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Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery Archive

The Team Behind Team Lola

Posted on April 2nd, 2014 by mayoclinic

Lola points to her scar from heart surgery


Most 13-year-old girls wouldn't see having a scar down the middle of their chests as cool. Lola Montilla, however, is not your average 13-year-old girl. When she looks at the scar on her chest from the surgery she had at Mayo Clinic to repair the Ebstein’s anomaly heart defect she was born with, she says it serves as a reminder that what doesn't kill us does indeed make us stronger.

"I really, really like my scar," Lola says, from her home in Puerto Rico. "Every time I look at it, it makes me think, 'Wow, I really did go through this, and I'm now back here at home.'"

Her mom, Mari Serrano-Montilla, says she and her husband learned that Lola would be born with Ebstein’s anomaly -- a rare heart defect that causes blood to leak back through the tricuspid valve, forcing the heart to work much harder than normal -- late in her pregnancy. "Our doctors here in Puerto Rico said she might need surgery, but it was a matter of just seeing how much progress she made," she says.

Outside of not being able to participate in competitive sports in school or go on any of "the cool rides" when her family visited Disney World, Lola lived the first 12 years of her life without much complication or difficulty. But then, just before her 13th birthday, things began to change. Read the rest of this entry »

Child’s play — at long last

Posted on December 3rd, 2013 by mayoclinic

Deshawn Corbin

After heart surgery, Deshawn Corbin can run, jump and swim like a kid ... for the first time

Deshawn Corbin is just 15 years old. But he’s already experienced more life than most people many times his age.

Deshawn was born with complex congenital heart disease that affected the way blood traveled through his body and kept him from getting enough oxygen. His teenage mother, who’d had no prenatal care, realized she would be unable to care for a child with such special needs and gave him up for adoption. On the day he was born, Deshawn became a ward of the state and had his first open heart surgery. Read the rest of this entry »

A lifetime of lessons in 20 short years

Posted on September 5th, 2013 by Admin

Ashley Jagodzinski

Ashley Jagodzinski

It hasn't been an easy path for Ashley Jagodzinski. To say the least. So you'll pardon Ashley and her mom (Mayo employee Erin Jagodzinski) if they're a touch enthusiastic about Ashley officially starting her college career this fall.

A few things conspired to stop Ashley from getting to this point. Three open-heart surgeries by age 12 (the first, at just 6 months of age). Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. A stroke. A brain hemorrhage. Seizures. And, astoundingly, and sadly, bullies who picked on Ashley for missing school when her physical difficulties took a toll.

Ashley and her family turned to Mayo Clinic often during those years. And at age 17, after suffering a stroke, seizures and a brain hemorrhage, Ashley and her family moved to Rochester to be closer to Mayo. Read the rest of this entry »

Eluding the ‘Widow Maker’: The Checkup that Saved His Life

Posted on September 1st, 2013 by Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

George Roberts, vice president of a Florida-based road construction and contracting company

“You have to go to know.”

George Roberts will tell you he’s a busy man — too busy to worry about a physical.

As vice president of a Florida-based road construction and contracting company and chair of two industry groups, he’s got a lot to oversee. Taking time for a doctor’s visit wasn’t on his schedule.

However, Roberts refused to be absent when his wife, Stephanie, was scheduled for a preventive surgical procedure at Mayo Clinic earlier this summer. With her urging, he agreed to schedule a checkup at the same time. His wife’s insistence and that physical exam probably saved his life.

Roberts, then 46, was eligible to participate in Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program, best described as a comprehensive physical taking place over one to three days. The specialized program has served busy executives for more than 30 years and offers an efficient, cost-effective way to proactively manage health.

Read the rest of this entry »

Harmonica Helps Pulmonary and Lung-Transplant Patients Breath Easier

Posted on July 19th, 2013 by Lauren Venoy

Mayo Clinic lung-transplant patient, Larry Rawdon, shares how the harmonica can help other patients breath easier.

After surviving two separate lung transplant procedures in 2005 and 2008, musician Larry Rawdon is sharing new ways of healing through music with other patients at Mayo Clinic in Florida. It was, after all, music that led him to Mayo Clinic and aided in his recovery after he was diagnosed in 2002 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Prior to coming to Mayo Clinic, Rawdon had little hope of his condition improving. But a chance meeting in 2005 at a music festival with cardiothoracic surgeon Octavio E. Pajaro, M.D., changed his outlook on his condition and created hope for Rawdon and his family.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mickala the miracle: A survivor and an inspiration

Posted on June 13th, 2013 by makalajohnson

Mickala Morinville

“We knew if she made it to Mayo Clinic, she would make it,” says Judy Morinville of the September day Mayo MedAir airlifted her teenage daughter to Mayo Clinic. Mickala Morinville did make it, and her journey serves as a reminder of the miracles that can happen when you combine Mayo expertise with a higher power and a determined patient.

Mickala was in a dire situation. Her lungs were destroyed, likely by a virus, and Mickala struggled to get enough oxygen. Even getting her to Mayo was a challenge. An extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine was oxygenating Mickala’s blood. Because of the complexity of transporting these patients, most cannot move to another facility. Thankfully, Mayo MedAir has expertise that made her trip to Mayo possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Girl Scout Dr. Sharonne Hayes Receives Award

Posted on May 13th, 2013 by makalajohnson

Dr. Sharonne Hayes, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, in April was named one of the Girl Scout River Valleys 2013 Women of Distinction.

When Dr. Hayes began working at Mayo Clinic, she became keenly aware that women in medicine, and particularly in cardiology, were still a minority. As she began her career in cardiology, she also saw the unique needs of women suffering from or at risk for cardiovascular disease, so in 1998 she founded Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Heart Clinic, one of the first in the country. The clinic provides sex-and gender-based cardiovascular care and women-focused research with a goal to improve clinical outcomes and advance the science. As a pioneer in the women’s health field, Dr. Hayes is a nationally recognized educator and advocate for women’s cardiovascular issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. In addition to her role as cardiologist, Dr. Hayes also became the first director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Mayo Clinic in 2010.

Dr. Hayes has been a Girl Scout for as long as she can remember and credits her mother for her positive experience in scouting. She believes in the power of the Girl Scout sisterhood and knows all girls have the potential to be leaders who can make the world a better place through service.

Since 2009, Girl Scouts River Valleys has annually honored local role models whose professional accomplishments, leadership and community contributions inspire girls to reach their highest potential.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Posted on March 25th, 2013 by makalajohnson

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 »

Man feels 20 years younger after Cardiovascular Surgery

Posted on February 18th, 2013 by makalajohnson

Bill KalmerMy name is Bill Kalmer, and I have been a patient for the past 24 years at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My medical problems have been primarily cardiac in nature. I have had an AICD (automatic implanted cardiac defibrillator) for the past 24 yrs. My condition began to deteriorate 2 yrs ago and I suffered from congestive heart failure. In discussing my predicament with a friend who was a cardiologist, he offered to make some calls on my behalf to determine the best surgeon to turn to for a tricuspid valve replacement. He was told that Dr. Hartzell Schaff was THE BEST person to contact.

I followed up on this suggestion, and on July, 13, 2012, I underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic. It was the greatest referral I could have received! The experience my wife, daughter and I had was incomparable. The attitude, care, patience, compassion, competency, and professionalism of EVERYONE with whom we came in contact was off the charts! Naturally, this begins with Dr. Schaff but also extends to nurses, aids, staff physicians and clerical staff. My feeling is that if you need serious surgery, the Mayo Clinic is absolutely the BEST facility!

By the way, my recovery was uneventful and I am working out 4 times per week. I feel 20 years younger and have told my children that age 69 is the new 49!

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Specialized care team approach helps triumph over high risk pregnancy

Posted on December 12th, 2012 by Margaret Shepard

Rachel Willenberg with her husband and two daughters.

Delighted to pose for a family portrait in June 2009: Rachel and husband, Seth, with daughters, Ariana and Aleah.

As Rachel Willenberg, and her husband Seth, look at their two healthy daughters today, they are reminded of the specialized obstetrics and cardiovascular care at Mayo Clinic that made having a family possible.

For years before her first visit to Mayo Clinic, Rachel endured baffling symptoms of breathlessness, bruising on her chest, and swelling in her face and upper arms. An eventual diagnosis of a rare condition known as fibrosing mediastinitis (FM) left her confused about her future and nearly dashed all hope of having a family. Read the rest of this entry »