March of 2020 will be month that many of us will never forget, but for Tara Silva, the spring of 2020 became more than the onset of a pandemic, it became about navigating a diagnosis that she and her family couldn’t have ever anticipated.
“Just as the pandemic struck, I wasn’t feeling well. As women in our early 50s we are so used to symptoms being dismissed as ‘just menopause’ but I knew it was something was very wrong.”
After visits to Dr. Ellen McMahon and Dr. Dan Pesch, Tara’s primary care and OBGYN team at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Tara set out on a journey of CAT Scans and other diagnostic tools to determine the cause of her pain. Abnormal results revealed that Tara had carcinosarcoma, a rare and aggressive uterine cancer.
Through MVH’s collaboration with Mass General Brigham, Dr. Pesch immediately referred Tara to Dr. Whifield Growdon, a renowned surgical oncologist at Mass General Cancer Center who specializes in this disease. In July of 2020 Tara underwent a full hysterectomy at Mass General and in September began chemotherapy at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.
For seven weeks following chemotherapy, Tara received radiation at MGH. “The transition to MGH to receive radiation was seamless. Dr. Andrea Russo, Associate Clinical Director for Radiation Oncology and Director of Gynecological Radiation Oncology was a true partner and the MGH Radiology team knew how important it was for me to be on Island to be with my family and scheduled my appointments to maximize my time at home.”
A month after chemo and radiation, Tara returned to work at Farm Neck Golf Club. She continues to see her physicians every three months. Reflecting on this challenging time, Tara is thankful for the coordination of care between Mass General Cancer Center and MVH. “The thing about cancer is that the waiting is the worst. The whole process feels like limbo. The responsiveness and coordination of care between Dr. Growdon and the MVH Infusion Team helped to make it better.”
Serendipity: An Island Baby Fulfills a Strategic Wish
In the summer of 2019, Shelley and Mark found out they were expecting their first child. As excited as they were, they also understood that being in the advanced maternal age bracket brought on an additional set of challenges. Early in the pregnancy, the two had to make frequent trips to Boston for genetic screening that included high-resolution ultrasound imaging technology not readily available on-island.
“Going to Boston wasn’t too much trouble,” says Shelley, “but when COVID-19 came onto the scene, a new layer of complexity was added. The MVH care team recommended we stop the travel.”
By this phase in their pregnancy, getting accurate prenatal measurements became very important, but it was too high risk to continue the back and forth. The couple decided to stay on island and rely on the imaging equipment at MVH for the remainder of their pregnancy.
Mark explains, “We felt for all of the mothers coming after us who had to travel to Boston for early screenings or had risks like we did. We knew we wanted to give back, but we weren’t sure exactly how. So, we asked our MVH care team to tell us what updated imaging technology would eliminate the need to go to Boston for future mothers. We were told the ultrasound model, the cost and wrote a check for exactly that amount.”
The donation was used to purchase the Samsung Hera W10, an ultrasound device that supports not just obstetrics but also gynecology, cardiology, general surgery, oncology, pediatrics, and various other specialties.
From routine to complex, it provides exceptional image clarity on par with some of the most sophisticated hospitals in the country used to diagnose conditions associated with the reproductive organs, carotid vessels, peripheral vessels, thyroid, abdominal area and soft tissue masses among others. This advanced technology allows clinicians to see more in less time, ultimately providing more confident diagnostic answers.
According to Dr. Daniel Pesch, Chief of Staff, extending testing capability for obstetrics patients was serendipitously part of the MVH strategic plan. “As a result of Mark and Shelley’s generosity, MVH’s new ultrasound capability will allow us to perform early genetic risk screening on island and will increase our capability to perform mid-pregnancy anatomy scans with tele-health technology. This significant upgrade will keep us on the same platform as Massachusetts General Hospital to promote standardization across our integrated healthcare system.”
Mark and Shelly welcomed happy and healthy Willis Cronin into the world at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in April 2020.
The new ultrasound machine was available for expectant mothers in July of 2020, affording mothers just like Shelley the ability to stay on-island to receive the care they need.
Best of all: Mark works in TV, so he likes imaging and Shelley is a scientist, so she likes high-tech equipment. This ultrasound machine is the perfect marriage of the two, and a warm reminder of the gratitude in our community.