Moments That Matter

Doctors uncovered a serious heart condition after Sharon Corlette experienced profuse sweating at her son’s wedding.

Sweating at a Wedding Saved a Woman’s Life

By Brian Spyros

At her son’s 2015 wedding, Sharon Corlette was having a good time on the dance floor when her sister noticed something. 

“She said I was sweating profusely. I didn’t even realize it or think it was anything abnormal,” the 68-year-old Plainville resident explained. 

After the wedding, Corlette began noticing a strange feeling while exercising. “After one or two minutes, I would feel a funny sensation — almost like a hole in my chest.” 

She told her primary care provider who immediately referred her to Dr. Heather Swales, a cardiologist with the Heart & Vascular Institute (HVI) at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. Dr. Swales put Corlette through a series of tests and procedures which revealed a serious situation with her heart. 

“You only have five coronary arteries and four of mine were blocked,” Corlette said. “I knew I had high blood pressure and my cholesterol wasn’t good, but I never ever thought something was that wrong with me.” 

She would eventually undergo quadruple bypass surgery, and now feels great at 75. 

Dr. Swales said the sweating and chest discomfort was because Corlette’s heart was struggling to get oxygen due to the blockages in her arteries. 

“Over time, she would’ve developed symptoms of congestive heart failure or she would’ve had a heart attack,” Dr. Swales explained. “She could’ve had cardiac arrest, which is sudden death, and might not have made it to the hospital.” 

Corlette had high praise for the HVI team that helped save her life and a message for all women. 

“Never hesitate. Never wait. Go to the doctor if you notice something isn’t right. You only have one heart. You have to take care of it,” she said. 

Dr. Madhavi Gorusu donated and delivered blankets to organizations in Northwest Connecticut.

Oncologist Delivers Donated Blankets to Those in Need

By Tim Lebouthillier

Dr. Madhavi Gorusu, medical director of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, took time to treat the human spirit in the community when she donated and delivered blankets to several partner organizations serving members of the community in need. 

Dr. Gorusu reached out to Friends in Service to Humanity Northwest and The Gathering Place on behalf of her work with the Connecticut Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (CAPI), which encourages its members to take part in education and charitable and philanthropic activities. 

Maria Pires, who works in EVS at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, pauses for a few minutes to add some colors to the mural on the wall on the inpatient cardiology unit.

Strokes of Purple, Red and Blue Liven Walls at SVMC

By Robin Stanley

A collaborative mural adds a little color to the walls on the Level 6 inpatient cardiology unit at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. 

After seeing a unit nurse using a coloring app as a stress reducer, Nurse Manager Nicole Simpson purchased several large coloring sheets to hang on the unit. The staff slowly add color to the sheets in an activity that serves as a great way for them to pause and decompress. 

“We hung it up one Monday morning and we watched as people went by and started to notice the posters,” Simpson said. “Other departments would stop and add to it, and we even had some patients add color to it. I honestly never thought people would love it as much as they do. It is really amazing how something so small can bring a smile to people’s faces.” 

The unit purchased more coloring sheets and other departments, such as Rehab, were thinking about where to place ones of their own.

Photo by Bill Jennings

Megan Rock, pictured here with her pup, learned to play dominos as part of a patient’s recovery at the Institute of Living.

Making a Domino Connection

By Kate Carey-Trull

Severe illness and a language barrier were the challenges facing Megan Rock, a social worker and behavioral health clinician at the Institute of Living, when a patient was transferred to her unit after being hospitalized in a catatonic state for four months. 

The patient was receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and was not engaging in or answering questions when Rock would visit him on her regular rounds. She persisted, however, and after a few weeks, the patient began to respond. She would converse with him through an interpreter. 

After finding out the patient could speak English, they talked about his life before hospitalization. Rock learned the man, who worked as a school janitor, had a busy social life and would regularly meet friends to play dominoes. Eventually, he started venturing into the unit’s social area to play games and teach her to play dominoes. 

“This was huge for him because he went from not responding to any human interaction for over four months to teaching me how to play an entire game!” Rock said. “It quickly became a daily routine for us to play games together.” 

Several months after the man was discharged, his family reached out to Rock to let her know he was thriving. 

“I’m so grateful to be part of his success story. This was truly one of my favorite patient experiences,” she said. 

Leslie Cifone stepped away from her work as director of philanthropy and volunteer services to offer massage to a colleague.

Helping Colleagues with Hands-On Approach

By Brian Spyros

Leslie Cifone is the Central Region director of philanthropy and volunteer services, and her team will tell you she’s a dedicated, hands-on leader who goes above and beyond. 

“Hands-on” has new meaning. 

When the Central Region began implementing wellness events for colleagues after a surge of COVID-19 last winter, Cifone wanted to help and was more than qualified. 

“I’ve been a massage therapist for the past 13 years. I know our colleagues have been under a lot of stress in recent weeks and months and I wanted to do something to help,” Cifone explained. “I inquired about offering massages occasionally to colleagues, and was readily encouraged to do so.” 

Cifone offered massages during the winter at HOCC and MidState, and said she hopes to do more when she can because the experience is just as rewarding for her as it is for recipients. 

“Our colleagues are doing everything for everyone and are so deserving of this,” Cifone said. “Many of our colleagues never get a break at home or at work. Something as simple as a massage offers them a few moments of respite and they leave feeling good. I feel grateful that I can do this and greatly appreciate the opportunity.” 

Photo by Rusty Kimball

Windham Hospital Paramedic Jonathan Hall wrote a children’s book about the adventures of his cat Toto.

The Wind Began to Switch, The Cat to Pitch

By Elissa Bass

As a newborn kitten, Toto survived a tornado — so it makes sense that he’s cool with his adult life being a whirlwind. 

In June 2011, an F3 tornado struck western and central Massachusetts, leaving a 37-mile path of destruction. Brimfield was particularly hard hit, with 140 homes destroyed or damaged. 

As crews cleared debris, they found a tiny newborn kitten. Brought to the Brimfield fire station, the kitten met Jonathan Hall, a paramedic on duty who, with other EMS personnel, cared for the kitten they named Toto, feeding him milk through a syringe. The Animal Rescue League of Boston was in town to help with displaced animals, and the first responders turned Toto over to them for care. 

But, that kitten had squirmed his way into Hall’s heart. Six weeks later, his wife adopted Toto and brought him home to Brimfield. 

Hall, a paramedic at Windham Hospital in addition to his work in Brimfield, decided Toto’s story was worth sharing. In 2012, he wrote a children’s book called Toto the Tornado Kitten. He received a grant from a local bank to publish the book, and found Vermont illustrator Carol Ruzicka through Craigslist to do the drawings. 

Hall’s plan was to sell the book for $10 a copy and donate all the money after expenses to the Animal Rescue League of Boston and the Foundation for TJO Animals. To date, he has donated more than $70,000 after selling more than 12,000 copies of the book and its 2015 sequel, Oh Toto, Where Did You Go? 

Hall and Toto travel around New England to libraries, fire stations, schools, nursing homes, even a meteorologists’ convention, telling their story and selling books. 

“I thought this would be a silly, fun little project,” Hall said. “I thought I would sell a few copies to people in town and it would help us heal after all the trauma Brimfield went through. I printed 200 copies. They sold right away and it’s been crazy ever since.” 

Toto, who has more than 6,000 followers on Facebook, loves the crowds, Hall said. He wears a harness and leash when they go out, and loves to hang around the fire station or spend time with Windham paramedics. 

“He’s kind of like a dog,” Hall said. “Nothing fazes him. He loves the kids.” 

Breaking Bread and Bringing Managers Together

By Chris Wojcik

When the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group Human Experience Team began Chat & Chew virtual sessions in October 2021, the goal was to create a collegial platform for practice managers with content and discussion driven by participants. 

In a few short months, the casual format and invaluable content led the bi-weekly virtual meeting to be one of the most popular at HHCMG. 

Chat & Chew is an informal 30-minute gathering of primary and specialty care practice managers to connect personally and share best practices for common office issues. An average of 50 collaborate with peers while eating lunch. 

A manager is nominated by colleagues to present a practice-related topic which has been impactful to their team and/or patients. Topics have included team-building, new patient-centered workflows and practice process improvements. Presenting managers share a little about themselves personally before presenting on the topic and initiating discussion. 

It’s no surprise that these sessions have been wildly successful and embraced by managers. Not only do they tear down silos and bring practices together, they offer an opportunity to get to know one another on a personal level. By recognizing others for their accomplishments, colleagues feel more supported, connected to one another and are more likely to have a greater sense of well-being. 

“As new manager to HHC, these calls have allowed me to meet many of my colleagues across the medical group. It has also been a valuable resource to see how other managers work various aspects of the day-to-day operations. I have been able utilize many of the tricks and tips learned on these calls. The continual peer support has helped me transition smoothly into my role here,” said Jeanine Rudd. 

In December, the Chat & Chew sessions received the “Commitment to Clinician Experience” award at the annual Clinician Experience Project national client meeting. The Project is an online community with more than 50 healthcare organizations, providing resources for challenges providers and practices face every day. As part of the award, HHC received a $1,000 donation that will be used to support and recognize clinical teams. 

When it comes to the success of their practice, managers have found the Chat & Chew meetings to be time well invested. Many shared that the 30 minutes they spend together can dramatically improve both their operational workflow, patient experience, and personal well-being. 

MidState Public Safety Officer Saves Couple from Burning Car

By Brian Spyros

Public Safety Officer Fabian Aguirre rushed to help people when he spotted a car fire in a MidState Medical Center parking lot. 


The saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” took on new meaning for MidState Medical Center Public Safety Officer Fabian Aguirre. 

On a February morning, the 27-year-old was working an overtime shift, standing at the entrance to the MidState Emergency Department, when something in the front parking lot caught his attention. 

“I thought sand was being swept up into the air, but all of the sudden I realized it was actual smoke,” Aguirre explained. “I immediately went out to the parking lot and saw smoke coming from an SUV that belonged to an elderly couple.” 

The wife was standing outside the car trying to open the hood as smoke billowed from underneath, he said. Her husband was still sitting in the driver’s seat. 

“I was in shock that they both were still near the car. As I got closer, I could see flames starting to come through the hood and said, “Let’s go, you need to get out of here,” Aguirre said, moving them away from the vehicle. “I think they both were in shock.” 

He radioed for dispatch to call the Meriden Fire Department as flames and smoke intensified. Public Safety Officer Garrett Silverman arrived to help. 

“He came with a fire extinguisher and attempted to stop the fire. It didn’t do much, but it helped until the fire department arrived,” Aguirre said, adding that Sgt. Scott Dargan directed traffic away from the burning car. 

Meriden firefighters put out the fire, possibly caused by an animal’s nest under the hood. The couple was uninjured, thanks to Aquirre’s quick response. 

“If we weren’t able to get out there to them as quickly as we did, the two of them could’ve gotten badly injured by the flames or breathing in the smoke,” Aguirre said. “Everyone jumped in to help. Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Moments Summer 2022

Photo of Fabian Aguirre by Rusty Kimball

Doctor Brings Mass Casualty Training to Ukraine

By Kate Carey-Trull

Dr. Stanley Chartoff confers with other members of Team Rubicon, a medical mission group, in Ukraine. 

As the conflict with Russia raged, a Hartford 

Hospital doctor shared his emergency medicine skills with medical staff in Ukraine.

A member of Team Rubicon since 2018, Dr. Stanley Chartoff from the hospital’s Emergency Department, traveled to western Ukraine for three weeks on a medical support mission. Initially, the mission was to provide medical care for displaced people at shelters, but because of the strong Ukrainian medical system, that wasn’t a high need. Instead, they instructed physicians, nurses and paramedics about chemical warfare and trauma training for a mass casualty event, such as Stop the Bleed and triage methods.

“Most of it was new to them,” said Dr. Chartoff, chairman of Hartford Hospital’s Disaster Prepared-ness Committee who has 30 years of military experience. “They may have had superficial exposure, but this type of training was very much needed.”

He taught large groups at various hospitals, including Lviv Regional Clinical Hospital where 110 people attended the training in a teaching theater.

“People were very appreciative and asked a lot of questions,” he said.

The group of 18 also traveled to cities within a two-hour radius, speaking with people at shelters and injured soldiers. The nightly air raids and bombings weren’t in the area of the city where they stayed.

“I was extremely impressed with the Ukrainian people. Several I spoke to had relatives from further east that were more affected by the conflict,” he said. “They tried to keep a sense of normalcy, going out to dinner, walking their dogs. It was a part of their resilience.”

During the height of the COVID pandemic in 2021, Dr. Chartoff spent three weeks with Team Rubicon offering medical care in Navaho Nation, Arizona, and he has responded to disasters like hurricanes. Staff at Hartford Hospital and Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Kenneth Robinson were very supportive of the mission.

“I was gone for a month and had to get my shifts covered. My co-workers were very helpful with that, as they have been in the past,” he said.

Moments Summer 2022
Dr. Stanley Chartoff in Ukraine earlier this year.

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