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Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Archive for March, 2013

March 27th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Gift from Daughter to Dad: a Liver Donation

By Makala Johnson

Chuck Lewensten ran a successful business, hunted in Africa and played tennis with his fiancé, Jill.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis changed all that. By the summer of 2010, the disease had ravaged Lewensten’s liver, leaving him homebound and dependent on his family for care. Instead of hunting trips, Lewensten’s travels took him only to the emergency room.

“We were watching our dad die,” says Amy Konsewicz, one of Lewensten’s daughters.

That’s when Konsewicz’s sister called Mayo Clinic. The call led to appointments with several Mayo Clinic physicians, including Michael Charlton, M.D., a gastroenterologist.

“Dr. Charlton was so compassionate,” says Jill. “We felt like he cared and was going to do everything he could for Chuck.”

That included helping place Lewensten on the liver transplant waiting list. But Dr. Charlton also suggested another option: Living donation.

Konsewicz says she and her three siblings were eager to donate, but she knew immediately that she would be the one.

Testing proved her right; her blood type and liver size made her a compatible donor. But before surgery could take place, Lewensten needed to be convinced to accept the gift of life from his daughter.

At first, he refused. But as his health deteriorated, and after much reflection and many conversations with his family and doctors, Lewensten relented.

Amy on her wedding day and her dad ChuckSurgery took place on Oct. 5, 2010. Two years later, Lewensten walked Konsewicz down the aisle on her wedding day. At the reception, Konsewicz and her new husband held a dollar dance that raised close to $1,000 for Mayo Clinic.

Konsewicz doesn’t minimize her experience, which included post-surgical complications. But she says she would donate “100 times over again.” Especially if she could donate at Mayo Clinic.

“Being at Mayo was one of the best experiences of my life,” she says. “Everyone there, from the doormen to the doctors, cares about human beings. I’m a hospital snob now. I’m constantly comparing, and there’s no better place.”

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Tags: Amy Konsewicz, Chuck Lewensten, Dr. Michael Charlton, Gastroenterology, liver transplant, living donation, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis


March 25th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Rare heart-liver transplant gives South Carolina woman a second chance at life

By Makala Johnson

Beki Rose and familyBeki Rose and her husband, Tom, had met with half a dozen doctors, and they all said the same thing.

"They told me to go home and get my things in order," says Beki, a 51-year-old mother of three with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia. The congenital condition had so damaged Beki's heart and liver that she would need a rare heart-liver transplant to survive. But a recent diagnosis of liver cancer meant that Beki was not a candidate for a liver transplant. "I was told no doctor would take my case."

Then she came to Mayo Clinic, where Russell H. Wiesner, M.D., a gastroenterologist, gave her a reason to hope. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: arrhythmogenic, Beki Rose, Dr. Russell Wiesner, heart transplant, heart-liver, liver transplant, right ventricular dysplasia


March 22nd, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Surprise amyloidosis diagnosis leads to combined heart-liver transplant

By Makala Johnson

Dan CareyAt the end of a routine physical in 2006, Dan Carey’s doctor asked if there was anything else he wanted to discuss. Dan exercised regularly and felt good. Except for one thing.

“I get out of breath when I walk up stairs,” he told his doctor.

A chest X-ray revealed healthy lungs but an enlarged heart. Dan would soon learn why: he had familial amyloidosis with liver involvement and needed to seek care at a medical center with experience treating this rare form of the disease. Dan chose Mayo Clinic, and during his initial consultations there, he learned he would need both a liver and heart transplant. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: amyloidosis, Dan Carey, Dr. Roshini Abraham, heart transplant, liver transplant, Mayo Clinic


March 21st, 2013 · Leave a Comment

He Said, She Said: How One Couple Battled Colon Cancer Together

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Sue Willingham remembers the May 2010 day well. She was getting ready to take her two children to school. But before leaving the house, she did what any mom might – use the restroom.

But then she noticed she’d lightly soiled her undergarments. Only she didn’t remember it happening.

Mayo Clinic patients Sue and Darrin Willingham

Mayo Clinic patients Sue and Darrin Willingham

At 45, Willingham was the picture of health. She ate well, exercised and stayed up on doctor visits. But in that moment, something changed. She called her husband. “I remember telling him I’m scared,” she says.

But then Willingham, who describes herself as someone who is not easily rattled, tried to rationalize the accident, chalking it up to the six fiber pills she’d taken the day before to combat constipation.

“Being one that does not jump to conclusions or get upset or scared of anything easily, I said this is ridiculous, crazy, there is nothing wrong with me. I have no cancer in my family. I have no anything…” But today she admits, “Maybe subconsciously I had been aware of what he had gone through the year before.”

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Tags: colo-rectal cancer, colon, colon cancer, colonoscopy, MayoClinicFL


March 5th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Seizure-free after new surgery

By Makala Johnson

Arden and dog, HappyOne of Arden Berge's most surprising discoveries while he was a graduate student in meteorology had nothing to do with the weather.

"I'd been lying on the bed reading, and all of a sudden I looked up and there were paramedics standing over me," says Berge. He'd soon learn why. He'd had a seizure, and his girlfriend, Deb (now his wife), called 911 for help. Berge was taken to a hospital, where he had another seizure. He was diagnosed with epilepsy.

While epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in children or adults over 65, it can develop at any age. The cause of the disorder can sometimes be traced to a head injury or medical issue, such as meningitis or encephalitis. But in about half of all cases - including Berge's - there is no identifiable cause.

While it was a scary diagnosis, medications made the condition manageable for Berge, who finished his degree and started his career. He adjusted to life with seizures and to the side effects of medication. Then, 33 years after his diagnosis, a trip to Mayo Clinic offered the possibility of a seizure-free life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Arden Berge, complex partial seizures, Dr. Gregory Cascino, Dr. Richard Marsh, epilepsy, Mayo Clinic, medication, Neurology & Neurosurgery, neurosurgery, seizure, surgery, tumor


March 4th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Pleased Patient Shows Enduring Gratitude with Tattoo

By Makala Johnson

David Prochello is no stranger to getting tattoos. He builds custom choppers, he has tats on his arms and a large one on his upper back inscribed: “I am my own role model.”

David's tattoo of green ribbon

So when Prochello, of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota,  received drug therapy and surgery at Mayo Clinic to treat kidney cancer, he felt completely comfortable demonstrating his gratitude in a unique way.

“Well, I hit it off with Dr. Leibovich right away,” said Prochello. “I told him if everything turned out I was going to get his name tattooed on my back.” Prochello’s tattoo includes a kidney cancer ribbon inscribed with the date of his diagnosis and a blank spot for the date of remission. Underneath the ribbon Prochello had inscribed: Tumors removed by Dr. Brad Leibovich. “I just thought he’d get a real kick out of it,” said Prochello. “My biggest worry was that I got his named spelled right.”

Watch Mr. Prochello tell his story below:

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Tags: David Prochello, Dr. Leibovich, kidney cancer, surgery, tattoo, tumor


March 1st, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Prenatal Education Class: A special relationship between 3 moms and daughters

By Makala Johnson

In the Winter of 2011, my husband Cameron and I (Megan Rask) were expecting our first child. We were beyond thrilled! I had been doing my care with the midwives at Mayo Clinic, Rochester. Of course, I wanted to sign my husband and I up for every baby class offered!

We soon began the six week prenatal education class, instructed by Christine Baker, R.N. Along with this class, I made sure to sign us up for the infant passenger safety class, and a tour of the labor and delivery floor in Eisenberg.  We also took our newly purchased SUV to the local fire station to have our infant seat inspected by Todd Emanuel, R.N. As parents to be, this was high on our list of things to do: make sure our baby would be safe in our new family car!

Girls at 15 MonthsIn prenatal class, we met two other couples: Bethany Renstrom and her husband (expecting a baby girl) and Stephanie Fisk and her husband (also expecting a little girl). My husband and I were patiently waiting until the day of delivery to find out the sex of our baby. In class, Chris went over everything we needed to know to prepare for the birth of our baby: bathing a newborn, practicing breathing through contractions, and where to park and what doors to come in once we were in labor. She even showed us the gown and pads we’d wear in the hospital, and the Forceps they might use, in the event our baby was in a difficult situation. Seeing all these things in class made it easier for me to mentally prepare for labor. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: babies, baby, education, Family Birth Center, mom, perinatal, pregnancy, prenatal