Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

January 17th, 2017

Unable to Stop Her Tumors, Karen Ramsey Fights Back With Attitude

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Diagnosed with a rare and serious genetic disorder, Karen Ramsey has learned to manage the disease and the challenges that accompany it with the help of her expert care team at Mayo Clinic.

Courage. Optimism. Acceptance. Those are just a few of the attributes that define the determination of Karen Ramsey, whose rare medical condition makes her a member of an exclusive club. One to which she would much prefer not to belong. Karen has Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, or VHL, in which a gene mutation causes her body to be unable to suppress the growth of tumors.

Not one to sink into the comfort of denial, after her diagnosis Karen, now 56, dug in and did her homework. She learned that at least eight areas of her body could potentially succumb to tumors. She understood her future may forever be altered. In spite of the difficult diagnosis, with the support of her care team at Mayo Clinic, Karen found a way to move forward in a positive way. [...]

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Tags: Dr Alyx Porter, Dr Donald Northfelt, Dr Thai Ho, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Von Hippel-Lindau Clinic

January 13th, 2017

Walking Easy Again After Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After enduring months of debilitating leg pain, minimally invasive spine surgery at Mayo Clinic got Dan Hofferber back on his feet.

After a 37-year career at a petroleum company, Dan Hofferber was looking forward to retirement. But in 2014, Dan started having trouble with one of his legs. The muscle in his left thigh would tighten up, causing unbearable pain that made it hard to walk.

“I was used to walking a mile or two, and I couldn’t do that anymore,” says Dan, who travels to Florida for spring training every year with his wife, Carol.” I couldn’t even walk from the parking lot to the baseball stadium.”

The pain prompted Dan to seek care in his hometown of Billings, Montana. After several months without relief, a family member urged him to go to Mayo Clinic. Dan took that advice, traveling to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. There, he met neurologic surgeon Mohamad Bydon, M.D. Dan was immediately impressed.

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Tags: Dr Mohamad Bydon, Dr Ralph Gay, neurosurgery, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spinal stenosis

January 12th, 2017

Despite Two Aortic Aneurysms, Care at Mayo Clinic has Kept Dennis Brennan Healthy

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm in 2008, Dennis Brennan turned to Mayo Clinic. Nine years and two surgeries later, Dennis is grateful for the comprehensive care he’s received that’s safeguarded his health.

Dennis Brennan met Albert Hakaim, M.D., a vascular surgeon at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, in January 2008. Then 73 years old and living in Ft. Meyers, Florida, Dennis had just learned that he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm — a weakened and enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta, the main artery that supplies blood to the body.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms affect only about 8 percent of the population. But they are serious. If it ruptures, an abdominal aortic aneurysm can be life-threatening.

After learning his diagnosis, Dennis knew he wanted a second opinion, especially because he had a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms. Dennis immediately thought of Mayo Clinic. He and his wife Anna had been to Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus, many times, where Dennis had his annual physicals for nearly three decades.

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Tags: Abdominal aortic aneurysm, Dr Albert Hakaim, Dr Richard Agnew, Endovascular repair, Thoracic aortic aneurysm, Vascular and endovascular surgery

January 9th, 2017

Mayo Medical Volunteers Find Perspective by Changing Lives in Ecuador

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

The Ecuadorian people draw one group of Mayo volunteers back again and again.

For years, Kallie Howerton and Kate Hudson had been listening to Kate Welp talk about the mission trips to Ecuador she organizes every year. The nurses work together on the Cardiovascular Surgery Progressive Care unit at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Saint Marys Campus.

“My preceptor planted the seed,” says Howerton, who has worked at Mayo Clinic for three years. “She raved about the awesome trip experience she had with Kate [Welp], and, working with Kate, I realized that she’s awesome. I can learn from her.” [...]

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Tags: volunteer, Giving Back, Medical Missions

January 5th, 2017

'You Never Think About a Living Donor Until Someone You Love Needs One'

By Linda Binner lsbinner

In need of a kidney transplant, but without a suitable donor, Matt Pierce was forced to deal with daily dialysis. Then someone he never met before stepped up to donate, and that made all the difference.

From the time he was 13 years old, Jairus “Matt” Pierce, battled kidney disease. By 2016, when he was 44, the disease had become debilitating. A shift commander for a fire department, Matt had been forced to take a light-duty assignment because of his medical condition. He required daily dialysis, and the only long-term solution was a life-saving kidney transplant.

Simply put, Matt needed a hero.

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Tags: Living donor transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center

January 3rd, 2017

Diagnosis and Treatment for a Rare Disease Brings Back Trish Byrd’s Hearing and Optimism

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Careful evaluation at Mayo Clinic reveals that the source of Trish Byrd’s debilitating ear problems was actually a serious and possibly life-threatening disease.

In spring 2016, Trish Byrd went deaf. And no one knew why. With constant ear pain and unable to hear, Trish saw seven different doctors in her home state of New Mexico. After months of treatment, there was no improvement in her symptoms.

“I kept asking, ‘What’s wrong with me?’” Trish says. “None of my doctors could give me an answer. That’s when my husband and I decided it was time to go to Mayo Clinic.”

At Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus, Trish met ear, nose and throat specialist Peter Weisskopf, M.D. He carefully reviewed her records, talked with her about her health history, and did a physical exam. By the end of their first meeting, Dr. Weisskopf believed he knew what was causing Trish’s symptoms.

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Tags: Dr Lester Mertz, Dr Peter Weisskopf, granulomatosis with polyangiitis, otorhinolaryngology, Rheumatology

December 30th, 2016

Paired Kidney Donation Offers a Unique Way Forward for Transplant Recipient

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Kay Orr and her potential kidney donor, Jamie Rogers, were disappointed when they learned they couldn’t go through with a planned kidney transplant. But Mayo Clinic’s paired kidney donation gave them another life-saving option.

The day before Norma “Kay” Orr was scheduled for a living donor kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic, she needed one more blood test. The Palm Coast, Florida, resident was in line to receive a kidney from her niece, Jamie.

Jamie Rogers had volunteered to be a living donor when she found out in early 2016 that her aunt would need a transplant. Kay’s kidneys had scarred due to glomerulosclerosis and interstitial fibrosis.

“I have been through some tough times in my life, and Kay and her husband were always there for me. I never gave it a second thought,” says Jamie, who drove from Robbinsville, North Carolina, for the procedure, which was scheduled for July 26, 2016, at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

“Jamie and I have always been very close,” says Kay. “As soon as she heard I needed a transplant, she said ‘I want to be the one.’ And that was great, since none of my four children could be the donor.”

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Tags: Dr Martin Mai, kidney transplant, Living donor transplant, Transplant Medicine

December 23rd, 2016

Successful Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer Inspires Richard Carvajal to Reach Out

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in his 40s, Richard Carvajal looked to Mayo Clinic for expert care and treatment.

In August 2014, Richard Carvajal, then 43, was in the best shape of his life. He was excited as he left his home in Bainbridge, Georgia, to compete in his first Olympic-distance triathlon. But as he drove across Alabama on his way to the race site, he started feeling sharp abdominal pain.

“It kept getting worse and worse, and I literally crawled into a Birmingham emergency room,” Richard says.

Although doctors initially thought Richard’s pain was caused by kidney stones, it turned out to be a symptom of a much more difficult problem. Testing eventually revealed Richard had pancreatic cancer.

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Tags: Dr John Stauffer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, pancreatic cancer, Whipple Procedure

December 22nd, 2016

After 20 Years of Seizures, Erica Laney Enjoys Life Following Epilepsy Surgery

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After years of trying to manage her seizure disorder with medication, Erica Laney turned to Mayo Clinic, where she had epilepsy surgery that led to a seizure-free life.

For much of her adolescent and adult life, Erica Laney, 31, had frequent petit mal seizures. Less often, she had grand mal seizures that led to loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. The cause of the seizures was abnormal electrical activity throughout her brain.

“The seizures started when I was 11 years old. I would experience three to four a month,” Erica says. “I was unable to talk during these auras and couldn’t remember anything afterwards. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster, and I was heading for the big drop. Then darkness came from behind me, enveloping me in a haze that would lead to a seizure.”

The Mims, Florida, native was diagnosed with seizure disorder and had a series of tests, including MRIs, CT scans, and electroencephalograms, or EEGs. Erica also went through intracarotid sodium amobarbital, or Wada, testing, which looks at language and memory on one side of the brain at a time. While under the care of an Orlando neurologist, Erica took several medications to control her seizures. But she was never fully seizure-free.

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Tags: Dr Robert Wharen, Dr William Tatum, Epilepsy, Neurological Surgery

December 19th, 2016

Teen Returns to the Range With Help From Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Center

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

josiegramm805

“Mom, I’m going out!” Today this phrase rings through the Gramm home on a regular basis as 16-year-old Josie Gramm heads outside to work with horses at the family’s ranch near Glendive, Montana. An enthusiastic ranch hand who loves being with animals, Josie spends as much time as she can outdoors.

For almost a year, though, Josie wasn’t able to tend to her beloved horses or do any of the outside activities she so enjoys around the ranch. Most days she spent sitting in the house, overcome with pain that wouldn’t go away and unable to walk.

“At that point, I would have given anything to have her say “Bye, Mom!” and head out the door,” says Jessica Gramm, Josie’s mother. “She wasn’t able to do anything she wanted to do. It was bad.”

After months of medical care without any progress, the Gramms decided to take Josie to the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus. The decision made a world of difference.  [...]

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Tags: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, pain management, Pain Rehabilitation Center

December 16th, 2016

Busy Father Finds Way Forward Despite Hemochromatosis

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After months of searching for an explanation of his debilitating symptoms, Chad Fogle turned to Mayo Clinic, where his care team was able to help him better understand and mange his diagnosis of hemochromatosis.

As a father of three and the district manager for 11 large retail stores in Houston, Chad Fogle was used to being tired. But in the spring of 2015, he began experiencing exhaustion far beyond what was typical.

“Two hours of being out doing something would exhaust me as much as working 12 hours,” Chad says.

He also began having memory loss. Sometimes he would drive to one of his stores and not remember how he got there. Some days he’d have to go back to his car four or five times because he kept forgetting things.

“I was living in a constant fog,” he says.

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Tags: Dr William Palmer, Hereditary Hemochromatosis Clinic

December 15th, 2016

Cowboy Back in Saddle After Successful Treatment of Glomerulonephritis

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Diagnosis and treatment of glomerulonephritis, a serious kidney disease, has allowed Jack Rhodes to put his focus back on the activities he enjoys.

During the summer of 2016, for the first time in years, Jack Rhodes did something he doubted he’d ever do again. The 68-year-old retired rancher from central Alabama saddled up a two-year old stallion to train, exercise and ride.

Four years ago, Jack had gained 40 pounds due to fluid retention that resulted in swelling throughout his body. He suffered severe shortness of breath and was unable to walk, much less get on a horse. But thanks to an accurate diagnosis of his condition and successful treatment at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus under the care of nephrologist Nabeel Aslam, M.D., Jack’s condition has improved dramatically.

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Tags: Chronic kidney disease, Dr Nabeel Aslam, Glomerulonephritis, kidney failure, Mayo Nephrology Collaborative Group

December 15th, 2016

Learning to Live Well With POTS Brightens Daily Life for Christine Esposito

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Mayo Clinic’s POTS Boot Camp helped Christine Esposito understand how to better control her condition.

It’s a condition with no outward symptoms. But for the hundreds of thousands of teens and adults in the U.S. living with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, the medical disorder has a significant impact on their lives. Christine Esposito is one of those people.

Christine was diagnosed with the condition in 2002 by Mayo Clinic neurologist Jeremy K. Cutsforth-Gregory, M.D.

POTS is a disorder that affects a person’s autonomic nerves — the nerves that control involuntary body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, perspiration, and bowel and bladder functions. Not everyone has the same symptoms, but the condition universally causes rapid heart rates and dizziness when moving from a resting to standing position.

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Tags: Dr Jeremy Cutsforth-Gregory, Neurology & Neurosurgery, POTS syndrome

December 10th, 2016

Successful Brain Cancer Surgery Puts Sunshine Back in a Young Mom’s World

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Tyson Cluever after brain cancer surgery. When Tyson Cluever, a 32-year-old mother of two from Benson, Minnesota, learned that she had an aggressive brain cancer, her first thought was of her children. At just nine months and five years old, her sons stood to lose one of the most important people in their lives if she were to share the fate of many individuals diagnosed with grade IV glioblastomas.

“It’s brain cancer, and you have between 12 and 18 months to live,” says Tyson’s husband, Jon. “It just totally messes you up inside when something like this happens.”

The couple’s next thought was to fight the cancer with everything they had.  [...]

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Tags: awake brain surgery, brain tumor, Dr Ian Parney, glioblastoma, neurologic surgery

December 8th, 2016

Teen Receives Thorough, Compassionate Care Before, During and After a Heart Transplant at Mayo Clinic

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Careful evaluation and genetic testing at Mayo Clinic revealed a severe heart condition that eventually led to a heart transplant for Chase Fairbairn. When most people think of their happy place, they envision something like a warm, sunny beach or a cozy mountain cabin. But when Lisa Fairbairn thinks about a place that gives her comfort, Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus comes to mind.

She’s happiest there because it’s where her son Chase was given a second chance. Not only did he receive a new heart at Mayo Clinic to replace one that was failing, but the family can now rely on ongoing care from Mayo Clinic physicians who understand Chase’s medical concerns and have pledged to do their best to keep him healthy well into the future.

Lisa’s sense of comfort didn't come easy, however. [...]

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Tags: cardiomyopathy, Dr Eric Edell, Dr Michael Ackerman, Pediatric Cardiology, Pediatric Heart Transplantation Program

November 23rd, 2016

Body Builder Regains Energy After Surgery for Myasthenia Gravis

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Robert Clark with his busy family. Six years ago, Robert Clark thought he was having a stroke. His left eye drooped shut, and he began to have difficulty swallowing. A competitive body builder used to working out six times a week, Robert rarely got sick. So when a local physician dismissed his symptoms, he sought out a friend who worked at Mayo Clinic.

His friend recommended he see Paul Brazis, M.D., a physician who specializes in neuro-ophthalmology. After examining Robert, Dr. Brazis suspected myasthenia gravis, a rare autoimmune disorder characterized by weakness and fatigue of the skeletal muscles as a result of an enlarged thymus. The thymus, an H-shaped gland situated in the upper chest that produces T-cells to fight disease, is supposed to shrink after birth, when bone marrow takes over this function.

Following a series of tests, the diagnosis of myasthenia gravis was confirmed. Robert then faced difficult decisions about managing his disease while living life as he wanted.   [...]

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Tags: Dr Matthew Thomas, Dr Paul Brazis, Florida Campus, minimally invasive surgery, myasthenia gravis, Robotic Thymectomy

November 22nd, 2016

Sharing Part of His Liver, Brother-in-Law Offers Something Greater: A Future

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

A unique treatment approach that included a living-donor liver transplant has allowed Isaac Jackson to put cancer behind him and once again focus on his family, career and friends. Isaac Jackson was living a peaceful life, with a large, loving family, a successful law practice, and lifelong friends, when in early 2014, his life changed dramatically.

In January, Isaac began feeling sick whenever he ate. A visit to his primary care doctor in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon, led to an initial diagnosis of gallstones. But when an MRI of Isaac’s abdomen showed that the entire right side of his liver was no longer working and his bile ducts were almost completely blocked, his physician promptly connected him with specialists in Seattle.

“We were scared but thought that I was suffering from some sort of bile duct disease. We were hopeful,” Isaac recalls. “Unfortunately, our worst fears came true, and it put our family to the test. How would we respond? Would we stay hopeful? Would we be grateful for what we had?” [...]

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Tags: Dr Julie Heimbach, liver transplant, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

November 21st, 2016

Complex Diagnosis Reshapes a College Student’s Future

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Plagued by debilitating symptoms, Reilly Steidle turned to Mayo Clinic. A comprehensive evaluation revealed a range of challenging but manageable issues, and gave Reilly a new outlook.When Reilly Steidle came to Mayo Clinic in the summer of 2013 at the age of 20, she brought with her two rolling suitcases full of medical paperwork and a hope that the physicians could make sense of the recurring headaches, chronic fatigue and widespread pain she’d been dealing with for two years.

Reilly had been a healthy college student majoring in business at Northern Illinois University in the fall of 2011. But by the end of the school year, the Plainfield, Illinois, resident had dropped out, debilitated by her mysterious symptoms. Reilly spent the summer of 2012 visiting doctors.

When no one could decipher her symptoms, she decided to try another approach. Reilly went to a chiropractor, who asked to see her MRI images. After looking at them, the chiropractor urged Reilly to get an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test, confirmed by a Western blot test, to check for Lyme disease. Reilly did so, and on her 19th birthday, she received the news that the test results were positive.

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Tags: Center for Sleep Medicine, Dr Maja Tippmann-Peikert, Lyme Disease, Neurology & Neurosurgery, POTS, Transfusion Medicine

November 18th, 2016

Relieving Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment With Microsurgery

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

angenettemonroe805

Angenette Monroe with her surgeon, Antonio Forte, M.D.

In May 2013, at age 47, Angenette Monroe was diagnosed with invasive cancer in her left breast. After six months of chemotherapy, she had a mastectomy as part of her treatment plan.

The former gastroenterology technologist had participated in many medical procedures and was well aware of the challenges people can face after surgery. But as an active woman who exercised and was always on the go, Angenette never expected her treatment would prevent her from enjoying life.

But it did. Side effects after surgery kept Angenette from activities with her husband, including running and traveling, as well as visits with her three children and her grandchild.

She also dealt with lymphedema for more than a year. Then Angenette turned to physicians at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus for help. They were able to offer her a unique surgical approach, called lymphovenous bypass, that eased her symptoms.

She had picked the right place to seek help.  [...]

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Dr Antonio Forte, Dr Dawn Mussallem, Florida Campus, lymphedema, mastectomy, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

November 14th, 2016

“Never Stop Fighting. Never Give Up” Becomes Mantra on Long Road to Better Health

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After years of kidney problems and a series of kidney transplants, Stacy Neumayer has finally achieved her goal of living the life she’s always wanted.

Photograph courtesy of Penni Pier.

Stacy Neumayer was a teenager when she received her first kidney transplant. Her health problems began when she was 4 years old. Over time, Stacy developed a condition called glomerulonerphritis, which causes inflammation in the tiny pockets of the kidneys that help remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from the bloodstream.

The illness affected Stacy’s kidney function, and she was put on dialysis until a donor kidney became available.

“Eventually my body and my kidneys started shutting down, so I went on dialysis until I had my first transplant,” Stacy says. “Unfortunately, my body rejected the donor organ before I even left the hospital, so it was back to dialysis.” [...]

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Tags: Dr Mark Stegall, kidney transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center

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