Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

October 26th, 2016

Colleagues Go From Sharing a Workplace to Sharing a Kidney

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Dawn Odenthal was more than willing to donate a kidney to help a colleague, Jolinda Conzemius. When Dawn Odenthal sat down for a meeting with her colleague Jolinda Conzemius in June 2014, organ donation was nowhere on her radar. The two women knew one another through their work at a company that specializes in school photography, yearbooks, church directories and other forms of memory preservation. Dawn is a regional sales director, and Jolinda is a photographer. They were meeting to talk about a project they had been assigned to work on together.

By the time they got up from the table that afternoon, however, they had started a process that would culminate in Dawn donating one of her kidneys to Jolinda for a life-altering kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic.

“I absolutely wanted to do this for her,” says Dawn. “There wasn’t a question in my mind.” [...]

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Tags: kidney transplant, Living donor transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center

October 25th, 2016

Deep Brain Stimulation Helps A Pilot Return to Flight

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Ryan Uitti, M.D., and Beth McAllister with a self-portrait of patient Tyrone Nanton.

Ryan Uitti, M.D., and Beth McAllister of the movement disorders surgical team with a self-portrait of their grateful patient, Tyrone Nanton.

As a commercial airline pilot, Tyrone Nanton spends his days in a standard blue-and-white uniform. But in his off-hours, Tyrone’s creativity emerges in two favorite hobbies: creating colorful, elaborate costumes for carnival in his native Antigua, and painting. From 2006 to 2015, though, a tremor that got progressively worse made his hands shake so much that it kept him not only from those artistic pursuits, it eventually kept him from flying.

When the tremor started, Tyrone went to see a neurologist near his home in Brandon, Florida. To control the shaking, he was given a medication typically used for seizures. Due to regulations, however, the airline barred use of that medication. Tyrone had to find a different drug to manage his symptoms. Over time, however, even with an ever-increasing dosage of that medication, his tremor worsened.

“I couldn’t hold a glass with one hand. I couldn’t eat with a knife and fork,” Tyrone says.

At that point, Tyrone could not continue flying. He had to take medical leave and go on disability. Tyrone says he couldn’t imagine no longer being a commercial airline pilot. Seeking options after his local neurologist said there was nothing else that could be done, he decided to get a second opinion.  [...]

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Tags: Deep Brain Stimulation, Dr Robert Wharen, Dr Ryan Uitti, Essential Tremor, Florida Campus, Movement Disorders, neurosurgery

October 24th, 2016

Spinal Cord Stimulator Eases Pain Without Creating Limitations for Paul Hesson

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

When he was 38, Paul Hesson was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, and the condition triggered significant chronic back pain.

“Back then, they said I had the back of a 75-year-old man,” says Paul, who is 75 now.

As Paul got older, his pain increased, and he had severe joint stiffness. He went to see several neurosurgeons in the Jacksonville, Florida, area and received differing opinions for how to treat his condition. Ultimately, he decided to use medication to manage the pain. But by 2014, Paul’s pain worsened to the point that it limited his day-to-day activities. He knew he needed to do something more.  [...]

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Tags: Dr Ronald Reimer, neurosurgery, Pain Medicine

October 19th, 2016

Living Donor to Kidney Recipient: 'I Feel Like the Winner in All This'

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

katiandnancy805The email from a parent at her school in May 2013 took Nancy Shaver, an elementary school principal, by surprise. It was from Kati Walker, mother of two, who was on a mission: to donate one of her kidneys to Nancy, who greatly needed one.

Kati's message announced, "I'm going to be tested to be a kidney donor." Nancy, in her characteristic unassuming manner, replied, "Oh, how nice for someone!" Kati quickly replied, "No, it's for you, silly!"

Kati, two decades younger than Nancy, knew Nancy only as the principal at her children’s school. Nancy knew Kati as a parent and active volunteer. But that email exchange launched a journey to a life-saving kidney transplant for Nancy and a bond between the two women that they attest will last a lifetime.  [...]

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Tags: Arizona campus, kidney disease, kidney transplant, Living donor transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center

October 19th, 2016

Unique Treatment Option Cures Cushing Syndrome for Jessie Brown

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Jessie Brown learned her mysterious symptoms were caused by Cushing syndrome. Retired elementary school teacher Jessie Brown takes time to enjoy the pleasures of daily life. She goes for long walks with her dogs, King Solomon and Baby Ruth. She spends time with her children and grandchildren who live near the farm where she and her husband, Tom, make their home in rural Marshall, Arkansas. She plans the holiday meals she’ll be making for her family, who are particularly looking forward to her much-loved turkey dressing at Thanksgiving.

This year, these ordinary enjoyments are especially meaningful, because for the last two years, Jessie couldn’t do any of them. Confined to bed much of that time with a constellation of mysterious symptoms that left her immobile and in pain, Jessie wasn’t sure she would ever be able to reclaim the busy, happy life she loved.

“My face was swollen; my legs were swollen. I kept falling down. My hair and nails were breaking off,” she says. “I had a lot of bad symptoms. I knew something was wrong. I went to doctor after doctor, but they all had a different opinion.”

After almost a year and a half, Jessie was diagnosed with Cushing syndrome. [...]

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Tags: Cryoablation, Cushing Syndrome, Dr Patrick Eiken, Dr Robert Shen, Endocrinology

October 17th, 2016

Diagnosis and Treatment of Chiari Malformation Spurs Nikki Prins to Reach Out to Others

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Nikki Prins enjoying time outdoors.Oct. 23, 2015, is a date that Nikole Prins will always remember. It’s the day she finally learned the reason for the bizarre symptoms she had been dealing with for more than half her life. Nikki precisely recalls the time she heard the news. It was 1:24 in the afternoon when her doctor called with the results of an MRI she had the previous day.

“I was diagnosed with Chiari malformation,” says Nikki, who lives in Owatonna, Minnesota, and received care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Owatonna. “No one wants to be told at 21 that you have a brain malformation. I cried a lot.”

For years, Nikki had experienced a range of symptoms that included lightheadedness, fainting and extremities that tingled when she stood up, as well as migraines that got worse while she was standing. As a preteen, she was told she was having syncope episodes when she got lightheaded. Later, physicians made the diagnosis of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. But neither diagnosis nor any treatment had an effect on her symptoms. [...]

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Tags: Chiari malformation, Dr Grant Mallory, Mayo Clinic Health System in Owatonna, Neurology & Neurosurgery

October 15th, 2016

'Excited About the Future Because I Have a Future' — Finding an Answer Through Gene Sequencing

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Brentney Simon receiving her associate's degree. For 22 years, South Carolina native Brentney Simon and her family thought she was living with a fatal mitochondrial disease.

From the time she was born, Brentney has faced a host of medical concerns. At first, her doctors didn’t think she would walk or talk. Brentney proved them wrong. But over the years, she struggled with respiratory difficulties and heart problems. She contracted pneumonia several times and required multiple hospitalizations. Her physicians found a severe curve in her spine.

Through it all, Brentney never stopped fighting, living her life as fully as possible, even though participating in activities that most children and teens take for granted was a struggle. Despite her challenges, Brentney kept up with her schooling and enrolled in college, determined to get a higher education and realize her goals for a career.

Recently, Brentney’s health took a turn for the worse, and it was suggested her organs were failing. She refused to give up. Instead, Brentney came to Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus and through and Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, underwent whole-exome sequencing in search of a better explanation for her health problems.  [...]

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Tags: Center for Individualized Medicine, Gene Sequencing

October 13th, 2016

After Motorcycle Crash, Surgical-Assistant-Turned-Patient Sees Hospital With New Eyes

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After a serious motorcycle crash, Shari Callagahan gained a heightened appreciation for the comprehensive, compassionate health care provided by her employer, Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.As a first surgical assistant for 23 years with Mayo Clinic Health System, Shari Callaghan was trained to provide the utmost in care to her patients. But the 55-year-old resident of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, says she didn’t fully grasp the quality of care Mayo patients receive until she became one herself.

For 31 years, Shari had been an accident-free motorcycle rider. In September 2015, she was involved in a devastating crash. Shari may never fully know what happened that day — the traumatic brain injury she sustained despite wearing a helmet wiped away her memories. But she does recall an ever-present sense of support throughout the time she spent in the hospital at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

“I have been on the other side and am thankful,” Shari says. [...]

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Tags: Dr Bradley Grewe, Emergency Department, Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury

October 11th, 2016

Teen Finds a Positive Way Forward After a Brain Cancer Diagnosis

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Diagnosed with a stage-four brain tumor, 13-year-old Connor Johnson is taking his treatment at Mayo Clinic in stride and looking forward to a future of helping others.

When he was born 13 years ago, Connor Johnson was a "miracle baby,’ according to his parents. Kathleen and Curtiss Johnson had struggled for years to become and stay pregnant. They had given up hope, when they discovered they were nearly four months along.

The miracle of Connor’s life took on new poignancy in the fall of 2015, when the young teen was diagnosed with an aggressive form of childhood brain cancer. Despite the seriousness of the tumor, an intensive treatment regimen at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus involving brain surgery and proton beam therapy, provided Connor and his family the promise of a brighter future.  [...]

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Tags: Dr. Amulya Nageswara Rao, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, Medulloblastoma, Proton Beam Therapy

September 29th, 2016

A Male Mammogram Brings Relief, Life and Marketing Lessons

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

martyweintraug805aBy Marty Weintraub

Editor’s Note: Marty Weintraub, an entrepreneur, author, speaker and musician, came to Mayo Clinic in 2015 for a mammogram after noticing a lump on his chest. He wrote a compelling account of the experience on his blog, and gave us permission to repost his story. 

From a San Francisco truffle shop to an upscale St. Paul grocery store, I’ve been writing to share inspiration at the intersection of life experiences and my chosen profession, marketing. So it is with a keen eye, open heart and tuned ear I travel the world day-by-day, camera in hand.

Who would have thought we would unearth profound lessons of empathy, immediately transferable to life and career, following an unexpected health issue and resulting treks to the Mayo Clinic. The experience I am about to share will have an indelible impact on me as a man and a marketer.

Mayo Clinic is a shining city of healing and light. Each year more than a million precious human spirits find their way to Mayo for care. Patients flock from all 50 American states and 140+ countries, driven on a highly personal mission of body, soul and heart. The 6,600 staff physicians, scientists, residents and fellows across multiple campuses see most diagnoses over time.

Mayo helps to soothe nervous visitors with its international-class artistic aesthetic. Patients and care givers experience everything from Warhols to the carved mother-of-pearl box and book donated by King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan. Suspended from the Gonda Building great room ceiling looms a staggeringly beautiful, Chihuly glass installation. Beauty engulfs the visitor, easing fears and concerns – if even for a few minutes. [...]

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Breast Clinic, Dr Loni Neal, mammogram

September 27th, 2016

After Sinus Surgery at Age 82, Charles Metzler Is Breathing Easy

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic


If you go looking for Charles Metzler, you’ll often find him out on the acreage he owns in the Rocky Mountain foothills near Casper, Wyoming. The 82-year-old spends his days tending his well-manicured lawn, caring for his troop of animals — ducks, rabbits, a pot-bellied pig named Mimi, and a miniature donkey named Haley — and working on projects to spruce up the property. He even acquired timbers from an old railway station that was being torn down and built a covered bridge over a stream on his land.

“I think I might have one of the only covered bridges in Wyoming,” says Charles. “Projects like that are fun. I like to stay busy, and I like to be active.”

For years, though, Charles’ activities were hampered by breathing problems. Chronic sinus trouble made breathing through his nose very difficult. He knew surgery might correct the problem, but he hesitated to go through with it.

“I’ve had problems with my nose ever since my high school days. I saw quite a few doctors, and they all informed me that I probably should have my nose operated on, so I would feel better,” Charles says. “My problem was that I was always scared of having the operation. Then I met Dr. [Erin] O’Brien. It was just the manner in which she explained the surgery to me — what would occur and the benefits I’d derive from it. Her manner relaxed me. After that, I wanted to have that operation.”  [...]

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Tags: Deviated Septum, Endoscopic Surgery, Nasal Polyps, otorhinolaryngology, Septoplasty, Sinus Surgery, Dr Erin O'Brien

September 24th, 2016

Liver Transplant Allows Young Father to Be There for His Family

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Thanks to a living-donor liver transplant at Mayo Clinic, Bryan Duncan overcame a life-threatening liver disease and has been able to return to life with his young family.

Bryan Duncan didn’t think twice about the lab tests he had as part of a routine medical checkup in the fall of 2014. A 29-year-old father of two small children, Bryan led a busy life, didn’t have any health problems, and felt fine.

When the test results came back, though, they showed enzyme levels in Bryan’s liver were higher than normal. This unexpected finding kicked off more than two years of extensive medical care. It brought Bryan from his hometown of Mountain View, Arkansas, to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where he was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, and where he eventually received a life-saving living-donor liver transplant.

“The way my disease works, if I had waited for a deceased donor, I probably would have been too sick for a transplant,” Bryan says. “Being able to have a living-donor transplant opened up the opportunity for me to get the second chance I needed.” [...]

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Tags: Dr Nicholas LaRusso, gastroenterology, Hepatology, liver transplant, Living donor transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

September 17th, 2016

Brothers Bond Over Kidney Disease, Transplant

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

The Berry Brother share more than blood after a kidney transplant. Scott Berry is one of five children. But he and his youngest sibling, David, share a very unique bond — a kidney, to be exact. On April 12, 2016, David gave his older brother a second chance at life by donating one of his kidneys to Scott for a transplant.  [...]

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Tags: Dr Martin Mai, Florida Campus, IgA Nephropathy, kidney transplant, living donor, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center

September 17th, 2016

Artist Back at the Drawing Board After A Stroke

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

bobgessner805Shirley and Bob Gessner have weathered some tough times during their 56 years of marriage. But nothing could have prepared Shirley for the night of April 10, 2015, when she awoke at 3:30 a.m. to a thud — the sound of her husband falling out of bed.

“I asked him what was the matter, but Bob couldn’t talk. He couldn’t move, and I couldn’t get him up,” says Shirley about her husband, a former advertising executive and designer of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Penguins logos. “I called 911 right away.”

The ambulance took Bob, 82, to the hospital closest to his home in St. Augustine, Florida, where doctors confirmed he was having a stroke.  [...]

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Tags: Comprehensive Stroke Center, Dr David A Miller, Florida Campus, stroke, Thrombectomy, tPA, atrial fibrillation, Diabetes

September 10th, 2016

Persevering Through Brain Cancer, Travis McGinnis Remains Upbeat and Optimistic

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Travis McGinnis rings bell after cancer treatment. Travis McGinnis was just 30 years old when an insidious cancer was discovered in his brain. It had been growing there for some time, he says — his physicians estimated between five and 10 years. Had the stage-three oligoastrocytoma not been detected when it was, Travis would have likely lost his life. As it happened, thanks to care and treatment provided by neurologists and neurosurgeons at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus, the only solid thing the father of three lost to the cancer was a fist-sized piece of his brain.

While having cancer was something he never wanted, Travis says the experience gave him insights and gifts he would not have otherwise realized: deep appreciation for his family and friends, gratitude for the present, and faith in strangers who generously supported him.

“Sometimes I’ll sit and think about everything I’ve been through, and it moves me to tears,” Travis says. “I’m alive and better for it. I wish I never would’ve had to go through it, but at least it wasn’t for nothing.” [...]

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Tags: brain tumor, Glioma, Hope Lodge, Neurology & Neurosurgery, neurosurgery, oligoastrocytoma, radiation therapy

September 9th, 2016

Why I Walk: Alexandra Abreu-Figueroa

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Alexandra Abreu Figueroa (right), pictured with her mother Lyana Figueroa-Soto, is inspired by the First Coast Heart Walk to improve her fitness and tackle a family struggle with weight.

Editor’s note: In this article, Alexandra Abreu-Figueroa, an intern in Public Affairs at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, shares her story and discusses why she participates in the First Coast Heart Walk, an annual event sponsored by Mayo Clinic.

Growing up, I was always overweight. During my teenage years, in particular, I struggled — losing and gaining weight over and over again. I tried different diets, pills and exercises while battling bullying, depression and societal standards that said I should try to fix my body.

As an adult, I made the decision to have a gastric lap band inserted to help control my weight, but it still didn’t change my mindset.

Obesity is not out of the ordinary in my family nor in my culture. Most of my family members have had challenges with obesity at one point in their lives. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 42.5 percent of Latinos are overweight or obese. [...]

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Tags: Cardiology, First Coast Heart Walk, Heart Disease, stroke

September 1st, 2016

Historic Flood No Match for Mayo Clinic Health System Staff’s Resolve to Serve Patients, Each Other

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Colleagues and other volunteers helped clear waterlogged furniture and other items from the home of Lynn Luloff.

“My husband and I would have totally crumbled if the support hadn’t been there,” says Lynn Luloff, chief financial officer of Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, Iowa.

Luloff is one of many Mayo Clinic Health System staff who work at the Decorah medical center who saw their daily routines washed away the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 24, when 8 to 10 inches of rain led to major flooding in the area. Mayo Clinic Health System provides physician services and management services at Winneshiek Medical Center.

The crisis, according to leaders at the medical center, revealed an unwavering commitment by health system staff not only to serve patients, but also each other.  [...]

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Tags: David Rooney, Dr Andy Goodner, Flood, Lynn Luloff, Winneshiek Medical Center

August 31st, 2016

After Treatment for Pituitary Tumor, Pastry Chef is Ready for Sweet Smell of Ordinary Life

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Jessie Brenholt is back to baking after tumor treatment.

Jessie Brenholt is a certified pastry chef who would like to open a bakery one day. “If the ingredients were free, I’d give out cakes to everyone,” she says.

For a while, the 23-year-old's dream seemed to be in jeopardy. After months of being sick with weight loss, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and vision problems, Jessie found that the source of her symptoms was a tumor on her pituitary gland — a small gland located at the base of the brain that makes a variety of hormones.

A neurosurgeon near her hometown of Hill City, Minnesota, found that the walnut-sized tumor was wrapped around Jessie’s optic nerve and located close to a carotid artery. Treatment to get rid of it could affect Jessie’s sense of smell and vision. Due to the complexity of the situation, the surgeon referred Jessie to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus.

“A pastry chef needs to be able to smell and see,” says Jessie. “My doctors at Mayo Clinic understood my concerns and have been great about preserving my quality of life with surgery and proton beam therapy.”  [...]

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Tags: clinical trials, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Pituitary tumor, Proton Beam Therapy

August 30th, 2016

Pain Rehabilitation Puts Brent and Nancy Berry Back in the Saddle

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Brent and Nancy Berry benefit from pain rehabilitation. During the holidays last year, Nancy and Brent Berry of Danbury, Iowa, went on a train ride with their children and grandchildren, after a two-hour car ride to get there. They’ve been horseback riding with friends. They’re laughing, running errands together, and hosting their grandchildren for overnight stays.

Not long ago, they couldn't enjoy any of those activities. Pain affected every aspect of their lives.

Brent quit his job several years ago due to medical disability. He has several chronic medical conditions, including inflammatory arthritis and chronic fatigue. He took prescription opioid and benzodiazepine medications for pain and sleep problems. He slept a lot.

Then Nancy got sick from the West Nile virus, caused by a mosquito bite. Her muscles swelled, her joints felt hot, and she had severe fatigue and pain.

"I was unable to do my normal activities," she says "I was in a downward spiral into chronic pain, and everything that goes with it — anxiety and depression. I felt like I was losing my life." The Berry's turned to the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic as what seemed like a last resort. Through the program, they found a new way to approach their conditions, along with renewed hope for the future.  [...]

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Tags: Chronic Fatigue, Dr Wesley Gilliam, Fibromyalgia, Inflammatory Arthritis, Pain Medicine, Pain Rehabilitation Center

August 17th, 2016

After Severe Rotator Cuff Injuries, Stuart Baker Found Relief at Mayo Clinic

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

StuartBaker805For Stuart Baker, flying was life. After beginning his career as a flight attendant, Stuart eventually earned a pilot’s license and flew for a major airline. But by age 40, this native of Winchester, Virginia, had torn his right rotator cuff twice, grounding his ability to fly.

It took seven years, three surgeries and extensive rehabilitation for Stuart to recover use of his right arm. Then, he damaged his left rotator cuff. But this time, he found Mayo Clinic.  [...]

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Tags: Dr Cederic Ortiguera, Florida Campus, orthopedic surgery, Rotator Cuff

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