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Free GBMC vein screening saves patient's life


In partnership with Fox45

May 5, 2021
When Christine Brown turned on the television one afternoon in April, she never thought overhearing an interview with Jennifer Heller, MD, RPVI, FACS, Director of the Vein Center at GBMC HealthCare, would potentially save her life.

"I was walking by the TV and heard them talking about a free vein screening from GBMC. I'd been having pain in my leg for some time, and it was starting to swell. I don't have insurance and hadn't been able to see a doctor, so I got the information for the screening and decided to get my leg checked out," Christine said.

She drove to the screening site and stuck her legs out of the car for Dr. Heller to examine. What happened next, Christine said, took her by surprise. Dr. Heller said she believed Christine had a clot in her leg and she needed to seek treatment right away.

Dr. Heller explained, "I told Christine to come back in two hours for an ultrasound. She did have an extensive blood clot, so we sent her down to the Emergency Department because of concern for a pulmonary embolism (a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs)."

Christine was evaluated in the ED. And after an imaging test showed a pulmonary embolism was, in fact, present, Christine was admitted to GBMC on the spot.

Christine said she was nervous about the hospital stay, but the staff at GBMC made her feel comfortable and eased her worries. "They could see I was super anxious, and they did everything they could to reassure me and alleviate that anxiety."

Christine said the more information she gathered about pulmonary embolisms, the more thankful she became. "I realized my life was just saved. I could have had a stroke. Anything could have happened."

She said the level of care she received at GBMC during her stay was incredible.

"Dr. Heller came to check on me, even though I'm not her patient. Everyone was checking to make sure I was okay. I'm just so grateful GBMC held the free screening and made the public aware that it was happening."

Free vein screenings have been a part of GBMC's community outreach for several years, said Dr. Heller. But during a global pandemic, they realized they needed to get creative to reach the public safely.

"We set it up like a car emissions test. People open up their car door, swing their legs out, and we examine and have a chat with them. We help people to the best of our ability and get them an action plan to move forward," Dr. Heller said.

Dr. Heller explained that many patients may still hesitate to visit the doctor's office or the hospital for routine care because of COVID-19 fears. She emphasized anyone with health concerns shouldn't wait to see their healthcare provider.

"We [at GBMC] have the highest standards of safety, are equipped with PPE, and have protocols in place to keep everyone safe. Patients should feel reassured knowing that we're doing all we can to keep everyone as safe as possible," Dr. Heller said.

The next free vein screening will be held Friday, May 7 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Farmhouse Hill on GBMC's campus in Towson. For more information, please visit
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