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Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery

March 13th, 2017

Heart Transplant Puts an Active Athlete Back in Action

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Living with a chronic heart condition, Kraig Gresham knew he would eventually need surgery to replace a heart valve. He didn’t anticipate a heart transplant. But his care team at Mayo Clinic helped him through it, and today he’s back in the swing of an active life.

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.

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Tags: heart transplant, Left Ventricular Assist Device, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, organ donation, ventricular assist device


March 2nd, 2017

Daughter’s Persistence Leads to Discovery of a Life-Threatening Aortic Aneurysm

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

When Morgan Burke persuaded her father, Tony, to see a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, she never imagined it would lead to heart surgery that would save his life.

Morgan Burke spent years urging her father, Tony Burke, to make a doctor’s appointment. When Tony was 12 years old, he had open-heart surgery at Mayo Clinic to repair aortic stenosis. But as an adult, the 48-year-old avoided most medical care.

“I’m just that type. I don’t go to the doctor ever — unless I’m dead,” says the farmer from Plainview, Minnesota.

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Tags: Aortic Aneurysm, Cardiovascular Diseases, Dr Alberto Pochettino, Dr Heidi Connolly, Dr Joseph Maalouf


February 27th, 2017

Battling an Autoimmune Disorder Changes James Boddie’s Retirement Plans

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

A multidisciplinary team of experts at Mayo Clinic has come up with a unique way to treat sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the heart. For James Boddie, that innovative approach has made a world of difference.

In April 2005, nine months after retiring from his job as assistant superintendent of Osseo School District in Maple Grove, Minnesota, James Boddie had a heart attack while riding his bike in Florida. When he arrived by helicopter at a local hospital in Bonita Springs, he was told he had 100 percent blockage in his arteries.

James had no history of heart disease — at least none that he knew of.

“They did a catheterization and implanted two stents, which saved my life,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Cardiovascular Diseases, Dr Leslie Cooper, sarcoidosis


February 23rd, 2017

Mitral Clip Gets a Fisherman Back on the Water

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

A leaky mitral valve in his heart was making life difficult for Bob Hamme. But minimally invasive surgery to place a mitral clip solved the problem and allowed Bob to get back to the activities he enjoys.

Fishing has been a big part of 83-year-old Bob Hamme's life since he was a child.

"I just enjoy being out on the water or near water and fishing, just being with nature," he says.

After being diagnosed with congestive heart failure due a leaky mitral valve, Bob was not only unable to enjoy fishing, he had a hard time with everyday activities. His heart condition was causing a buildup of fluid in his lungs, as well as his legs and feet.

"I became increasingly out of breath," Bob says. "I didn't have the energy I had all along."

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Tags: Cardiovascular Diseases, congestive heart failure, Dr Peter Pollak, Mitral Valve Clip


February 15th, 2017

Local Politician Doesn’t Skip a Beat With Mechanical Heart Pump

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Heart failure threatened to derail Junior Boatright’s busy life, but a left ventricular assist device has helped him get back on track while he waits for a heart transplant.

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.”

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Tags: Cardiac Rehabilitation, Dr Daniel Yip, Dr Jeffrey Hosenpud, Dr Kevin Landolfo, heart failure, Heart Failure Clinic, Left Ventricular Assist Device, lvad


January 30th, 2017

Rare Heart Condition Turns Young Athlete into Advocate

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Joe Meyer became an advocate after heart surgery. 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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: American Heart Association, Congenital Heart Disease, Dr Mohamad Yamani, Hypertrophic Cardiomypathy, Septal Myectomy


January 12th, 2017

Despite Two Aortic Aneurysms, Dennis Brennan Living the Life he Loves

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm in 2008, Dennis Brennan turned to Mayo Clinic. Nine years and two surgeries later, Dennis is grateful for the comprehensive care he’s received that’s safeguarded his health.

Dennis Brennan met Albert Hakaim, M.D., a vascular surgeon at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, in January 2008. Then 73 years old and living in Ft. Meyers, Florida, Dennis had just learned that he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm — a weakened and enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta, the main artery that supplies blood to the body.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms affect only about 8 percent of the population. But they are serious. If it ruptures, an abdominal aortic aneurysm can be life-threatening.

After learning his diagnosis, Dennis knew he wanted a second opinion, especially because he had a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms. Dennis immediately thought of Mayo Clinic. He and his wife Anna had been to Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus, many times, where Dennis had his annual physicals for nearly three decades.

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Tags: Abdominal aortic aneurysm, Dr Albert Hakaim, Dr Richard Agnew, Endovascular repair, Thoracic aortic aneurysm, Vascular and endovascular surgery


September 17th, 2016

Artist Back at the Drawing Board After A Stroke

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

bobgessner805Shirley 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 — the sound of her husband falling out of bed.

“I asked him what was the matter, but Bob couldn’t talk. He couldn’t move, and I couldn’t get him up,” says Shirley about her husband, a former advertising executive and designer of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Penguins logos. “I called 911 right away.”

The ambulance took Bob, 82, to the hospital closest to his home in St. Augustine, Florida, where doctors confirmed he was having a strokeRead the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Comprehensive Stroke Center, Dr David A Miller, Florida Campus, stroke, Thrombectomy, tPA, atrial fibrillation, Diabetes


September 9th, 2016

Why I Walk: Alexandra Abreu-Figueroa

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Alexandra Abreu Figueroa (right), pictured with her mother Lyana Figueroa-Soto, is inspired by the First Coast Heart Walk to improve her fitness and tackle a family struggle with weight.

Editor’s note: In this article, Alexandra Abreu-Figueroa, an intern in Public Affairs at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, shares her story and discusses why she participates in the First Coast Heart Walk, an annual event sponsored by Mayo Clinic.


Growing up, I was always overweight. During my teenage years, in particular, I struggled — losing and gaining weight over and over again. I tried different diets, pills and exercises while battling bullying, depression and societal standards that said I should try to fix my body.

As an adult, I made the decision to have a gastric lap band inserted to help control my weight, but it still didn’t change my mindset.

Obesity is not out of the ordinary in my family nor in my culture. Most of my family members have had challenges with obesity at one point in their lives. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 42.5 percent of Latinos are overweight or obese. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Cardiology, First Coast Heart Walk, Heart Disease, stroke


August 16th, 2016

Coordination and Teamwork Make Simultaneous Surgeries Seamless for Heart Transplant Recipients

By Hoyt Finnamore HoytFinnamore

WilliamandMichale805Michael Tyler and William Tiger didn’t know one another before the summer of 2016. But they now share a unique life event. Both 55-year-olds underwent heart transplant surgery at Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus on the same day, at the same time. Completing the simultaneous procedures was a milestone for the Transplant Center team in Arizona, who had not previously been called on to perform more than one heart transplant at a time.

“It was truly remarkable how the team came together,” says transplant coordinator Allison Smith, who said the offers for both hearts came in on a Friday afternoon. Extensive coordination and precise timing were crucial to providing the best possible outcomes for the patients.

“When we all came in on Monday morning and knew the patients were doing well, it was like a euphoric high,” she says.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Arizona campus, Dr Louis Lanza, Dr Octavio Pajaro, heart transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, Michael Marranca, ventricular assist device


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