William Kranz delights in telling people he is "living his life behind bars," with two more years to go. But William welcomes that time because, to him, those bars represent freedom and better health.
The "bars" are actually metal rods inserted under William's ribcage during a surgical procedure at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus. They freed him from the pain and emotional distress that burdened him for most of his 36 years.
William, from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, was born with pectus excavatum, a condition where his breastbone was sunken into his chest. It eventually impeded his breathing and interfered with his heart function.
"Breathing was a daily chore for me," he says. "I remember just lying in bed at night, crying, because I would hold my chest, and my heart was beating so hard, it felt like it would beat right out of my chest." [...]
With more than three decades of experience as a nurse and nurse manager, Carol Bolton of Exeter, Calif., was acquainted with most medical conditions. But in 2004 when she began experiencing abdominal pain along with episodes of diarrhea or constipation, she was baffled by what it could be. Most likely, she thought, it was related to grief over the abrupt death of her husband of 35 years.
But when the pain persisted and grew worse, she saw a gastroenterologist, who ordered a computed tomography (CT) scan. Carol was shocked to learn that a mass (about the size of a quarter) had been found in her mesentery. The mesentery, a membrane that anchors the small intestine to the back of the abdominal wall, is comprised of delicate folds or leaves filled with blood vessels and nerves. [...]
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. [...]
I struggled for years with extreme fatigue, major skin problems, muscle weakness, escalating eye issues, and a host of other unexplained symptoms. I moved to Georgia with more and more symptoms. I developed relationships with new doctors and developed new symptoms – seizures and heart-related syncope. I went to see a neurologist, who began to run tests. In the meantime, I had regular quarterly blood panels by my regular physician, who upon reporting to me by phone noted no irregularities. I was told time and time again to stop chasing a diagnosis. My family continued to watch my decline.
After running numerous tests, my neurologist could only ascertain that I may have had some mini-strokes. My neurologist referred me to a major university hospital. After two visits, and being practically laughed out of the place, I began to have serious doubts about my symptoms and began to believe the many specialists and psychologists who told me it was emotional response. [...]
When Zulbiye Jorgensen, a project manager in Mayo Clinic's Center for Connected Care, began mentoring a team of Byron, Minnesota, high school girls in 2016 as part of the international Technovation Challenge, she asked the girls what careers they were considering.
"Every single one of them said they wanted to do something in medical," she says. "It's a no-brainer with Mayo Clinic right there."
But the girls' sights were set on different employment options by the end of the program. The challenge invites teams of middle and high school girls to identify a community need, develop a mobile app to meet that need, devise a business plan to launch the project, and create a video pitch. It had the intended effect of opening the students' eyes to opportunities in tech careers. [...]
Kraig Gresham was 47 years old when he received his heart transplant, but his journey to that life-changing surgery began years earlier. Kraig was born with aortic stenosis — a birth defect that causes heart valves to narrow and obstruct blood flow. As a child he had heart problems as a result of his condition. Despite that, Kraig was able to lead an active lifestyle, participating in sports like soccer and racquetball from the time he was young.
As an adult, Kraig knew he would eventually need a valve replacement due to his chronic heart condition. But when he began having bronchitis-like symptoms in his 40s, he was referred to Mayo Clinic with a more immediate problem: he was experiencing heart failure.
Karen Safranek didn't take a worry-free step for 10 years. Severe peripheral neuropathy — a side effect of breast cancer treatment she received in 2002 — left her with constant burning, tingling, numbness and pain in both her feet.
Over time, Karen tried dozens of treatments to rid herself of the discomfort. Nothing worked. So in 2012 when she found out about a clinical research trial available at Mayo Clinic for people who had peripheral neuropathy after chemotherapy, she was interested, but not optimistic.
"I tried so many things. Anything a doctor recommended or heard about, or anything I heard about, I'd give it a try if I could," Karen says. "But years past, and the pain didn't get any better. By 2011, life was not good. I was analyzing my house to figure out where we could put a wheelchair ramp. At that time, I thought it wouldn't be much longer before I couldn't walk anymore." [...]
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. [...]
Steve Shank knows what it's like to face an uphill climb. Despite being legally blind and affected by albinism, he has been an avid bicyclist for years, competing in 100-mile rides on the rolling hills of Iowa. The arduous contests challenged Steve physically and mentally, giving the Iowa City native an ability to endure difficult situations.
Beginning in 2015, that endurance was put to the test — one that tried every ounce of strength Steve had. In the fall of that year, he discovered his lungs were failing due to the same mutated gene that caused his blindness and albinism. His only chance of survival was a double-lung transplant. [...]
When doctors in Mexico City diagnosed Mauricio Perez-Olegaray with liver cirrhosis, he thought the condition was the result of earlier alcohol consumption and a genetic predisposition. But at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., doctors discovered instead the silent progress of hepatitis C. For the next six years, a team of Mayo Clinic specialists cared for Perez, managing his symptoms with medication while monitoring his condition closely for any sign of the liver cancer that can be caused by the virus. When tumors were detected in the liver, Perez's name was added to the liver transplant waiting list while doctors used chemoembolization to shrink the tumors and prevent them spreading outside the liver. [...]
It was a quiet, rainy morning in 2002 at the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester, Minnesota. Kim DeBolt was staying at the hospitality house while recovering from a stem cell transplant at Mayo Clinic to treat acute myelogenous leukemia. Family members were often with her at the house, but Kim was alone that day, and she felt blue. Gazing out her window, she saw on the sidewalk a smartly dressed woman, briefcase in hand, holding an umbrella, heading downtown.
"As I watched her walk by, I thought, 'I want to do that, too. I want to have a normal day, get up in the morning and walk to work. And I want to work for Mayo Clinic,'" Kim says. "I never forgot that moment. I kept it in the back of my mind for a long time." [...]
Fritz Kruger of Hayward, Wisconsin, wondered how breathing pure oxygen while enclosed in a pressurized tube could heal his body. Fritz, 56, suffered from side effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer when he was referred for hyperbaric oxygen therapy in fall 2016.
A U.S. Air Force veteran who served from 1986 to 1995, including in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Fritz was treated for cancer at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System. He had his prostate removed in 2012, followed by radiation treatments. As of August 2016, Fritz was showing no signs of cancer, but the radiation had taken a toll on his body.
"I had blood in my urine," says Fritz, who also was feeling other painful effects. "There was so much scar tissue that they couldn't find the opening from my kidneys into my bladder."
As a nurse for more than eight years at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus, Jacklyn Traurig knew firsthand the value of the organization’s team approach to health care. But although Jackie was practiced at providing quality care, she didn’t truly see just how exceptional Mayo Clinic’s style was until she found herself in back-to-back medical crises.
A fall on the stairs landed Jackie in the Emergency Department with a broken back. Then, while still healing from the first event, Jackie fell again. This time, she slipped in a stairwell and suffered a concussion and broken collarbone. A CT scan following that fall revealed a brain tumor.
Despite all this, Jackie looks for the good in her experiences.
At 81 years old, Harold Rogers has had quite a ride. For 30 years, the St. Mary’s, Georgia, resident was an air traffic controller and corporate jet pilot. But nothing prepared Harold for a diagnosis in early 2009 of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells inside bone marrow, which is considered incurable.
“I’d never heard of multiple myeloma. My primary care doctor said, ‘The good news is that it’s treatable. But it’s not curable,’” Harold says. “He then recommended I go to a cancer specialist.”
Harold opted to stay close to home and began chemotherapy in February 2009. When the treatment was over several months later, he was left with side effects that prompted him to get an evaluation at a different health care facility. That’s when he turned to Mayo Clinic. [...]
To the delight of everyone who knows 3-year-old Rayna Speary, her head is perfectly round and smooth and average size.
Given that the youngster was diagnosed and treated for an extremely rare brain tumor that caused her head to balloon in size as a 4-month-old, and that she underwent a dramatic surgery at Mayo Clinic to remove a substantial growth that occupied nearly half of her brain space, a perfect aesthetic of her head was not guaranteed. In fact, much about Rayna's development — including her very survival — wasn't assured. [...]
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. [...]
When 29-year-old Cameron Mullis of Jacksonville, Florida, was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy and told he’d need a kidney transplant, he was facing the likelihood of kidney dialysis and several years of waiting for a suitable donor. Little did he realize, his potential donor was living under the same roof as him.
IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA, lodges in your kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, may hamper your kidneys' ability to filter waste, excess water and electrolytes from your blood. Kidney damage may be indicated by blood and protein in the urine, high blood pressure and swollen feet. There currently is no cure for this disease outside of a kidney transplant. [...]
Owning a successful financial planning firm for 20 years taught Terrance McMahon to plan for the future and for the unexpected. On May 26, 2016, all those years of planning became critical for Terrance.
That day, heart palpitations sent him to a local hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he lived. Although he thought he was having a heart attack, he admits later that he hadn't felt well for the previous six months.
"My eyes were bloodshot," Terrance says. "I was jaundiced, and I had bruises."
Blood tests at the emergency room indicated Terrance had severely deteriorated liver function.
"The doctor said I could die that night," Terrance says. "I went from being on top of the world to being told, 'You might not make it.'"
When David R. Daugherty, M.D., was growing up in Rochester, he walked to Central Junior High School with his father, Guy Daugherty, M.D., a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.
"Since our school was on dad’s way to the clinic, he made a tradition of walking with each of us kids when we reached junior high age," says Dr. Daugherty, when went on to join Mayo Clinic himself, as a psychiatrist. "We checked our progress by the bells in the Plummer Building. Hearing the chimes helped us get to school on time."
That youthful memory led to an idea: Could the carillon have a set of chimes that are unique to Mayo Clinic? [...]
"I've photographed over a thousand weddings in my life," says Darrell, who owns his own studio based in Fargo, North Dakota. "A lot of photographers don't like the pressure. There is no second chance, so you have to be confident. You can't make any mistakes. I like the challenge."