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Excela TV program highlights offerings

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:02 p.m.

It was tough when Maggie Elder of Ligonier Township went from an active lifestyle to a hard-fought battle with a form of bone cancer.

The 11-year-old's mother Cyndi McGinnis formed a strong bond with Maggie's Excela Health hospice nurse Connie Vella during regular visits to provide care.

“Connie was a constant, quiet presence, always protecting Maggie's dignity which was always important to me,” McGinnis said on a new television show featuring the stories of former Excela Health patients “Connie helped me walk my daughter home.”

Maggie's tear-jerking story is shown through her pristine bedroom and artwork, as well as interviews with her mother and Vella. She died on Feb. 22, 2012.

Excela Health has created a 30-minute television program set to debut on March 2 that features several stories of former patients in an effort to highlight the health system's offerings and compete against Pittsburgh's UPMC and Allegheny Health System. The show is hosted and narrated by Jennifer Miele, vice president of marketing and communications.

“We're making such a difference in the lives of patients in Westmoreland County, this is the best way we know how to get that message across,” Miele said.

The program includes interviews from the patients, and in some cases, their family members and doctors all wrapped up in short packages. Each offers a brief look at what led to the former patient seeking out Excela's assistance and more personal elements, as camera crews filmed inside their homes.

Mark Zingarelli was having a hard time gripping a pen and brush while working on a graphic novel.

The North Huntingdon cartoonist and illustrator was faced with carpal tunnel and the loss of his career.

“I would wake up and I couldn't go back to sleep,” Zingarelli said on a new television show featuring the stories of former Excela Health patients.

His problems were erased after surgery performed by Dr. Lance Brunton and within days, Zingarelli was back drawing again.

Jacob Beaver's family members recalled hearing a horn honking outside of their Mt. Pleasant home in late 2012. Beaver was having a heart attack and became unresponsive, he said in the television program.

For 45 minutes, his son, a neighbor and paramedics performed CPR. Dr. James Lynch said Beaver had suffered from a “widow maker” heart attack. He performed a heart catheritization which led to Beaver's recovery, an unlikely feat “after that much CPR,” Lynch said on the program.

Dave Roscoe's movement after a stroke was limited.

“I had full movement of everything else” but he couldn't walk, the Pleasant Unity man recounted during the television show. It was devastating to the active man, but a putting green and other rehabilitation services helped him recover completely.

“Later, I was able to walk out without the assistance of anyone,” Roscoe said on the program.

A walk-in service on Wednesdays saved the life of Excela's Dr. Margaret Clark. The weekly mammogram session resulted in a breast cancer diagnosis for Clark.

“It saved my life,” she said in the program.

The show, created with the help of Downs Creative of Hempfield and a former WTAE executive producer, will air first on WTAE at 11:30 a.m. on March 2 and then on various stations and times throughout the month. Miele said Excela spent its entire March advertising budget on the show, but declined to provide a dollar amount.

“I think we just don't want to be forgotten, we don't want to be overshadowed,” she said.

The show will be available on Excela's YouTube channel and website.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or