NEW ORLEANS -- There is a free medical screening that could save your life from a silent killer. It's one that a local woman wishes she would have had before she was rushed into emergency surgery just four weeks ago.
Laura Stefani, 56, is lucky to be alive.
"I literally had no time to get scared. They told me you could be a paraplegic, you could, you may never get off the respirator," Stefani remembers.
Four weeks ago she had stomach pain and dizziness. She dismissed it as being other simple things, but before going to a salon appointment, she insisted that her doctor make room in his full schedule for a quick exam.
"Then all of a sudden, he listened to my stomach and he goes, 'Oh no. We got a problem.' He said, 'I hear something. I want you to go immediately to West Jeff (West Jefferson Medical Center) and have a sonogram,'" she remembers her internal medicine doctor saying.
That ultrasound revealed a huge "triple A," an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Her aorta, that's the main, large artery that brings oxygen-rich blood to your entire body, was paper thin and ballooning out, from the shoulders all the way down the the belly button. It had started to rupture, meaning it was already leaking blood. LSU Health cardiovascular surgeon Dr. William Risher, performed the nearly six-hour, emergency surgery.
"The incision to do this case is about a foot and half, to two feet long," Dr. Risher explained.
Two separate grafts, that act like scaffolding or reinforcement, now line her aorta and the arteries that branch off to the kidneys as well. Laura was at high risk for a triple A.
"She does have a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure. She was a heavy smoker," said Dr. Risher.
Laura credits her doctors with saving her life and daughter Ellie with helping her to quit smoking after more than 40 years. Dr. Risher says the risk of the triple A and emergency surgery taking her life, could have been avoided with a simple ultrasound screening years ago for this silent killer.
"She's extremely lucky to be alive. Someone's looking out for her," he said.
"I just encourage everybody to get screened and save their own life," Stefani added.
You can go to a free ultra sound screening on Saturday, October 13, at UMC. 2000 Canal Street, Conference Room J.
You must fast for eight hours before the screening.
To register call 1-888-871-3801.
It is for people 55 and older with one risk factor including: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries.