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Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Neurology & Neurosurgery

March 24th, 2017

Racing Ahead to a New Career After a Brain Injury

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Under the watchful eye of Mayo Clinic’s neurocritical care team, Mike Short successfully recovered from a brain injury and, as a result, he’s charting a new course for his future.

Just four months after being in a coma, Mike Short was crawling through tunnels, jumping over fiery logs, and scaling walls as part of a 5K race known as a "rugged maniac." The Georgia native owes his ability to participate in the race to the neurocritical care team at Mayo Clinic that helped him recover from a brain injury he suffered shortly after his 50th birthday.

Diagnosed with a seizure disorder in childhood, Mike had had only a handful of grand mal seizures in his life. But on April 9, 2016, while visiting a friend in Black Sheer, Georgia, he had another. It was his first in 10 years. The seizure caused Mike to fall and hit his head. He was transported to a local hospital where he had another seizure.

“I aspirated everything into my lungs and passed out due to lack of oxygen,” Mike recalls being told.

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Tags: Dr Michael Pizzi, Dr W David Freeman, Epilepsy, Neurocritical Care, Neurology and Neurosurgery


March 7th, 2017

Teamwork Gives Maureen Connell an Accurate Diagnosis and Much-Needed Relief From Hydrocephalus

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After enduring months of unexplained symptoms that left her unable to walk, Maureen Connell found the answer to her puzzling medical condition at Mayo Clinic.

Barry Connell couldn’t be happier to have his wife of 53 years, Maureen, back.

Though the couple spent 16 years traveling cross-country after Barry retired as president of a manufacturing company in Connecticut, nothing prepared them for the difficult journey they would embark on when Maureen’s health began to decline rapidly in 2015.

For the first five months of that year, The Villages, Florida, resident noticed his normally lively wife wasn’t as alert as she used to be. She was also much slower to respond to situations. Then, on Mother’s Day, Maureen collapsed in the bathroom of the restaurant where their family was celebrating.

That incident led to months of debilitating symptoms for Maureen, along with a series of ineffective treatments. No one could explain what was happening to her. In desperation, the Connells turned to Mayo Clinic, where they were able to finally find the source of Maureen’s problem — hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain.

“After struggling with this for three months, we got a preliminary diagnosis less than 24 hours after arriving at Mayo,” Barry says.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Betty Kim, hydrocephalus, neurosurgery, Transverse myelitis


February 13th, 2017

Skillful Spine Surgery Gets Rid of a Rare Tumor and Keeps Mike LaBorde on His Feet

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Mike LaBorde came to Mayo Clinic facing a daunting diagnosis and high-risk spine surgery. But through the care and expertise of his Mayo Clinic surgical team, today Mike’s back to business as usual.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Mohamad Bydon, neurosurgery


February 10th, 2017

Playing Piano Again After Stroke Is Music to Judith Johnson’s Ears

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Successful treatment at Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center in Florida prevented Judith Johnson from suffering long-term complications from a stroke and preserved her treasured piano-playing skills.

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.

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Tags: Comprehensive Stroke Center, Dr Benjamin Brown, stroke


February 3rd, 2017

Astounding Recovery for an 8-Year-Old Boy Shot by an Arrow

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Accidentally shot with an arrow that severed his spinal cord, Curtis Bressler’s doctors feared he’d never walk again. But Curtis proved them wrong. Today, he’s back to walking, running and jumping, just like any other 8-year-old boy.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Child and Adolescent Neurology, Dr Denise Klinkner, Dr Nicholas Wetjen, emergency medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation


February 1st, 2017

14-Year-Old Writes the Book on Beating the Odds

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

When Nate Munene Kirera came to Mayo Clinic, he had seizures almost every day and was debilitated by the side effects of medication to treat his condition. After working with his Neurology care team, his seizures are under control, and he’s thriving.

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.’”

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Tags: Child and Adolescent Neurology, Dr Katherine Nickels, Dr Nicholas Wetjen, hydrocephalus


January 19th, 2017

Novel Approach to Epilepsy Surgery Allows a Young Woman to Enjoy Life Again

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

When standard treatments weren’t good options for controlling Marissa’s seizures, her Mayo Clinic team tried a different tactic: cortical stimulation. The surgery was a success, and it paved the way for the procedure to be used for others dealing with epilepsy.

Five weeks before she was born, Marissa B. had a stroke in utero. When her mother went into labor, Marissa had another stroke. Diagnosed with epilepsy at birth, Marissa spent her first month of life in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“When she was six months old, they did a brain MRI,” Marissa’s mom, Lisa, says. “They said she would never walk or go to a regular school.”

The strokes took a significant toll on the left side of Marissa’s body. She doesn’t have fine motor skills in her left hand. She has a blind spot in her lower left eye and hearing loss in her left ear. Sensation on her entire left side was also affected.

“I’ve been on seizure meds since birth,” says Marissa, who is now 24 years old.

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Tags: Dr. Elaine Wirrell, Dr Kendall Lee, Dr Matt Stead, Epilepsy, neurosurgery


January 13th, 2017

Walking Easy Again After Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After enduring months of debilitating leg pain, minimally invasive spine surgery at Mayo Clinic got Dan Hofferber back on his feet.

After a 37-year career at a petroleum company, Dan Hofferber was looking forward to retirement. But in 2014, Dan started having trouble with one of his legs. The muscle in his left thigh would tighten up, causing unbearable pain that made it hard to walk.

“I was used to walking a mile or two, and I couldn’t do that anymore,” says Dan, who travels to Florida for spring training every year with his wife, Carol.” I couldn’t even walk from the parking lot to the baseball stadium.”

The pain prompted Dan to seek care in his hometown of Billings, Montana. After several months without relief, a family member urged him to go to Mayo Clinic. Dan took that advice, traveling to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. There, he met neurologic surgeon Mohamad Bydon, M.D. Dan was immediately impressed.

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Tags: Dr Mohamad Bydon, Dr Ralph Gay, neurosurgery, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spinal stenosis


December 22nd, 2016

After 20 Years of Seizures, Erica Laney Enjoys Life Following Epilepsy Surgery

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After years of trying to manage her seizure disorder with medication, Erica Laney turned to Mayo Clinic, where she had epilepsy surgery that led to a seizure-free life.

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.

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Tags: Dr Robert Wharen, Dr William Tatum, Epilepsy, neurological surgery


December 15th, 2016

Learning to Live Well With POTS Brightens Daily Life for Christine Esposito

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Mayo Clinic’s POTS Boot Camp helped Christine Esposito understand how to better control her condition.

It’s a condition with no outward symptoms. But for the hundreds of thousands of teens and adults in the U.S. living with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, the medical disorder has a significant impact on their lives. Christine Esposito is one of those people.

Christine was diagnosed with the condition in 2002 by Mayo Clinic neurologist Jeremy K. Cutsforth-Gregory, M.D.

POTS is a disorder that affects a person’s autonomic nerves — the nerves that control involuntary body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, perspiration, and bowel and bladder functions. Not everyone has the same symptoms, but the condition universally causes rapid heart rates and dizziness when moving from a resting to standing position.

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Tags: Dr Jeremy Cutsforth-Gregory, Neurology & Neurosurgery, POTS syndrome


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