March 13th, 2017
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.
August 5th, 2016
When Tammy Bolerjack was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 18, she found herself frequently in and out of hospitals for treatments to help her breathe. Running 5K races and half-marathons certainly wasn’t something she envisioned in her future. Little did she know then that eventually a double lung transplant at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus would not only allow her to breath normally, but would motivate her to become a fitness enthusiast and a competitive runner. Read the rest of this entry »
August 13th, 2015
As an endurance athlete who has completed six Ironman triathlons and more than two dozen marathons, Michael Koetting does not fear physical challenges. So when he learned he could use his good health to help a stranger in need, he never hesitated. Read the rest of this entry »
October 21st, 2013
Sunny and Bill Meadows moved from Arkansas to Minnesota to volunteer their time to help other patients. "We hope that by giving back in this way, we can express our appreciation for all Mayo Clinic has done for us," they say.
On the surface, Sunny and Bill Meadows' move from Fayetteville, Ark., to Rochester, Minn., doesn't sound particularly unique. Lots of people go from one part of the country to another. But rather than one of the typical reasons for relocation — such as taking a new job or living closer to family — the couple's decision to make a new home more than 600 miles away was based on deep gratitude and a keen desire to help others. Also, unlike most moves, it involved two kidney transplants.
The Meadows first traveled to Rochester in 2011 for appointments at Mayo Clinic. But their journey started long before then. Sunny was diagnosed with lupus in her early 30s. The disease took a heavy toll on her body over the years, eventually causing her kidneys to fail. Beginning in 2009, she required daily dialysis treatments that significantly restricted what she could do and where she could go.
After two years of dialysis, the couple began to explore the possibility of a kidney transplant for Sunny. Needing a new kidney due to lupus is not a common situation, however. The Meadows wanted to make sure she received care from medical professionals who had expertise working with people in her condition. Her local nephrologist recommended Mayo Clinic.
"From our very first visit, we knew Mayo Clinic was different," says Bill. "Even though we understood it was the place to go for unusual cases, we didn't have any idea that how extremely kind and caring everyone at Mayo would be. The patient-first philosophy was obvious from everyone there."
In June 2011, Sunny was part of a paired kidney donation at Mayo Clinic that involved six donors and six recipients. Sunny's sister gave a kidney to a recipient from New York. Sunny's kidney came from a donor in Arizona. The match was excellent, and her doctors are optimistic that her new kidney will last a long time.
After the transplant, Sunny's quality of life improved dramatically. She became much more active in work and at her church. The couple also began to travel, a hobby that had been out of reach while they were dealing with the effects of Sunny's kidney failure.
But enjoying this newfound freedom didn't seem like quite enough. When Bill and Sunny returned to Rochester for her one-year checkup, they told her medical team that they wanted to do something to help others. Bill volunteered to become a nondirected kidney donor — a donor who gives a kidney to someone he or she does not know.
"After going through years of sometimes agonizing days while Sunny was sick, there was little doubt in my mind that I wanted to at least offer an opportunity for someone else to have a second chance," says Bill.
He was accepted as a donor, and in October 2012, Bill underwent surgery to donate one of his kidneys. Then, after visiting Mayo Clinic for his four-month checkup, the couple began mulling over another idea.
As they were flying home, they both agreed that they felt a special sense of peace when they were in Rochester and at Mayo Clinic. Bill had previously spent dedicated time volunteering, so the two began considering the possibility of moving to Rochester and becoming full-time volunteers.
After that, several things happened that encouraged them to move forward. On a riverboat cruise the Meadows took during a visit to Belgium and The Netherlands, one of the first people they met — and who they got to know over the course of the trip — was a woman who had worked at Mayo Clinic for years. When they told their family about the idea, the couple received support and encouragement. As they explored the financial aspects of the move, they found they would likely be able to manage it. So in June 2013, they put their house in Fayetteville up for sale. It sold in 20 days, sealing their decision to move north.
In September, Sunny began volunteering at the Gift of Life Transplant House, which offers lodging to Mayo Clinic transplant patients and their families. Bill will spend his time volunteering at Charter House, a retirement community owned by Mayo Clinic in downtown Rochester. Their plan is to stay in Rochester for at least two years.
"It is hard for us to express how thankful we are for the care Sunny received. We are indebted to Mayo Clinic for saving her life," says Bill. "We hope that by giving back in this way, we can express our appreciation for all Mayo Clinic has done for us."
April 22nd, 2009
By Paul Scotti
Nearly 100,000 men, women and children in the U.S. are on the national organ transplant waiting list awaiting a life saving transplant. About 100 new names are added to the list daily. On an average day, 77 people receive organ transplants in the U.S. But thousands more never get the call from their transplant center saying a suitable donor organ - and a second chance at life - has been found.
"Organ donation is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be a lifesaving gift to multiple people," explained Thomas Gonwa, M.D., chair of the department of transplantation at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. "Thanks to the availability of these organs, along with regular blood donations that replenish the blood supply so critical to the transplant process, many people will live that might not otherwise have hope."
February 23rd, 2009
Job description: Meet and write about the grateful patients who become benefactors of Mayo Clinic, their gifts and the researchers and physicians who use these gifts to move medicine forward.
That's my job - if you can call something as wonderful as that a job - as a writer for the Department of Development. But so often, my stories are really only starting points for much better ones that continue long after I've done my work.
Hal Freeman, M.D., is a great example. When I wrote about Dr. Freeman last year, we talked about his life-saving liver transplant at Mayo, his gratitude for his care and his plans for the future. What's he done since then? Live.
For example, he's gone SCUBA diving in the Carribbean, sailed on board the Queen Mary 2 and he's moved to New York City, to enjoy the operas at Lincoln Center and many other cultural activities that are his passions. He also is continuing his quest to author THE authoritative guide for patients to get the most out of their visits with their doctors.
No one would have predicted any of this for Dr. Freeman. Just a few years ago, he was the victim of a seemingly incurable disease and in a different hospital, where physicians' only plans were to "make him comfortable." Even after he decided to seek care elsewhere, he couldn't find a place willing to give him a transplant because of doubts about his ability to survive the operation.
Now, he's living a second life. It reminds me of the phrase "gift of life," that we so often here about organ donation. It doesn't sound cliche in this context. It also makes me think about his gift to Mayo and the progress it will generate. "Mayo Clinic saved my life," he told me during our interview. "With their experience and patient volumes, they have a vital opportunity to make a lasting contribution to research and help future patients."
What will that contribution be? Maybe it will be a discovery that helps make liver transplantation safer and more widely available? Or maybe it will help patients before they reach the transplantation stage, so that people with liver disease can lead a first life without interruption.