When Gary Pearson went in for a routine physical required by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to maintain his commercial driving privileges, he left with much more than a renewed driver’s license. The 58-year-old departed his appointment with an urgent directive from the nurse practitioner that examined him to see his primary care doctor. The reason: Gary had a bulbous lump on his neck.
“If she hadn’t found it, who knows how long it would’ve taken to detect it,” says Gary of Claudia Swanton, the advanced practice nurse in Mayo Clinic’s Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine who performed the exam.
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.’”
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. [...]
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.
“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:
- Learn more about the intragastric balloon.
- Read about the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
- Explore Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus.
- Request an appointment.
David Hirschy of Prescott, Arizona, has worn many hats — from record producer to chef to silversmith. In fact, his love of food made him think something was wrong a few years ago when he lost his sense of taste. He began to have other symptoms, too, which led him to Mayo Clinic in Arizona where he was diagnosed with the extremely rare Cronkhite-Canada syndrome — so rare that there have been less than 500 cases reported in the past 50 years.
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.”
Imagine listening in real time to the thump, thump of your own heartbeat, the rush of your blood pulsing through your veins, and even the slightest twitch of your eyes - all in surround sound. Those are but a few of the symptoms that Wendy Tapper was experiencing when she arrived at the Mayo Clinic in May of 2012.
The Journey to Mayo
Outgoing and energetic Wendy, of Kansas City, Mo., enjoyed a career as a producer and publicist. Bringing people and ideas together was second nature to Wendy and aided in her determination to find the answers in her own health care.
For three years prior to coming to Mayo Clinic in spring 2012, Wendy went from doctor to doctor and endured batteries of tests, scans, appointments and misdiagnoses. Her rare condition ultimately revealed by Mayo physicians was masked in part by two distinct illnesses - breast cancer and a stroke.
While those illnesses and the treatments Wendy was receiving are life-altering, they were compounded with the escalation of an underlying third and separate issue. It was the escalation of her symptoms of dizziness, hearing loss and a drastically diminishing quality of life that brought Wendy to Mayo Clinic. [...]
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. [...]
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.
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.
Dianne Shea thought that the fevers, chills, vomiting, nausea and endless bouts of diarrhea from C. diff would take away her independence. But after a fecal transplant, she says, "My life began again."
I've been a paraplegic and a Mayo Clinic patient for more than 10 years. My legs decided to stop working over a period of just a few short months due to a spinal tumor. So I didn't think I was a stranger to adversity. Then I met a nasty little bug they call C. difficile. The name is not ironic. At first I thought I had a very violent form of the flu with fevers, chills, vomiting, nausea and (the worst by far) countless, endless bouts of diarrhea.
My days were filled with nothing more than being assisted to the bathroom, cleaning up, getting back into bed, then starting all over again, weaker than before. I required around-the-clock care. I couldn't get dressed, could hardly eat anything, didn't have enough energy to do the smallest of tasks, and couldn't have any fun. Most importantly, I couldn't get through physical therapies for my legs.
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. [...]
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. [...]
Mayo Clinic uses technology to connect patients with home, family and friends
A group of high school guys trading stories, laughing and joking is nothing out of the ordinary. Tyler Olson, a 17-year-old junior at Lake Mills High School in Iowa, is usually right in the middle of such gatherings. But on Sept. 5, 2008, everything changed for Tyler. That evening, during the first play of a varsity football game, a tackle went wrong and landed him in the hospital with a spinal cord injury. The severity of Tyler’s condition required a transfer to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minn. And although there’s only about 80 miles between Lake Mills and Rochester, the confinement of a hospital room can make the two towns seem a world apart. [...]
Mayo Clinic knows that support from families, friends, co-workers, neighbors or others is an important aspect of the healing process.
Because of this, we offer our patients access to CarePages.
CarePages is a free, easy-to-use, blog-like website to help patients share updates about their care before, during and after hospitalization. Many patients find that using CarePages is easier than making and receiving multiple phone calls.
The benefits of CarePages include:
- Reducing the stress of keeping in touch with everyone by posting information or updates once.
- Improving accuracy of patient information to family and friends. (There’s less of the “heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, who….”)
- Allowing patients/families to provide updates when it works best for them.
- Providing a place to share photos.
- Allowing family and friends to leave messages of encouragement, hope and strength for the patient.
- Notifying friends and family automatically when new updates are posted.
- Enabling visitors to read stories and connect with others in similar situations.
Security is an important reason CarePages was selected. CarePages is personal and private, and complies with all patient privacy regulations. Privacy controls enable patients to decide what information to share, what photos to post and who can view the page. The CarePage cannot be accessed unless an individual is invited to view the page. Once invited, that person will need to sign in with a user name and password and know the name of the patient’s page to access it. An added benefit is that CarePages has a guest book which enables patients to see who is visiting the page, the email address of the visitor and the number of times they visited the page.
Patients can access CarePages from any desktop computer with a connection to the Internet or through a wireless laptop with Internet access. Mayo Clinic offers free wireless access on campus for our patients and visitors.
If you have a family member receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic or if you and your family are expecting a baby, you are invited to create at CarePage. Step-by-step instructions are available here.
Here's a testimonial from a CarePages user:
Being diagnosed with bile duct cancer that eventually necessitated a liver transplant wasn't enough to keep Steve Woodford down for long. A South African native living in Utah, Steve is professional skydiving instructor, backpacker and canyon guide in Zion National Park. He has always lived on the edge with his active outdoors lifestyle. Getting sick unexpectedly during a backpacking trip to Belize two years ago seemed like just another challenge he had to overcome.
"My wife and I had just arrived in Belize to do some backpacking and visit the Mayan ruins, when I woke up itching, and noticed a yellow tint to my eyes and skin," Steve says. "I saw a local doctor for a blood test, urine test and ultrasound, and was told I had hepatitis C and needed to go straight home for immediate treatment. Little did I know what was to come after returning home to Utah." [...]
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. [...]
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. [...]
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.” [...]
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.