Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

January 27th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Surviving Hepatitis C -- A Patient’s Journey Through Two Liver Transplants

By Paul Scotti

Mayo Clinic patient Nellie Betancourt (left) with her husband Marcelo Castro on the Mayo Clinic in Florida campus January 2015.

Mayo Clinic patient Nellie Betancourt (left) with her husband Marcelo Castro on Mayo Clinic's Florida campus in January 2015.


For most organ transplant recipients, receiving the “gift of life” is a one-time experience. But for Nellie Betancourt, battling the hepatitis C virus that had been in hiding in her body for years required another “second chance at life,” thanks to a second generous donor and a new generation of anti-viral drugs.

Betancourt, a 56-year-old mother of two and grandmother of seven from Puerto Rico, was first diagnosed with elevated liver enzymes during a routine exam in 1995. Further testing revealed a positive result for the hepatitis C virus, which resulted in several rounds of standard anti-viral drug treatments over the next several years, none of which were successful in effectively managing her disease. This began a 20-year battle with hepatitis C that was to eventually include two liver transplants performed at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

“By 2002, I was told that my liver enzymes were rapidly increasing, and that I’d eventually need a liver transplant or face liver failure,” says Betancourt. “I was only 42 years old at the time.”

Looking for answers, Betancourt then went to the Clinic of Americas in Puerto Rico where she had her first exposure to Mayo Clinic. Mayo participated in a program where they periodically sent transplant physicians to Puerto Rico to evaluate potential transplant patient candidates. Betancourt was evaluated by a Mayo physician visiting Puerto Rico, who determined she was a good candidate for a liver transplant. She decided to go to Florida to be listed for a liver transplant and have the surgery once a match was found.

Betancourt received a new liver in October 2004 and appeared to be doing well after surgery. But the good news about her recovery didn’t last long, as the hepatitis virus returned about two months after her transplant. Treatment with medications began immediately, and Betancourt went back to Puerto Rico to resume her life. The treatments seemed to work at first, and her virus was almost undetectable. But in 2007 during a scheduled exam, it was clear that her liver enzymes were again on the rise. The persistent hepatitis C was damaging her new liver.

Another regimen of anti-viral drug treatments was ordered, but eventually a second liver transplant was necessary. That surgery occurred in January 2011 at Mayo Clinic. However, her battle with hepatitis C still wasn’t over. Betancourt experienced a relapse several months after the second transplant. Even though she was placed on traditional hepatitis C treatments after her transplant, they were again ineffective in clearing the resistant virus.

This time, her hepatologist, Barry Rosser, M.D., decided to be very aggressive in her treatment to control her relapse and save the second liver. He put his patient on a newly approved anti-viral drug, which she received for 12 weeks. Betancourt was one of the early patients to be put on this new drug at Mayo Clinic. The treatment seemed to work, and her hepatitis C was virtually undetectable after only four weeks on the medication. With close monitoring and follow-up care, Betancourt’s disease finally seems to be under control.

Betancourt and her husband, Marcelo Castro, now split their time between Puerto Rico and Jacksonville so she can remain close to Mayo Clinic as part of her post-transplant monitoring.

“Today I’m doing well, trying to lead a normal life, remaining emotionally stable, physically active and staying optimistic,” says Betancourt. “I want to thank my donors who have saved my life more than once. Organ donation truly does save lives.”

Betancourt also acknowledges all of her Mayo Clinic caregivers, from physicians and nurses to transplant coordinators and even her translators, for the exceptional treatment that she received.

“Mayo Clinic has given me my life back, thanks to the caring and professional people I have interacted with over the years here,” she says. “They’ve helped make this difficult journey a just little bit easier.”


Tags: liver transplant, transplant, Florida Campus

January 26th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Celebrating Nurse Anesthetist Education - Alice Magaw (1860-1928): Mother of Anesthesia

By Hoyt Finnamore

To recognize the 125th anniversary of nurse anesthetist education and the role of nurse anesthetist at Mayo Clinic, Sharing Mayo Clinic will include a special series of posts throughout the coming year. These vignettes will describe how nurse anesthesia education has changed over time and will highlight influential Mayo Clinic nurse anesthetists. Those featured received their education at Mayo Clinic and went on to be instrumental in providing anesthesia education and make significant contributions to anesthesia practice.

Written by Joan Hunziker-Dean

Alice Magaw, an early Mayo Clinic nurse anesthetistOne of the most celebrated, internationally recognized pioneer nurse anesthetists from Mayo Clinic is Alice Magaw. Her five published articles between 1899 and 1906 in medical journals detail the technical aspects of administering open drop ether anesthesia. Her research and clinical findings set new standards for safer delivery of anesthesia in those early days.

Visiting surgeons who came to Rochester to observe the Mayo doctors perform surgery noted the skills of this nurse anesthetist and sent their nurses to Rochester to learn the art of giving open-drop ether. Even physicians from around the world noted her techniques in correspondence they sent related to their Mayo visits. Magaw’s legacy is the delivery of 14,000 anesthetics without a single anesthesia-related death. She was given the title Mother of Anesthesia by Dr. Charles H. Mayo.

Magaw moved to Rochester with her family in 1882. She befriended Edith Graham, who encouraged her to go to nurses training. Both women attended the two-year nurses training course at the Chicago Women’s Hospital and graduated in 1889. Magaw moved back to Rochester in 1893 and worked first as a staff nurse at Saint Marys Hospital. She learned to give anesthetics from Edith Graham, wife of Dr. Charles H. Mayo and the first trained nurse and anesthetist at Saint Marys Hospital. [...]

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Tags: Alice Magaw, education, history, Nurse Anesthetists

January 16th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

New Procedure Helps Patient Strike Back Against Cancer

By Hoyt Finnamore

Bill Steele, a patient at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, shares his story about his battle against Stage 4A cancer in the throat area without undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. In the video he produced, he explains how his surgical care team, led by Michael Hinni, M.D., a Mayo head and neck cancer surgeon, used transoral laser microsurgery to treat his cancer and help maintain his quality of his life.


Tags: Arizona Campus, cancer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Transoral Laser Microsurgery

January 7th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Facing Breast Cancer: Lynn Gallett’s story

By Hoyt Finnamore

When Lynn Gallett was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a number of concerns and decisions to make. In the video below, Lynn discusses the process and her experience at Mayo Clinic.


Tags: Arizona Campus, Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy, Dr Donald Northfelt, Dr Barbara Pockaj

January 2nd, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Becoming Whole Again After Cancer Treatment

By Susana Shephard

Kristine Long, a patient at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, has had an incredible journey as a three-time Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor. In the course of her struggle, she has also overcome congestive heart failure and subsequent voice impairment.

In the video below, she explains how the care provided by her Mayo Clinic physicians, James Slack, M.D., a hematologist; D. Eric Steidley, M.D., a cardiologist; and David Lott, M.D., an otorhinolaryngologist, along with their care teams, has made her a whole person again. She also talks before and after repair to her vocal chords about what that procedure has meant to her personally and how it's given her renewed confidence as well as giving her voice back.


Tags: Hodgkins lymphoma, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Voice Impairment, Arizona Campus

December 31st, 2014 · 1 Comment

‘Nothing Short of a Miracle’

By Hoyt Finnamore

Read time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds

DennisSchmittWebWhen he was 26 years old, Dennis Schmitt had his first seizure.

“At first, they’d happen every six months or so,” says Dennis, of Liberal, Kansas. “Then, they got a little closer each time.” Doctors had no idea why.

“Dennis was healthy,” says his wife, Pat. “He’d been a strong athlete in high school.”

Over the years, the seizures kept coming. Medication didn’t seem to help. Eventually, Dennis was having three or four seizures a week.

“He had all kinds of seizures -- grand mal, petit mal, seizures where he’d just stare and not know what was going on,” says Pat. “The seizures happened with no warning. He could be in the middle of a sentence or walking to the car. Our sons were 1 and 3 when this started happening. It was very difficult, and very stressful. Dennis’ seizures were ongoing for 31 years.”

In 2006, a new neurologist who was caring for Dennis suggested the couple seek another opinion.

“He told us he just could not figure out why Dennis was having seizures,” says Pat. “He suggested we see a neurologist in Wichita. We asked about going to Mayo Clinic, instead, and the doctor’s face lit up.”  [...]

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Tags: Dr Jeffrey Britton, Dr. Richard Marsh, Neurology & Neurosurgery, neurosurgery, seizures

December 19th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Operating Room (OR) 10 and Dr. Charles William Mayo

By Hoyt Finnamore

 Read time: 5 minutes

Elaine Stewart poses in front of a painting of Dr. Charles W. Mayo.

Elaine Stewart poses in front of a painting of Dr. Charles W. Mayo.

Written by Elaine Stewart, Mayo Clinic Health System Home Health and Hospice

During a recent visit to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, I was reminded of some great memories from my days of working at Saint Marys Hospital over 50 years ago. I want to share some of those memories.

My first visits to Mayo Clinic and Saint Marys Hospital began in 1957. A family member was diagnosed and treated at Mayo Clinic for lymphoma, and I made several trips with him during his illness. He eventually passed away at the hospital in 1959. I enjoyed the visits to Rochester, so a couple of months after my family member’s death, I decided to seek employment at Mayo Clinic. My first stop was Saint Marys Hospital, where I was granted an interview with Sister Merici, the supervisor of Surgery. When I walked out of her office that day, I had a position as a surgical technician! No background check and no waiting period. Sister Merici didn’t tell me at the time, but later told me she hired me because my modesty and wholesome innocence appealed to her.

I was trained on the job by the nurse in charge of Operating Room (OR) 10. I was excited and a little scared, too, because my new job seemed like a huge challenge. And, I had no idea who I would be meeting, and working with for the months and years to come. When I found out one of these people would be Dr. Charles W. Mayo, well, you can only imagine how I felt! I only had started my new job as a surgery technician when he was scheduled to do surgery. I was worried about meeting him, but he made it very easy for me. I was mopping the floor when he walked in and jumped on my mop and greeted me with a warm smile and welcome. From that time on, I was totally comfortable with him. He never held himself above anyone — that’s the kind of person he was.

“Dr. Chuck” is what everyone called him, but I always just called him “Doctor.” As time passed, I did get to know him well. [...]

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Tags: Dr Charles W Mayo, Employee Story, Mayo Clinic history

December 12th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

From ‘Pick a Plot’ to Watching His Son Graduate

By Hoyt Finnamore

Read time: 4 minutes
Ron Christian has been able to watch his young children grow up thanks to brain surgery at Mayo Clinic.

Written by Ron Christian

“Pick a plot and get your papers in order, you’ll be dead in a month.” That’s what the local neurosurgeon said. Those words served as my wake-up call. While my wife wept, I became angry. We had three very young children, and I was determined to see them grow up.

Weeks before, I had two seizures. The second seizure resulted in hospitalization, and within hours I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The local neurosurgeon did a biopsy and then gave his instructions on how to spend the little bit of time I had left … finding a plot.

After meeting with some of the best neurosurgeons in the country, we visited Mayo Clinic’s Fredric Meyer, M.D.  Dr. Meyer was direct and to the point. He stated that although it was risky, the only option to survive was aggressive surgery. Even then, the odds for long term survival weren’t good. While not hopeful, at least Dr. Meyer was honest. When I asked him how many surgeries he did in a year, Dr. Meyer told me he averaged about 1,500 brain surgeries annually. He’s a no-nonsense, intelligent man and brilliant surgeon. We scheduled surgery for the next week.  [...]

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Tags: Brain Tumor, cancer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Neurology & Neurosurgery

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