cancer WALK 20th Anniversary Means to Me
It means a lot to me that the North Shore Cancer WALK will be held on June 20, 2010. In addition to being the 20th anniversary of the WALK, it will be the 20th anniversary—to the day—of my father’s death. I can’t think of a better way to honor his memory on Father’s Day.
Surviving Sudden Death
Theresa Stablewski, 60, enjoyed playing tennis and was often spotted on long bike rides with her husband. She was fit and had no history of cardiac disease; cardiac problems were the last thing on her mind. “My son always joked that I was healthier than he was.”
Battle of the Band
At 24, Danvers resident Erin James’ life after college was on track, but, she said, "I just knew my weight was holding me back.”
Crisis for Krista
No little girl dreams of spending her birthday in the hospital. Certainly, Krista Dariotis of Swampscott didn't as she looked forward to turning 7 on December 2. A few days prior, however, she developed a cough and low fever. Her mother, Emily, grew concerned when Krista began having trouble breathing.
The Beat Goes On for Gordon Hall and NSMC
The next time you reach for the snooze button, think of Gordon Hall. While you are dozing off, the 79-year-old Marblehead dynamo is likely to be downhill or cross-country skiing, canoeing, swimming, playing tennis, sailboat racing or attending a board meeting for one of the many community, cultural and environmental organizations with which he is involved.
Looking for a Shoulder to Lean On
Alfred Newman, of Peabody, could bear with most of the aches and pains in his shoulders, chalking it up to getting older. But when the retired carpenter and electrical engineer started struggling to put his belt on and to even get himself dressed, he knew he needed to take action.
A Drive to Survive
Lynnfield native Sylvia Venuti's successful surgery and treatment for tonsil cancer.
A Winning Combination
The story of Swampscott resident Steve Simmon's successful kidney transplant.
Diabetes Management Changes a Life
When Kim Briere-Lewis was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2007 she realized she needed to change her lifestyle. Briere-Lewis’ primary care physician suggested that she attend the Diabetes Management Program through North Shore Medical Center.
Difference Between Life and Death
Being taken to the right hospital at the right time was the difference between life and death for Lynn police officer Dave Fitzgerald.
Injecting Hope into a Lifetime of Pain
Jill Joyce, 36-year-old Lynn science teacher, lived with back pain for fifteen years. Then an NSMC neurosurgeon and spine specialist, in conjunction with two pain management specialists from NSMC, finally brought her relief from pain.
Kim Kimball (breast cancer survivor)
Kim Kimball's breast cancer treatment included a high quality of care and state-of-the-art technology -- and was just minutes from her home in Wenham.
The Power of Suggestion: Quitting Smoking
Salem resident Barbara Mahoney is finally able to quit smoking....using hypnotherapy and the power of suggestion.
Embracing Life Beyond Breast Cancer
A five year cancer survivor shares her story.
Weight Loss, Family Style
Ipswich parents’ gastric bypass surgeries spur family’s more active life.
Treating Peripheral Vascular Disease
Stephen Sawtell of Nahant was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease; physicians at the NSMC Vascular Center inserted a stent in his leg artery in order to restore blood flow.
An End to Knee Pain
Now with a full range of motion in her knees, Carol Wadsworth is looking forward to returning to her love of horseback riding.
Breathing Easy Again
Cynthia McPherson battled constant wheezing, horrible coughs, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. “It got so that I knew when it crossed from a cold into pneumonia and I’d go to my doctor or the emergency room for X-rays and medication,” says McPherson. What McPherson didn’t know was that a cancerous lesion was slowly growing on her right bronchi, one of the main airways in her lungs.
Winning the Battle Against Cancer--Twice
Marcia Wolinski recently won her second battle against cancer. The spirited 74-year-old Swampscott resident first beat bladder cancer 25 years ago when she was treated successfully for rectal cancer at NSMC Salem Hospital. The second battle took place just this past spring
Charles Leveroni (non-Hodgkins lymphoma survivor)
Charles Leveroni, a senior vice president at Lehman Brothers in Boston, came to work one morning and discovered that all of his male colleagues had shaved their heads the night before -- in a show of support for his struggle with cancer.
The Right Choice at the Right Time
For half her life, 28-year-old Stacey Floyd, a first-grade teacher from Lynn, tried various methods for treating her excessively long, painful menstrual periods. Over the years, birth control pills and hormone shots had provided some relief, but constant doctors' visits and debilitating discomfort left Floyd feeling "older than [her] time."
A Perfect Storm
Bob Matthias, 55, of Lynn, arrived at NSMC's Emergency Department on a cold February night, all but unconscious. When he awoke in the NSMC Heart Center two days later, he learned how close he had come to dying.
Keeping Pace With a Busy Life
Racing from his job as a bar manager at Salem AOH to manage his son's Babe Ruth baseball team, then back home to spend time with his wife and three children, Tom Tardiff, a 48-year old Peabody (and former Salem) resident leads a very full life. But three years ago, while giving a presentation at work, he felt lightheaded and dizzy, his color paled and he needed to sit down.
Unexpected Discovery Leads to Life-Saving Procedure
As a registered nurse for close to 20 years, Sherry Tirelli knew something serious was happening when she developed high blood pressure, severe headaches and neck pain early last spring.
Comprehensive Treatment Transforms a Life
Sometimes, when they're out shopping together, Elaine Brown's husband walks right by without recognizing her. That's because the 61-year-old Methuen resident has lost 118 pounds since having laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery at NSMC Salem Hospital last April.
For State-of-the-Art Care, There's No Place Like Home
Mary Conlon had her first child at NSMC Union Hospital in 1953, and she and her family have been receiving care at the 150-bed community hospital in Lynn ever since. Recently, the great-grandmother came to NSMC Salem Hospital because of chronic lower back pain.
Leading-Edge Technology Yields Powerful Results
Dick Bailey, at the age of 70, is at his desk by 6:30 a.m. and goes "non-stop," as he says, for the rest of the day. When he's not working, the longtime Nahant resident enjoys an active social life with his wife, Suzanne. Given his vigorous lifestyle, Bailey was surprised to learn in April 2005 that he had prostate cancer.
It Takes a Team to Heal a Child
Manuel Carrillo – "Manny," to his friends and family– started life like any other infant – happy, healthy, and always smiling. But at about four months, he developed a 103-degree fever.
The Newest Standard of Care
70-year-old Barbara Schapero of Peabody was bothered by a nagging dry cough, so she went to see her primary care physician to have it checked out. X-rays and a CT scan showed an abnormality in her left lung that turned out to be cancer.
Lessons From the Heart
Watching what he eats has never been easy for 61-year-old James Elsaesser of Salem, a professional chef and culinary arts teacher at North Shore Community College.
Building Bones: New Treatment Offers Hope for Osteoporosis Patients
A relatively new injectable drug stimulates the formation of new bone and is very effective in treating osteoporosis.
More than Indigestion
Gastroesophageal reflux disease can often be treated with medication; surgery is no longer as necessary as it once was.
Winding Road to Recovery
Cookie Melanson received excellent continuity of care at several Partners hospitals last summer, thanks to a new form of electronic medical record (EMR).
Striking Out Cancer Through Teamwork
Jennifer Flanagan, a vibrant 55-year-old from Marblehead, is one of thousands of NSMC patients who have benefited from the NSMC Cancer Center close collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center.
Making Miracles
After 18 months of trying to conceive, Melissa Meehan and her husband Matt, of Swampscott, turned to NSMC reproductive endocrinologist Mitchell Rein, M.D., for help.