Priscilla Rodriguez, 74, knew something was wrong one evening in January 2016. Her day was like any other day, until, upon her return home from work, she went to the bathroom and discovered that she was bleeding. Although she was not experiencing any pain or feeling sick, she quickly called her primary care doctor, who told her to head directly to the Emergency Room. Sihana Sela, P.A., a physician assistant at Mountainside Medical Center explains, “After menopause, women should not experience any bleeding. Even one spot is not normal and should be evaluated immediately.”
When Priscilla arrived at the Mountainside Medical Center Emergency Department, she explained her symptoms and was called into an examination bay right away. By the time her exam was completed, she was referred to an OB/GYN for dilation and curettage — also known as a D&C — a surgical procedure that removes the lining of the uterus so the tissues can be analyzed.
“I noticed an abnormal thickening of her uterine wall, which is indicative of cancer,” says Fred Miller, M.D., an OB/GYN at Mountainside. Dr. Miller referred Priscilla to Merieme Klobocista, M.D., a gynecological oncologist at Mountainside. A biopsy confirmed that Priscilla had stage IB cervical cancer. “I recommended a radical hysterectomy to remove her cervix and uterus, along with chemotherapy and radiation after surgery,” Dr. Klobocista reports.
Just a few weeks later, Priscilla was back at Mountainside, this time, in preparation for surgery. “I was so scared, because, while I was being tested and sent for ultrasound, I had to continue to work,” Priscilla explains. “When I heard about the cancer diagnosis, I was afraid I was going to have large scars all across my body from the surgery. I thought I would not return to work for a long time.”
Fortunately, Dr. Klobocista performed the radical hysterectomy with a minimally invasive robotic approach, which allowed Priscilla to return to work in just three weeks. Robotic surgery allows a surgeon to be more precise, providing a 3D view at 10 times magnification into the surgical site. Dr. Klobocista explains, “This approach results in minimal pain, fast recovery, smaller incisions, which mean smaller scars, and a quicker return to normal activity, in comparison to traditional surgery.”
Priscilla recounts how the Mountainside team helped her stay at ease during her office visits and before surgery. “By the time I was going in for surgery, I was not scared at all. Before surgery, Dr. Klobocista took the time to explain the procedure. She even drew me diagrams. On the day of surgery, the Mountainside surgical staff kept me at ease by telling me jokes and keeping me calm.”
After surgery, Priscilla had an additional biopsy to ensure that the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes, and had chemotherapy once a week for five weeks and daily radiation therapy at the same time. She continued her follow-up appointments with Dr. Klobocista and her team once every three months.
Back to Work and Cooking Up a Storm
Today, Priscilla has returned to her normal routine and is back at work, where she is known to stand for over 7 hours every day, and lift moderately heavy boxes up to 40 lbs. She now visits Dr. Klobocista’s office once every 4 months, and makes sure to get a pap smear twice a year.
Priscilla is going to the gym again to walk the treadmill or elliptical, or use the bicycle. She’s also back to cooking meals that are reminiscent of her home country, Trinidad and Tobago.
“I am so thankful for all the doctors, nurses and other people who took care of me at Mountainside. I come to Mountainside for all my health care needs, now. I will not go anywhere else,” she says.
Mountainside Medical Center is proud to continue to provide world-class care since our founding in 1891. This past year, we upheld our long tradition of service as a community health care provider and made great strides in ensuring that we are well-positioned for the future.
– John A. Fromhold, CEO
Combating the Opioid Epidemic
In response to the alarming news that someone in America dies every 19 minutes from heroin or prescription opioid overdose, Mountainside Medical Center established partnerships with other concerned organizations and hosted events for health care providers and the public.
Working with Police to Collect Excess Medications
In observance of National Patient Safety Awareness Week, Mountainside arranged a “Safe Medication Drop Off” location in partnership with the Montclair Police Department. The public was invited to bring their excess prescription medications to the hospital to ensure safe disposal.
Former Prosecutor Invited to Medical Grand Rounds
Former Bergen County Prosecutor and State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal visited the medical center and spoke at Grand Rounds. He emphasized the pivotal role the medical community must play and provided guidance for developing collaborative programs with law enforcement, treatment providers and mental health professionals.
RADEO Grant to Reduce Adverse Opioid Events
Mountainside Medical Center was awarded a Reducing Adverse Drug Events Related to Opioids (RADEO) grant from the Society for Hospital Medicine for provider and patient education. Dr. Stephen Bekanich and Kevin Vuernick, two RADEO program mentors, visited the medical center and met with leadership and clinical staff to discuss strategies for reducing overuse, misuse and adverse drug events from opioid prescribing.
John A. Fromhold
Chief Operating Officer
Interim Chief Nursing Officer
Vice President, Human Resources
Chief Financial Officer
Vice President, Chief Quality & Compliance Officer
Vice President, Physician and Business Development
Vice President, Physician Practices
Medical Staff Leadership
Juan L. Riestra, M.D.
Ross I.S. Zbar, M.D.
Mark Drzala, M.D.
Jerome H. You, M.D.