Carmela Ehret, 65, is used to taking matters into her own hands. A successful businesswoman in Manhattan, she has also served on the Weehawken Township Council for more than 15 years and held other elected positions. So when her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer 18 years ago, Carmela acted on the advice of her trusted physician Michael Sciarra, D.O., primary care physician and gastroenterologist affiliated with Palisades Medical Center. “Dr. Sciarra was adamant that I get tested for colon cancer,” says Carmela. “I was 47 years old at the time and never had a colonoscopy, but he felt it was important. It’s great to have a doctor who is so diligent.”
Early Testing and Diagnosis
While her mother was still undergoing chemotherapy, Carmela had her first colonoscopy with Dr. Sciarra. His suspicions were correct. Carmela was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“Many people are hesitant to have a colonoscopy, but it truly saves lives. In Carmela’s case, we caught the cancer at a very early stage and she had an excellent prognosis,” explains Dr. Sciarra, who also serves as director of the GI Fellowship at Hackensack Meridian Health. “I always treat patients on a case-by-case basis and had a feeling something wasn’t right. It’s worth it to have the procedure to know for sure.” Carmela continues, “I didn’t have any symptoms. But my oncologist said that if I had waited another year to get tested, the cancer could have traveled to my lymph nodes and not been reversible.”
Dr. Sciarra referred Carmela to surgeon Roxana Kline, M.D., who performed Carmela’s colon resection surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center. Dr. Kline removed 18 inches of Carmela’s colon to eliminate the cancer. She also removed Carmela’s ovaries as a preventive measure. The surgery was a success and Carmela did not require chemotherapy or radiation.
More than a year after surgery, Dr. Sciarra urged Carmela to get another follow-up colonoscopy to ensure there were no other signs of cancer. As a busy executive working in New York’s twin towers, it was difficult for Carmela to take time for the procedure. But she respected Dr. Sciarra’s opinion and scheduled the appointment. On September 11, 2001, Carmela stayed home from work to have the test, avoiding the day’s disasters. “I always call Dr. Sciarra my guardian angel. He’s saved my life in more ways than one,” she says.
In the following years, Carmela experienced several hernias that required surgery. Again, she relied on the expertise of Palisades.
“My body healed so fast from colon surgery that it created scar tissue, which left me susceptible to hernias and fistulas,” says Carmela, who also manages other health conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and high blood pressure, which can compromise healing.
Carmela’s general surgeon, Maurizio Miglietta, D.O., explains, “Carmela needed multistaged surgeries to repair her hernias and reconstruct her abdominal wall. Thankfully, she was a very involved and informed patient. I told her to stay strong and we would get through it together.” During one of her first surgeries, Carmela had an unexpected reaction to the anesthesia. Alexander Portugal, M.D., anesthesiologist at Palisades, worked closely with Carmela to identify an alternative anesthesia. He also cared for her during each subsequent surgery because he understood her needs so well. “All my doctors at Palisades were relentless in getting me better,” says Carmela.
Today, Carmela is fully healed. She is back to her life of work and volunteering and enjoying her husband and three grandchildren. She is also planning a knee replacement surgery to deal with longstanding arthritis pain. Her hospital choice? “I feel like Palisades is my home away from home. Everyone knows me and is so friendly and caring,” says Carmela. “I couldn’t be more thankful for the concern and compassion of my doctors. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
This past year was a truly extraordinary time to be a part of Hackensack Meridian Health Palisades Medical Center. 2017 was a year of transition, organizational unity and operational progress. We look forward to the opportunities that are presented by a dynamic environment composed of competition and cultural diversity.
It is a privilege to work with our leadership team and all of our dedicated team members who provide the highest quality of care to our patients, their families and our community.
Anthony J. Passannante Jr., M.D., FACC
Palisades Medical Center
Recognized as a Top Hospital
Palisades Medical Center was ranked the #4 hospital in the state among hospitals with 350 beds or fewer by Inside Jersey magazine and Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The prestigious “2017 Top Hospitals in New Jersey” list was tabulated based on votes from 2,915 licensed physicians in the state.
The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval
Our entire team celebrated the receipt of The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval, which reflects Palisades Medical Center’s commitment to providing safe and effective patient care. The accreditation came following a rigorous, unannounced onsite survey in September.
OMNIA Tier 1
At the beginning of 2017, Palisades Medical Center was selected to become a Horizon OMNIA Health Tier 1 provider. By broadening our collaboration with Horizon, we’re able to further advance our mission of delivering integrated care while providing affordable access to more OMNIA health plan members. We are one of only two hospitals in Hudson County to be recognized as an OMNIA Tier 1 provider.
Quality Stroke Care
Palisades Medical Center earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check mark for Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers.
Improving Patient Satisfaction
We are making headway in improving our nursing staff ratios looking to meet Magnet standards, a recognition given by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center (ANCC). We also recently implemented a new Vocera Communications tool that is already working to improve patient engagement and satisfaction by standardizing rounding and providing real-time request-tracking capabilities and service recovery interventions.
Connected to Our Community
Palisades Medical Center’s Community Outreach Program continues to expand, and we constantly form new relationships with key local partners and stakeholders to provide awareness, education, health screenings and access to healthcare resources that are relevant to their lifestyle and cultural needs.
Anthony J. Passannante Jr., M.D., FACC
Patricia Carroll, FACHE
Vice President, Operations
Rubén D. Fernández, MA, RN
Vice-President, Patient Care Services/Chief Nursing Officer
Eurice E. Rojas, MHA
Vice President, External Affairs
Joseph G. Burt
Vice President, Development
Aaron Stein, MD
Acting Chief Medical Officer
Director, Human Resources