Mary LeClair’s journey back to good health
Mary LeClair, 84, of Mashpee became so weak earlier this summer, she could hardly walk. Thinking she was going to die, she prepared her family, got her paperwork in order, signed the documents giving permission to donate her body to science, and said her goodbyes.
That all changed when Richard B. Zelman, MD, FACC, an interventional cardiologist at Cape Cod Hospital, gave her a new lease on life when he performed a cardiac catheterization to open a coronary artery that was 95 percent blocked.
“I woke up after the catheterization and I knew immediately something was different,” said LeClair. “I could breathe, the fog had lifted and it was ‘me’ again. It has only gotten better every day since then.”
Her downward decline began four months prior to her July 27th procedure and she recalls the exact date her symptoms began – April 16 – the day of the Boston Marathon.
She worked for Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) in the development office and she was always on the lookout for donations to assist in running the shelters. A donor contacted her that day to donate baby items and household items that would be very helpful in the shelters. They unloaded the donations at the HAC office and returned home.
That night, she developed severe chest pain, attributed it to heartburn, took some medication and went to bed. She didn’t give it a second thought.
As time went on, she noticed she was slowing down and her declining strength prevented her from participating and supporting both the Figawi Ball and race in May, which are annual events she always attended.
Her decades in community service as Barnstable County treasurer, county commissioner, member of the board of directors at Gosnold on Cape Cod and other organizations, had always kept her focused and active, which she relied on to keep her going through her declining health.
She tried to continue her daily routines including her job at HAC, which all changed in a moment of realization one morning in June. While driving to work, she noticed the summer traffic was increasing and knew she wouldn’t have the strength to continue the trip from Mashpee to Hyannis every day.
“By the time I got to the office, I was too tired to work,” said LeClair. “I very quietly went to my supervisor and told her I was leaving my position. I didn’t want any fanfare and I didn’t want anyone to know. I walked into my office, packed my things and left. I cried all the way home because I loved that job and I loved being able to help people.”
Her next step was to contact her primary care physician at Emerald Physicians, Arthur Crago, MD, who gave her a complete physical. While all the tests and check-up didn’t show any abnormalities, one extra step gave a clue to something amiss.
Dr. Crago’s nurse, Jennifer Boggs RN, decided to take her blood pressures sitting and then standing. It was high when she was sitting and low when she stood.
Dr. Crago then ordered a stress test and referred her to Megan Titas, MD, a cardiologist at the Cape Cod Healthcare Cardiovascular Center in Falmouth.
“Dr. Titas put me at ease,” said LeClair. “She told me that between her and Dr. Crago, they would find the answer.”
Finally a Diagnosis
LeClair was too weak to complete the exercise stress test and she went on to have a nuclear stress test. Between testing and waiting for results, LeClair said Dr. Titas told her to go to the ER if her symptoms worsened, which she did on July 3.
The ER physicians repeated all her tests, which came back normal.
Not one to sit still, and as a very active member of many organizations, LeClair continued to push herself to attend meetings of the National Alliance of Mental Illness Cape Cod & the Islands (NAMI), Wellstrong, the Barnstable County Regional Substance Abuse Council (RSAC) and the Mashpee Public Library as chairman of their board of directors.
The next step in her testing was to wear a Holter monitor to check her heart activity for 48 hours. She also took part in a home sleep study, which checks for pauses in breathing while asleep, to see if she was suffering from sleep apnea. Once those results were in, Dr. Titas told LeClair there was enough evidence to warrant the cardiac catheterization, which relieved her symptoms and is continuing to lead her back to good health.
She is grateful to all the staff at Emerald Physicians, Boggs, who took the extra step with her blood pressure check, her team of physicians, whom she calls her “crew,” and the staff and specialists at the Cape Cod Hospital Cardiac Cath Lab.
“So many people told me to go to Boston, but we have better care here and they know us,” said LeClair, who has known Dr. Crago for 20 years. “They never gave up on me and I want the world to know how proud I am of Cape Cod Healthcare.”
She offers two messages to others who may be ill and don’t feel they will get better.
“Keep pushing and don’t give up. I have seen so many people my age, in their 80s, with the look I had; that look of sadness. Now when I look in the mirror, I haven’t stopped smiling since my cardiac catheterization. You can come back, you can heal, and there are tools and people to help,” she said.
As for her second piece of advice:
“Appreciate good health and take care of yourself, eat right and exercise. We are viable, even though we are in our 80s.”
Note: As of 5/1/2019, Emerald Physicians joined Medical Affiliates of Cape Cod (MACC), a division of primary and specialty care physicians from Cape Cod Healthcare.