Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

February 17th, 2017

New Weight-Loss Device Helps Mark Harlan Improve His Health

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

A new approach to reducing obesity not only helped Mark Harlan drop the excess weight he’d been carrying for years, it improved his overall health and wellness.

Mark Harlan tried diets. He tried exercise. He modified his behavior and his lifestyle. Yet nothing worked to keep off extra weight that had plagued him for years. Nothing worked, that is, until Mark underwent a cutting-edge procedure designed to help those who don’t qualify for gastric bypass surgery to shed excess pounds.

In December 2016, Mark was the first person in the nation to receive the Obera intragastric balloon. The grapefruit-sized, saline-filled, silicone balloon was placed and inflated in Mark’s stomach during a minimally invasive, outpatient endoscopic surgery at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus.

In the six months Mark had the balloon — the device was removed during a second endoscopic procedure in June 2016 — he lost 30 pounds, or about 15 percent of his body weight, says Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Barham Abu Dayyeh, M.D.

The balloon helps its recipients by taking up space in the stomach so they eat less. It also slows the pace at which the stomach empties, so they feel full longer.

“It’s a useful tool because it’s simple,” says Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Christopher Gostout, M.D. “It’s easy to put in and very low-risk.”

The device’s effectiveness was born out in a recent, randomized clinical trial comparing people who had the intragastric balloon procedure, along with behavioral therapy, to those who only received behavioral therapy. Those with the balloon lost 29 percent of their excess weight at the end of one year, compared to a 14 percent loss in those who only received behavioral therapy.

In addition to his weight loss, Mark saw decreases in health problems associated with obesity, including a drop in his blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as a reduction in the amount of insulin he needs to control his type 2 diabetes.

Mark continues to work with a multidisciplinary team of physicians at Mayo Clinic to keep the weight off, including experts in Gastroenterology, Endocrinology, Psychology and Nutrition.

“It’s a lifelong commitment on both parts — on both the part of the team and myself,” Mark says.

To hear more about Mark’s story, watch the video below:


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Tags: Dr Barham Abu Dayyeh, Dr Christopher Gostout, Intragastic balloon

February 15th, 2017

Local Politician Doesn’t Skip a Beat With Mechanical Heart Pump

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Heart failure threatened to derail Junior Boatright’s busy life, but a left ventricular assist device has helped him get back on track while he waits for a heart transplant.

While Walter “Junior” Boatright was running for a second term as Nassau county commissioner in northeast Florida in November 2012, he started to feel winded. At first, he chalked it up to getting older and just not having the same energy he used to, while campaigning 15 hours a day.

But after the campaign was over, and he had won the election, the Callahan, Florida, native says he was out of breath just walking out to the mailbox.

“It was like I had run down the road and back,” Junior says. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

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Tags: Cardiac Rehabilitation, Dr Daniel Yip, Dr Jeffrey Hosenpud, Dr Kevin Landolfo, heart failure, Heart Failure Clinic, Left Ventricular Assist Device, lvad

February 13th, 2017

Skillful Spine Surgery Gets Rid of a Rare Tumor and Keeps Mike LaBorde on His Feet

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Mike LaBorde came to Mayo Clinic facing a daunting diagnosis and high-risk spine surgery. But through the care and expertise of his Mayo Clinic surgical team, today Mike’s back to business as usual.

For more than a year, Mike LaBorde thought he had carpal tunnel syndrome. His left hand and arm often tingled and felt numb. He wore a brace for a while, but it didn’t help. Then he had carpal tunnel surgery, not once, but twice. The surgeries made no difference.

“I was quite aggravated that the surgery was not successful,” Mike says. “But I was told that nothing is 100 percent guaranteed. I just kept working and doing the best I could. And it kept getting worse and worse.”

When the symptoms didn’t fade, Mike’s primary care doctor suspected a herniated disc, so Mike had an MRI. What that test revealed changed everything. [...]

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Tags: Dr Mohamad Bydon, neurosurgery

February 10th, 2017

Playing Piano Again After Stroke Is Music to Judith Johnson’s Ears

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Successful treatment at Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center in Florida prevented Judith Johnson from suffering long-term complications from a stroke and preserved her treasured piano-playing skills.

In October 2016, Judith Johnson, Ph.D. — who is retired from the library at Florida State College at Jacksonville — was at home recovering from back surgery. While she was sitting in bed talking on the phone with a friend, something suddenly went wrong. Judith felt herself sliding in between the bed and the nightstand. Though Judith doesn’t recall what she said, her friend realized something was happening, hung up, and immediately called 911 and called Judith’s son.

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Tags: Comprehensive Stroke Center, Dr Benjamin Brown, stroke

February 7th, 2017

Liver Transplant Gives Jacksonville Man New Hope, Twice

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

As a two-time liver transplant recipient, Richard Parker is exceptionally grateful to his donors and their families and gives credit to his team at Mayo Clinic for his renewed health.

There is no doubt in Richard Parker’s mind that he’s been given not one, but two new leases on life because of Mayo Clinic.

Richard underwent a liver transplant in 2007 at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. For years after that, all was well. But then, in 2016, his transplanted liver failed, and he turned to Mayo Clinic once again. A second transplant now has him back on his feet and extremely grateful to his donors and his care team. [...]

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Tags: Dr C Burcin Taner, Dr David Lee, liver transplant, Liver Transplant Program

February 3rd, 2017

Astounding Recovery for an 8-Year-Old Boy Shot by an Arrow

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Accidentally shot with an arrow that severed his spinal cord, Curtis Bressler’s doctors feared he’d never walk again. But Curtis proved them wrong. Today, he’s back to walking, running and jumping, just like any other 8-year-old boy.

It’s a story that plays out like a Hollywood movie. A young boy is accidentally struck by an arrow and narrowly escapes death. The arrow pierces the 8-year-old’s backbone and splits his spinal cord. He’s paralyzed from the waist down, and his doctors fear he’ll never walk again. But remarkably, the story has a happy ending.

It's not a script, however. It's the story of Curtis Bressler, of Truman, Minnesota, who was injured last fall when an arrow shot by his teenage brother ricocheted off the target and hit Curtis instead. [...]

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Tags: Child and Adolescent Neurology, Dr Denise Klinkner, Dr Nicholas Wetjen, Emergency Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

February 1st, 2017

14-Year-Old Writes the Book on Beating the Odds

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

When Nate Munene Kirera came to Mayo Clinic, he had seizures almost every day and was debilitated by the side effects of medication to treat his condition. After working with his Neurology care team, his seizures are under control, and he’s thriving.

Nathaniel Kirera wasn’t expected to survive birth. When he did, then he wasn’t expected to live to see his first birthday, much less his 14th. He also wasn’t supposed to be able learn, let alone write a book. But he’s done all that, and today his medical odyssey is behind him.

That Nate has achieved so much despite having multicystic hydrocephalus, a condition in which half of his brain and its fluid drainage system formed abnormally, is no surprise to his mother Ann Makena, who, while she was pregnant, dreamed of a son walking and talking.

“The doctor said. ‘I’ve seen very bad conditions, but I’ve never seen anything this bad,’” Ann says. “I said, ‘It’s not that I don’t trust you … but I really felt very confident about this child. I said, ‘No I’m just going to leave it up to God.’”

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Tags: Child and Adolescent Neurology, Dr Katherine Nickels, Dr Nicholas Wetjen, Hydrocephalus

January 30th, 2017

Rare Heart Condition Turns Young Athlete into Advocate

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Joe Meyer became an advocate after heart surgery. Growing up, Joe Meyer loved sports. In elementary school, he played basketball and baseball. The summer before he entered eighth grade, the Jacksonville, Florida, youth decided to give football a try.

Before he took to the gridiron, Joe visited his pediatrician for sports physical. At that appointment, his doctor noticed a heart murmur. Joe, then 14, couldn’t be cleared to play until he went to a cardiologist.

In August 2011, after seeing a pediatric cardiologist and having an echocardiogram and stress test, Joe was diagnosed with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM — an incurable disease, usually caused by gene mutations, in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick.

The diagnosis took Joe away from sports and other physical activity for several years. [...]

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Tags: American Heart Association, Congenital Heart Disease, Dr Mohamad Yamani, Hypertrophic Cardiomypathy, Septal Myectomy

January 26th, 2017

Paired Kidney Donation Opens the Door to a More Active, Independent Life for Kathy Allen

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Cathy Allen got a second chance through paired kidney donation. From Kathy Allen’s point of view, paired organ donation just may be the ultimate in generosity. Deciding to donate a kidney to someone you don’t know in a paired exchange can trigger a chain of matches that gives several people the opportunity for a renewed life.

“I can’t thank the donors enough for their selflessness,” says Kathy. “It takes a truly altruistic person to step up.”

Kathy, who lives in St. Peter, Minnesota, benefitted from the generosity of a family friend who volunteered to donate a kidney to her in March 2015. That individual was not a match for Kathy, but he was a match for someone else. Meanwhile, a woman from Illinois whose husband needed a kidney was a match for Kathy. And thus began a paired exchange at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus that, in the end, helped 10 people receive new, healthy kidneys.  [...]

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Tags: kidney failure, kidney transplant, Paired Organ Donation

January 23rd, 2017

Aboard Floating Hospital, Bringing Medical Help to Poorest Nations

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

As part of the volunteer medical crew on a hospital ship, Mayo Clinic nurse anesthetist Brittany Blake put her expertise to work providing much-needed care to patients in West Africa.
Brittany Blake, a nurse anesthetist at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, has participated in many international missions trips over the past five years. But her recent experience as a volunteer with Mercy Ships, an international faith-based organization that sends floating hospitals to some of the poorest nations is the world, was different than any of her other missions. This time, she could put her medical training to work.

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Tags: Brittany Blake, volunteer

January 20th, 2017

After Loss, Cancer Survivor Finds Strength in Community and Giving Back

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Carol Phillips shares her experience and why she travels to Florida to support the annual 26.2 with DONNA Marathon .

Editor’s Note: Carol Phillips is an IT analyst/programmer at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. . She shares her experience and why she travels to Florida to support the annual 26.2 with DONNA Marathon .

My breast cancer journey started on April Fool’s Day — April  1, 2011. Only it wasn’t a joke.

My routine yearly mammogram came back abnormal. And at age 50, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. I don’t remember much about my first appointment with the doctor. It was all a blur. The only thing I do remember was the doctor saying, “Mayo Clinic will get you through this process. We’ll work together as a team. You are truly in good hands.” As I walked out to the parking lot, though, I thought I had just been given a death sentence — and I wasn’t ready.

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Tags: Breast Cancer, breast cancer marathon

January 19th, 2017

Novel Approach to Epilepsy Surgery Allows a Young Woman to Enjoy Life Again

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

When standard treatments weren’t good options for controlling Marissa’s seizures, her Mayo Clinic team tried a different tactic: cortical stimulation. The surgery was a success, and it paved the way for the procedure to be used for others dealing with epilepsy.

Five weeks before she was born, Marissa B. had a stroke in utero. When her mother went into labor, Marissa had another stroke. Diagnosed with epilepsy at birth, Marissa spent her first month of life in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“When she was six months old, they did a brain MRI,” Marissa’s mom, Lisa, says. “They said she would never walk or go to a regular school.”

The strokes took a significant toll on the left side of Marissa’s body. She doesn’t have fine motor skills in her left hand. She has a blind spot in her lower left eye and hearing loss in her left ear. Sensation on her entire left side was also affected.

“I’ve been on seizure meds since birth,” says Marissa, who is now 24 years old.

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Tags: Dr. Elaine Wirrell, Dr Kendall Lee, Dr Matt Stead, Epilepsy, neurosurgery

January 17th, 2017

Unable to Outpace 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, Dennis Brennan Living the Life he Loves

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

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