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John T. Mather Memorial Hospital

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Patients arriving at the Fortunato Breast Health Center use sanitizing gel before being given a mask and having their temperature taken.

Early detection is crucial in diagnosing and treating breast cancer. But screenings in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic have become more complicated, with many screening centers closing for a time and patients fearful to come into a hospital or clinic setting. Mather Hospital’s Fortunato Breast Health Center has responded with strict safety protocols designed to protect patients and staff.

Above, patients are socially distanced from Fortunato Breast Health Center staff when checking in for a screening.

“As always with breast cancer and other cancers, your best bet is to have an early diagnosis,” said Breast Center Co-Medical Director Michelle Price, MD. “The importance of early detection cannot be overstated. Therefore, we have adapted protocols so that we can continue to provide expert care in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Breast Center recommends that women receive their first screening mammography at age 40 and continue annual screening every year thereafter. Many professional societies involved with the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer also continue to recommend annual screening mammography starting at age 40, including the Society for Breast Imaging, American College of Radiology and National Comprehensive Cancer Network. In some high-risk situations, screening may begin even earlier.

Strict safety protocols have been implemented at the Breast Center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Price said this includes all staff and patients wearing masks at all times, everyone undergoing temperature checks when they arrive at the Breast Center, patients completing a COVID screening questionnaire about possible exposure to the virus, and the use of sanitizing gel.

“We no longer routinely have patients use waiting rooms, to minimize personal interactions,” said Dr. Price. “When patients arrive, they first call from their car, and are brought in one at a time for a streamlined experience.”

Where patients once routinely filled out a medical history form to provide information, the technologist now interviews the patient and records the pertinent data. This change eliminates the need for patients to handle a pen and paper.

Fortunato Breast Health Center Co-Medical Directors Michelle Price, MD, and Joseph Carrucciu, MD, with a 3D mammography unit in a photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have a socially distant protocol where the patient has very limited contact with anyone else, providing maximal safety. The technologist brings the patient to the mammography room, where she is provided a gown to change in to privately. When ready, the technologist enters the room and performs the mammogram. When the study is complete, the patient is again given privacy to get dressed, and she is escorted out of the department by the technologist. As has always been the case, the imaging equipment is thoroughly disinfected between patients. People seem very satisfied with what we have done from the point of safety protocols. It’s a similar setup they’ve experienced at other doctors’ offices,” said Dr. Price who stressed the importance of continuing with annual mammograms despite the pandemic.

“Early in the pandemic, non-urgent medical care was postponed, but now the situation has changed,” she said. “The current consensus is that screening should continue if it can be done safely. We have implemented protocols to maximize safety for patients and staff alike. Early detection of breast cancer offers us the best chance for successful treatment.”

The Fortunato Breast Center uses advanced 3D mammography that is designed to make screening more comfortable. The 3D mammography also offers sharper, clearer images for improved diagnostic accuracy all while providing the lowest radiation dose of all FDA approved mammography systems.

Fortunato Breast Center radiologists are specialists who only read breast imaging studies and look back as far as possible at a patient’s history of breast images for any subtle changes or abnormalities in order to provide the most accurate reading.

Should a patient have a breast cancer diagnosis, the Breast Center’s compassionate nurse navigators provide personal guidance with scheduling appointments for tests and follow-up procedures, getting prescriptions, insurance questions, and any other help patients may need. The Breast Center’s nurse navigators provide support throughout every step of the patients’ journey to recovery.

The Breast Center offers no cost or discounted mammography screenings for those individuals with low income and no health insurance. For more information, visit www. matherhospital.org/breasthealth or call 631-476-2771.

All photos courtesy of Mather Hospital

Above, employees at Mather Hospital taking part in last year's Wear Pink Day. Photo from Mather Hospital

And then there was light. Paint Port Pink, Mather Hospital’s annual breast cancer awareness campaign will kick off today, Oct.1, with the lighting of pink lights throughout the Village of Port Jefferson and in Port Jefferson Station. The month-long breast health outreach by Mather’s Fortunato Breast Health Center raises awareness, provides educational information and fosters solidarity in the community.

This year’s campaign, sponsored by New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, will join with its annual fundraising event Families Walk for Hope, which supports the Fortunato Breast Health Center. The Walk, a five-mile breast cancer fundraiser held the first Saturday in May, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is now taking place virtually through the end of October. The Walk this year will benefit the Fortunato Breast Health Center and Mather’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund. As a thank you and a reminder to wear a mask, anyone donating $10 or more to the Walk will receive a handmade mask. Register at www.familieswalkforhope.org

New this year is a Virtual Paint Night, hosted by Mather’s 2 South oncology and medical/surgical unit. Register at www.matherhospital.org/paintnight Also new is a “Mask-querade” mask decorating contest. Participants are asked to “pink” their masks and send photos to [email protected] by Oct. 20, as well as  posting on social media with the #paintportpink. The winner will be selected on Oct. 21 and receive a $100 gift card.

The hospital’s HealthyU webinar series will present four webinars on breast cancer each Tuesday in October from noon to 1 p.m. The series will look at diagnosis, treatment, surgery and breast reconstruction. Register for these webinars at www.matherhopsital.org/healthyu.

Returning this year is the Pink Your Pumpkin contest. Photos of “pinked” pumpkins can also be emailed to [email protected] by Oct. 20 and posted on social media with #paintportpink. The winner will be chosen on Oct. 21 and will receive a $100 gift card.

Paint your pumpkins pink for breast cancer awareness month.

Wear Pink Day takes place virtually on Friday, Oct. 16. Community members are urged to dress in pink in support of breast cancer awareness and post selfies on social media with #paintportpink. Photos can also be mailed to [email protected] to be included in a collage on Mather’s Facebook page. Don’t have anything pink to wear? Register for the Families Walk for Hope and receive an official pink t-shirt that can be used for your selfie.

The Port Jefferson Free Library celebrates Paint Port Pink with a Cherry Blossom Lantern workshop on Thursday, October 15, from 3 to 4 p.m. Participants will be guided step by step to paint their own lantern in a beautiful cherry blossom pattern. Register at https://tinyurl.com/cherryblossomlanterns.

A calendar of events and a list of Paint Port Pink community partners offering promotions to benefit the Fortunato Breast Health Center’s Fund for Uninsured is at www.matherhospital.org/pink. Register for the Families Walk for Hope at www.familieswalkforhope.org Call 631-476-2723 for more information.

The nursing staff at Mather Hospital thanks people for their donations and for keeping up social distancing. Photo from Kathy Long and Nicole Flatley

By Rich Acritelli

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!”

From the start of the coronavirus epidemic that has hit this nation, this saying has been followed by local nurses Kathy Long and Nicole Flatley. These two hospital workers are at opposite ends of their careers, but share the common goal of helping their patients. Within a medical crisis that rivals and surpasses all other illnesses in recent history, COVID-19 has left a mark on the nation that will never be forgotten. Currently, at the time of reporting, there are well over 400,000 cases of this virus with close to 13,000 American lives lost. In New York State alone, there are almost 5,500 deaths with close to 140,000 confirmed cases that are growing every day.

Newbie nurse Nicole Flatley has only been working at Mather for less than a year before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo from Flatley

Healthcare workers of every kind are facing extreme health hazards and working an extraordinary number of hours to help save lives and help stem the tide of the virus. Never has any other generation of Americans watched the USNS Comfort dock in New York Harbor to care for local citizens or see the government build field hospitals in Central Park, the Jacob Javits Center in New York City and closer to home at Stony Brook University.  Even during times of war, children and young adults were still able to go to school to get an education. Due to the severity of COVID-19, some of the most common parts of our society have changed through online teaching, a practice now seen from one coast to the other.

As a 22-year-old resident of Sound Beach, Flatley has been a nurse at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson since August, 2019. It has been less than a year since she graduated from St. Josephs College, but she is now one of the 3.8 million registered nurses nationally battling the virus. For the last eight months, this newly hired employee has flourished into a trusted nursing member of the 3 South team in Mather, one that has been at the forefront for treating COVID-19 patients within Mather.  

It is no surprise that Flatley is working long shifts to help men and women of all different ages fight the virus. As her former social studies teacher, I recognized her as a prepared, organized and motivated student willing to do her best within every assigned task. Flatley was a key member of the Rocky Point field hockey team which was amongst the most competitive on Long Island. In school, Flatley’s excellence with her academics enabled her to be placed on the National Honor Society. Armed with a brilliant smile, Flatley enjoys her time with family and friends.

Flatley is a “spunky” well rounded young lady who has the ability to talk to others with an upbeat personality, something she has utilized to care for her COVID-19 patients. Working overtime and in midnight shifts, Flatley said she is extremely thankful for the nurses that have helped guide her during the start of her career. With the staff around her, these nurses help determine any positive and negative coronavirus cases. Mather has seen the wide variation of symptoms, from shortness of breath, fever, diarrhea, and chest tightness. Nurses are covered from head toe in protective gowns and gear with suction and surgical face masks, along with face shields. While she said she has limited experience, Flatley has received an into-the-fryer education that has seen her handle daunting responsibilities at an extremely high level. 

Experienced health care worker Kathy Long is the nursing manager for the 3 South Unit. This 30-year  nursing veteran nurse and Port Jefferson Station resident said she is extremely proud of her colleagues. During these stressful moments, her nurses have not taken a day off and have worked long hours through the rigors of the crisis. Long said she is extremely thankful for the compassion of her staff who have worked under the most challenging conditions that could be asked of any nurse. Former Athletic Director to St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington and  Port Jefferson Station resident Don Buckley has known Long for many years, saying she has outstanding professional qualities and that he views her as a “wonderful, caring, loving nurse, and most of all wife and mother.  It was no surprise to us when she became supervisor of 3 South, as she is a natural leader and highly respected.”

Veteran nurse Kathy Long has been working at Mather for 30 years, but has “never experienced anything like this.” Photo from Long

As the senior member of this department, Long was pleased with Flatley’s skills, and that she has shown to be “an advocate for her patients, a critical thinker, and a quick study.”  

While Flatley may be a younger nurse, Long said she was pleased with her progress shown through many of these dark moments. As a parent of three boys who are about the same age as many of the younger staff at Mather, she has guided these younger nurses with vital information to get her through the hard days.

For 30 years, Long has observed trying medical conditions, but she maintains that this epidemic is by far the worst situation that she has ever endured as a nurse. The scary part of COVID-19, she said, is that the increased “spike” has not yet hit New York. Every precaution has been taken. In order to keep the contact limited between the patients and healthcare workers, the hospital issued I-Pads to people suffering from COVID-19. They use this technology to speak to the doctors and nurses when they are not in these rooms. The “nucleus” program, as its called, has allowed the patients greater access to those professionals that are helping them and for additional face time to see their loved ones who are unable to visit them. Long said the program has strengthened morale for their patients.

During every major moment that America has faced national adversity, people have always helped each other through trying times. Over the last twenty years, rescue workers spent countless hours at Ground Zero during and after the 9/11 attacks. For the previous two decades, American soldiers have been supported from home as they fought in major battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the next major aspect of patriotism has undoubtedly been observed through the healthcare workers in New York. New York City Fire Department trucks and crews have been placed in front of hospitals cheering the healthcare workers. With a smile, Flatley explained how the local fire departments have blasted their sirens at the same time to show appreciation to local hospitals that are on the “front lines” of the virus response.

Newbie nurse Nicole Flatley, left, has only been working at Mather for less than a year before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo from Flatley

As a senior nurse, Long said she is incredibly thankful of the outside aid sent to this hospital from restaurants like Ruvo East, the Port Jeff Lobster House and Rocco’s Pizza, just to name a few. She would like to recognize the local families that have also brought food for her staff and the many appreciation cards from children from as far away as West Sayville. These colorful notes by the kids have highlighted the many sacrifices all hospital workers are conducting on a regular basis for the COVID-19 patients. Many of these pictures are hung in an populated area in the hopsital, serving as a vital morale booster for all the hospital staff. It is possible Flatley will serve in the same role as Long in the future, supporting her staff as a pillar of nursing expertise and understanding. 

Flatley has grown immensely during this mounting crisis. One of the greatest concerns that she deals with at her job is the “unknown” of this medical condition. The nurses continually work under unyielding pressures with no known cure, no timetable for it to end, and no shift ever being the same. Always a young lady with a can-do attitude, Flatley’s mother Jill describes her sheer pride in her daughter by saying, “I know it’s your job, but your kindness and courage to do it inspires me beyond words. I can tell you are making an immense difference in many lives. Love you and stay safe.” 

Thank you to the doctors, support staff and nurses like that of Long and Flatley that have strenuously labored with their peers to provide love and comfort to the victims of this virus.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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Officials from the Port Jefferson village, chamber and BID joined Teachers Federal Credit Union and hospital heads to accept a $5,000 check allowing more meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

This post has been updated with new information of more funds coming from Suffolk Federal Credit Union.

Port Jeff business organizations have gotten a helping hand from Teachers Federal Credit Union in their quest to bring meals to hospital workers on the front lines of the coronavirus, as well as support restaurants that have seen massive drops in sales since the start of the pandemic.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers, joined together in offering a check to the chamber and BID’s program offering meals to hospital workers. Photo by Kyle Barr

Holding a large $5,000 novelty check in front of the PJ Lobster House, Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Inna Sprague, the chief experience officer of Teachers,joined village and hospital officials in accepting the check. It was also a show of how people try to maintain social distancing even in such simple events like a press conference.

“Thank you for thinking of us as your hometown as all of our hometowns are suffering,” Pipe said.

On Tuesday, April 14, Suffolk Federal Credit Union will also be presenting the business organizations a $7,500 check to help with operations, according to chamber executive director Barbara Ransome. This brings the total in donations from credit unions
to $12,500.

For the past few weeks, Port Jefferson village, the chamber and the Business Improvement District have teamed up to have restaurants supply meals that are shipped to both John T. Mather and St. Charles hospitals. James Luciano, the owner of PJ Lobster House and the BID’s secretary, said they are sending 40 meals to hospital workers at a time on a rotating basis between businesses. Participating businesses include Slurp, Nantuckets, Prohibition Kitchen, Wave Seafood & Steak, Pasta Pasta, The Steam Room, Fifth Season, C’est Cheese, Saghar, The Pie, PJ Lobster House and Salsa Salsa.

The money raised is also partially to help businesses support some of their staff while there are a limited number of customers.

BID and chamber leaders said they have been holding constant meetings alongside village officials to try and keep on top of events.

“The BID and chamber are matching contributions from the restaurant association to help keep these meals moving along,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “We accept any support we can get from partners and our residents to help keep our businesses relevant and open to help feed the front line and also the people who are in need of supplies and meals.”

The chamber has established a Gofundme page at www.gofundme.com/f/help-port-jeff-restaurants-feed-hospital-workers. So far they have raised nearly $6,500.

“The restaurants and shops are the backbone of our community,” Roger Rutherford, the general manager of Roger’s Frigate and BID president said. “When we see partners such as Teachers stepping up it’s a really wonderful thing that helps us sustain and weather the storm.”

The idea of supporting hospitals during the crisis has spread to downtowns all throughout the Island. Sprague said Teachers originally caught on to what Port Jeff and other communities like Patchogue were doing through the Greater Long Island websites. Last week they donated $5,000 to the fundraising efforts in Patchogue. Later this week the credit union plans to donate another $5,000 to restaurants in Bayshore and Babylon.

“Our goal is to continue to support frontline staff who are deemed essential to our society, as well as keep our local businesses employed and functioning and operating,” she said.

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital of Port Jefferson honored three of its own at its One Enchanted Evening gala at East Wind Long Island in Wading River on Nov. 1. 

Neurosurgeon Dr. Sumeer Sathi (second from left), section chief of neurosurgery and the medical director of neurosciences at Mather Hospital, and Dr. David Shenouda (center), cardiologist with Three Village Cardiology and former medical board chairman, each received the Theodore Roosevelt Award. The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council created the Theodore Roosevelt Award more than 50 years ago to honor those who demonstrate exceptional volunteer commitment to a member hospital and its community.

Dr. David BenEliyahu (second from right), administrative director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital and Mather’s Chiropractic Collaboration program was honored as the hospital’s Community Honoree as thanks for supporting the hospital and its programs over the years.

With them are Mather President Kenneth Roberts (far left) and Mather Chairman Leo Sternlicht (far right). The 54th annual event raised funds for the Contessa Nadia Farber Emergency Pavilion at Mather Hospital.

Photos by Stuart Vincent

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Suffolk County Police said they are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a Miller Place man in Middle Island the morning of Saturday, Sept. 21.

Police said Keisha Dalton, of Middle Island, was driving a 2011 Buick Regal northbound on Miller Place-Yaphank Road when her vehicle struck a pedestrian who was walking in the road at around 5:50 a.m.

The victim, Timothy Petrulo, 35, of Miller Place, was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where he was pronounced dead. Dalton, 45, was not injured.

The Buick was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone who may have witnessed the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

The vessels’ pennants and flags quivered in the mid-morning wind. Those who knew their way around a boat could tell Sept. 7 was going to be complicated day for sailing, as a storm that blew over the day previous left lingering swathes of somewhat choppy seas and miniature gales. The 10th annual Village Cup Regatta was going to be interesting one way or the other.

And it was, even before the race started, with the annual regatta raising $91,000 for cancer research, the most it has ever raised since the event started with help from the Port Jefferson Yacht Club 10 years ago. The amount is being split evenly by the national nonprofit Lustgarten Foundation’s pancreatic cancer research program and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s Palliative Medicine Program. The event has raised well over $600,000 in the 10 years since it was created.

After hours of tense racing through Port Jefferson Harbor, Port Jeff village regained the cup from Mather, who held it after winning it in 2017. The 2018 event was canceled due to weather, and the winner of the cup went to Mother Nature instead.

At a party after the race at the Port Jefferson Village Center, Mather Hospital gifted the yacht club a plaque commemorating its efforts to help put on the event. 

Joan Fortgang, a Port Jeff resident who has raced for the village the past nine years along with her husband Mort, said she has loved the event since the beginning. As part of the yacht club since 1973, she said their group has lost several good people to cancer, which originally helped prompt the idea for the event.

“This is great fun,” she said.

 

Barbara Zinna. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

Mount Sinai resident Barbara Zinna, a Mather Hospital, Northwell Health volunteer, was elected to a one-year term as president of the Nassau-Suffolk Council of Hospital Auxiliaries. Her term expires June 2020.

Zinna, an auxilian for 30 years, says one of her major roles as an auxilian is to raise awareness about the community services her hospital offers. Evidence of that commitment occurred when the Mather Auxiliary received the Healthcare Association of New York State’s Best Auxiliary Award in 2017. Also current president of Suffolk County Homemakers, an organization with 26 chapters throughout Long Island, Zinna previously served Mather Hospital’s Auxiliary as its president for four years. 

In her role as president of the Nassau-Suffolk Council of Hospital Auxiliaries, Zinna will continue to lead this organization of hospital volunteers that is aligned with the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, the organization that represents Long Island’s not-for-profit and public hospitals.

Hospital auxilians play a vital role in the delivery of compassionate care at each of their facilities and are major fundraisers for their respective institutions. 

Collectively, Long Island’s volunteer auxilians raise millions through gift shop and thrift shop sales, fashion shows, boutiques and other events. In addition, they are actively involved in advocating on federal, state and local levels on behalf of their hospitals and the thousands of patients that these institutions serve each day.

File photo

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a motorcyclist in Miller Place April 7.

Margaret Befanis, of Port Jefferson Station, was driving a 2017 Nissan Sentra eastbound on Route 25A and was turning left into North Country Plaza when a 2017 motorcycle, being operated by Joseph Sinacore, of Miller Place, struck the car at around 1:40 p.m.

Sinacore, 27, was airlifted via Suffolk County Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries. Befanis, 69, was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson with minor injuries.

The vehicle and motorcycle were impounded for a safety check. Anyone with information about this crash is asked to call the sixth squad police at 631-854-8652.

Being a hospital patient for any length of time is not likely an experience that engenders tranquility or inner peace for most, but local artists and hospital staff are doing their best to change that.

The 3 North Patient Care Unit at Port Jefferson’s John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, a newly constructed intermediate care unit on the third floor, is now furnished with paintings from artists who donated their work to be displayed for and enjoyed by patients and staff.

The hospital hosted a reception to thank the artists, including Irene Ruddock, president of Setauket Artists, who played a leadership role in getting the idea off the ground.

“The art installation endeavor was the inspiration of Dr. Shug-Hong Young, a cardiologist at Mather Hospital, who purchased one of my paintings which he donated to the hospital’s newest wing,” Ruddock said.

She said Young then took the idea to Mather president, Kenneth Roberts, who liked the concept and requested works featuring Long Island waterways and boats be displayed.

“This is actually a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful meeting of community members and artists with their local community hospital resource,” Roberts said. “We put a brand new wing on with private rooms with computers in the rooms so we don’t have all of the [computers on wheels] or [workstations on wheels] out in the hallways, so nothing is crowded. So we have this brand new nursing station with beautiful finishes, but the one thing we didn’t have was artwork.”

Ruddock was tasked with selecting paintings from her group’s members that fit the bill.

“I chose art that would add to the beauty of the already beautiful space, create a peaceful, serene environment that might provide a sense of spiritual healing,” she said. “I wanted paintings that touch people’s hearts and souls — ones that were memorable and draw you right into the painting.”

Young explained why he donated Ruddock’s initial painting, and why he thought it would brighten up the wing.

“It came to me that if we could bring all of these local artists [works] to the hospital, because many of the artworks reflect local scenes — the beach, the port, the pond — that would make patients feel they are not isolated, they are still connected to the beautiful environment,” he said.

Emily Emma, nurse manager for 3 North who recently transferred to the position, said she asked colleagues in her unit if there was anything she could do to elevate their work and the care they provide to patients, and a common theme emerged in the answers.

“Most of them had said, ‘We would really like some artwork on the walls,’” Emma said. “Patients can’t get enough of them. It’s really a nice peaceful journey to get through their progression of health.”

Jim Molloy, a Miller Place-based artist, was among those who donated a piece to the hospital that he called “Turning Tides.”

“I think that’s what art is about — it’s about brightening up someone’s day,” Molloy said. “If somebody can look at a piece of art and kind of escape for a while, then that makes me feel good, it makes them feel good — it’s perfect.”

Ruddock thanked Roberts, Young and Emma for their efforts in bringing the idea to fruition, as well as Mather employees Nancy Uzo, vice president of public affairs, and Laura Juliano, director of annual giving. Juliano said artist Renée Caine also provided invaluable help during the planning and installation phases of the idea. Caine donated one of her own works.

“By far, the most rewarding aspect of the project was the reaction of the patients, caregivers and staff to the paintings,” Ruddock said. “One staff member said of Michael Kutzing’s painting of a sailing vessel, ‘I mentally take a ride on the boat every day on the Long Island Sound to breathe in the air.’”