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.
â€śI absolutely wanted to do this for her,â€ť says Dawn. â€śThere wasnâ€™t a question in my mind.â€ť [...]
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 â€“ 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.Â 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.Â [...]
As a commercial airline pilot, Tyrone Nanton spends his days in a standard blue-and-white uniform. But in his off-hours, Tyroneâ€™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.
â€śI couldnâ€™t hold a glass with one hand. I couldnâ€™t eat with a knife and fork,â€ť Tyrone says.
At that point, Tyrone could not continue flying. He had to take medical leave and go on disability. Tyrone says he couldnâ€™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.Â [...]
When he was 38, Paul Hesson was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, and the condition triggered significant chronic back pain.
â€śBack then, they said I had the back of a 75-year-old man,â€ť 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, Paulâ€™s pain worsened to the point that it limited his day-to-day activities. He knew he needed to do something more.Â [...]
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." Â
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.
David Hirschy of Prescott, Arizona, has worn many hats â€”Â 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 syndromeÂ â€” so rare that there have been less than 500 cases reported in the past 50 years.
If you go looking for Charles Metzler, youâ€™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 â€” ducks, rabbits, a pot-bellied pig named Mimi, and a miniature donkey named Haley â€” 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.
â€śI think I might have one of the only covered bridges in Wyoming,â€ť says Charles. â€śProjects like that are fun. I like to stay busy, and I like to be active.â€ť
For years, though, Charlesâ€™ 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.
â€śIâ€™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,â€ť Charles says. â€śMy problem was that I was always scared of having the operation. Then I met Dr. [Erin] Oâ€™Brien. It was just the manner in which she explained the surgery to me â€” what would occur and the benefits Iâ€™d derive from it. Her manner relaxed me. After that, I wanted to have that operation.â€ťÂ [...]
The 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 knew Nancy only as the principal at her childrenâ€™s school. Nancy knew Kati as a parent and active volunteer. But their 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.Â [...]
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 sheâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™t sure she would ever be able to reclaim the busy, happy life she loved.
â€śMy face was swollen; my legs were swollen. I kept falling down. My hair and nails were breaking off,â€ť she says. â€śI had a lot of bad symptoms. I knew something was wrong. I went to doctor after doctor, but they all had a different opinion.â€ť
After almost a year and a half, Jessie was diagnosed with Cushing syndrome. [...]
Oct. 23, 2015, is a date that Nikole Prins will always remember. Itâ€™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.
â€śI was diagnosed with Chiari malformation,â€ť says Nikki, who lives in Owatonna, Minnesota, and received care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Owatonna. â€śNo one wants to be told at 21 that you have a brain malformation. I cried a lot.â€ť
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. [...]
Karen Safranek didn't take a worry-free step for 10 years. Severe peripheral neuropathy â€” a side effect of breast cancer treatment she received in 2002 â€” 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 trialÂ 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."Â [...]
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 didnâ€™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 â€” 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.
â€śI have been on the other side and am thankful,â€ť Shari says. [...]
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 didnâ€™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, Brentneyâ€™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 Clinicâ€™s Florida campusÂ and throughÂ and Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine,Â underwent whole-exome sequencing in search of a better explanation for her health problems.Â [...]
When he was born 13 years ago, Connor Johnson was a "miracle baby,â€™ 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 Connorâ€™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 Clinicâ€™s Rochester campusÂ involving brain surgery and proton beam therapy, provided Connor and his family the promise of a brighter future.Â [...]
When Mayo Clinic lung transplant patient Larry Rawdon heard the Ritz Chamber Players perform on the Florida campus, he was captivated. As a retired cellist who played on Broadway in shows such as Cats, he has a deep appreciation for the power of music and what it can do to lift a personâ€™s spirits.
â€śMusic is oxygen for the soul,â€ť says Rawdon. â€śIt has a way of transporting the listener to a better place. For the period of time one is listening to a musical performance, the listener seemingly doesnâ€™t have a care in the world. What better place than a clinic setting to offer this?â€ť
Rawdon has often relied on music to take away the cares in his world over the years. In late 2005 he had a life-saving, single-lung transplant to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal disease of unknown cause. Two years later, he needed another transplant due to chronic rejection. In February 2008, he had a double-lung transplant at Mayo Clinicâ€™s Florida campus.
During Rawdonâ€™s time at Mayo, staff who knew he was a professional cellist often asked if he would play at the clinic some day. He said he would and hoped it might be with the Ritz Chamber Players. Through his music connections, Rawdon met Terrance Patterson, director of the Ritz Chamber Players, who invited him to perform at their next Mayo Clinic concert.
So on May 27, Rawdon joined two violinists, two violists and another cellist in Mayo Clinicâ€™s Kinne Auditorium in a performance of Johannes Brahmsâ€™ String Sextet in B Flat Major, Op. 18. The music brought a standing ovation from the audience, many of whom were patients, staff and physicians of Mayo Clinicâ€™s Transplant Center. For Rawdon, the performance was much more than beautiful music â€“ it was an affirmation of survival and a celebration of life that brought visible emotional element to Mayoâ€™s Humanities in Medicine program.
The Ritz Chamber Players regularly appear at Mayoâ€™s monthly concerts, which are made possible by benefactor donations. Based in Jacksonville, the group is the nationâ€™s first chamber music ensemble comprised solely of accomplished African-American musicians.
Bryan Duncan didnâ€™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, didnâ€™t have any health problems, and felt fine.
When the test results came back, though, they showed enzyme levels in Bryanâ€™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'sÂ Rochester campus, where he was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, and where he eventually received a life-saving living-donor liver transplant.
â€śThe way my disease works, if I had waited for a deceased donor, I probably would have been too sick for a transplant,â€ť Bryan says. â€śBeing able to have a living-donor transplant opened up the opportunity for me to get the second chance I needed.â€ť [...]
Editorâ€™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.Â
From a San FranciscoÂ truffle shopÂ to an upscaleÂ St. Paul grocery store, Iâ€™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 unearthÂ profoundÂ 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 aÂ 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 toÂ soothe nervous visitors with its international-class artistic aesthetic.Â 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,Â ChihulyÂ glass installation. Beauty engulfs the visitor, easing fears and concerns â€“ if even for a few minutes. [...]
Scott Berry is one of five children. But he and his youngest sibling, David, share a very unique bond â€” 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.Â [...]
Shirley 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 â€” the sound of her husband falling out of bed.
â€śI asked him what was the matter, but Bob couldnâ€™t talk. He couldnâ€™t move, and I couldnâ€™t get him up,â€ť says Shirley about her husband, a former advertising executive and designer of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Penguins logos. â€śI called 911 right away.â€ť
The ambulance took Bob, 82, to the hospital closest to his home in St. Augustine, Florida, where doctors confirmed he was having a stroke.Â [...]
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 â€” 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 Clinicâ€™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 himÂ 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.
â€śSometimes Iâ€™ll sit and think about everything Iâ€™ve been through, and it moves me to tears,â€ť Travis says. â€śIâ€™m alive and better for it. I wish I never wouldâ€™ve had to go through it, but at least it wasnâ€™t for nothing.â€ť [...]