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Neurology & Neurosurgery Archive

March 13th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Stopping the Seizures

By Hoyt Finnamore

Xander Torres shows off the scar from his brain surgery. After brain surgery at Mayo Clinic, Xander Torres is a healthy, happy kid

"My hand is wiggly." When 4-year-old Xander Torres said these words to his mother, Sarah, she had no idea the long journey they would begin. "To be honest, I didn't think much about it at first," she says.

Several weeks went by when Xander's hand was occasionally "wiggly." Then during a stint as ring-bearer in a family wedding, he had what looked to his parents like a seizure. Frightened and confused, they took Xander to several physicians in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Unable to learn what was causing the problem, and with his seizures growing more frequent and severe, the Torres family decided to travel to Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota, in hope of finding answers.

After evaluation and several months of other therapies, young Xander eventually underwent brain surgery to relieve his seizures. The results have been life-changing. Today, with his seizures well-controlled, Xander is a little-league baseball player who loves science and intends to be a brain surgeon when he grows up.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Elain Wirrell, Dr Nicolas Wetjen, Neurology & Neurosurgery, seizures


February 27th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Perfume Maker Gets Her Sense of Smell Back  

By Hoyt Finnamore

Kim Spadaro at work in her perfume studio. Kim Spadaro tells stories through scent. She travels the world capturing unique olfactory experiences and bottling them for others to share. "My experience [in these places] is really what turns it into a fragrance," she says. "I can tell you how something smells in a story."

That, of course, requires a keen sense of smell.

Kim used her talent and refined sense of smell to found Spadaro Luxury Fragrances and make a living capturing scents from around the world. Medical issues nearly derailed that and put an end to her perfuming days.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Brain Tumor, Dr Robert Wharen, neurosurgery


February 24th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Gratitude, and the Voice of Experience

By Hoyt Finnamore

Mark-Pearce-WebMark Pearce jokes that, "If something's going to happen, it's going to happen to me." That sentiment isn't hard to understand in someone who has had eight joint replacements (knees, hips and shoulders – some more than once), has been cardioverted 18 times to restore normal heart rhythm, and had surgery for a brain tumor. Among other things. What may be harder to understand is how he's kept an amazingly positive attitude through it all.

For Mark, it starts with gratitude.

"I feel like being treated like royalty here," he says of his experience at Mayo Clinic. "It's amazing. And if there's any way that I could say thank you to the physicians here and to the complete staff … I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for you."

Mark came to Mayo Clinic in the 1980s for a procedure physicians in his home state of Michigan were hesitant to perform because of his prior neck fractures. At Mayo Clinic, he found physicians who were able to perform the procedure and manage things when his care got complicated. Since then, he's had his left knee replaced twice, and the right, once; three hip replacements; and two shoulder replacements. Brain surgery. Cardioversion and heart procedures. And a gastric bypass procedure to combat the weight gain cause by his pituitary tumor. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: hip replacement, Knee Replacement, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Rochester Campus, Shoulder Replacement


December 31st, 2014 · 1 Comment

‘Nothing Short of a Miracle’

By Hoyt Finnamore

Read time: 4 minutes, 30 seconds

DennisSchmittWebWhen he was 26 years old, Dennis Schmitt had his first seizure.

“At first, they’d happen every six months or so,” says Dennis, of Liberal, Kansas. “Then, they got a little closer each time.” Doctors had no idea why.

“Dennis was healthy,” says his wife, Pat. “He’d been a strong athlete in high school.”

Over the years, the seizures kept coming. Medication didn’t seem to help. Eventually, Dennis was having three or four seizures a week.

“He had all kinds of seizures -- grand mal, petit mal, seizures where he’d just stare and not know what was going on,” says Pat. “The seizures happened with no warning. He could be in the middle of a sentence or walking to the car. Our sons were 1 and 3 when this started happening. It was very difficult, and very stressful. Dennis’ seizures were ongoing for 31 years.”

In 2006, a new neurologist who was caring for Dennis suggested the couple seek another opinion.

“He told us he just could not figure out why Dennis was having seizures,” says Pat. “He suggested we see a neurologist in Wichita. We asked about going to Mayo Clinic, instead, and the doctor’s face lit up.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Jeffrey Britton, Dr. Richard Marsh, Neurology & Neurosurgery, neurosurgery, seizures


December 12th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

From ‘Pick a Plot’ to Watching His Son Graduate

By Hoyt Finnamore

Read time: 4 minutes

Ron Christian has been able to watch his young children grow up thanks to brain surgery at Mayo Clinic.

Written by Ron Christian

“Pick a plot and get your papers in order, you’ll be dead in a month.” That’s what the local neurosurgeon said. Those words served as my wake-up call. While my wife wept, I became angry. We had three very young children, and I was determined to see them grow up.

Weeks before, I had two seizures. The second seizure resulted in hospitalization, and within hours I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The local neurosurgeon did a biopsy and then gave his instructions on how to spend the little bit of time I had left … finding a plot.

After meeting with some of the best neurosurgeons in the country, we visited Mayo Clinic’s Fredric Meyer, M.D.  Dr. Meyer was direct and to the point. He stated that although it was risky, the only option to survive was aggressive surgery. Even then, the odds for long term survival weren’t good. While not hopeful, at least Dr. Meyer was honest. When I asked him how many surgeries he did in a year, Dr. Meyer told me he averaged about 1,500 brain surgeries annually. He’s a no-nonsense, intelligent man and brilliant surgeon. We scheduled surgery for the next week.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Brain Tumor, cancer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Neurology & Neurosurgery


August 15th, 2014 · 20 Comments

Mystery Solved – Diagnosis Moves Patient from Frustration to Peace of Mind and a Plan

By iggeez

Karen Gibson at Mayo Clinic with her husband. I want to share my story to possibly help another person and to hopefully help others who are still facing their own health unknowns.

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 – 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. 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.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Lupus, Myasthenia Gravis, Patient Stories


June 26th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

College Student Overcomes Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis

By Susana Shephard

In her early 20s, Erin Ayub has big plans. As a college student in El Paso, Texas, she is also a musician and aspiring writer. She had to put her plans on hold for a bit while in a medically induced coma at Mayo Clinic in Arizona due to a rare illness — anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Now on the road to recovery, Erin and her mom share her story in this video.

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Tags: Arizona, encephalitis, Erin Ayub, Mayo Clinic, Neurology & Neurosurgery, patient story


June 4th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Untangling a complex medical challenge

By Hoyt Finnamore

Amy Supergan with family members in Sienna, Italy.Amy Supergan has battled a host of difficult and painful disorders. Now she's found a way back to enjoying her life and her family.

In the summer of 2013, Amy Supergan took a trip to Italy. That may not sound extraordinary, but there was a time when being able to travel and enjoy a vacation with her family seemed like an impossible goal.

Amy faces a range of challenging medical problems, but at the top of that list is pain so debilitating she was forced to quit her career and give up an active lifestyle. But through the care she has received at Mayo Clinic and her participation in an innovative clinical research trial, Amy has found a renewed ability to manage her pain, and enjoy friends and family when she is able.

"Although I may never ski again or be back at work, with the help of all of my doctors at Mayo, I am now able to live independently with some assistance," she says. "I have found happiness in being more relaxed and appreciating some of the smaller things in life. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on life as I did before." Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: chronic pain, clinical trials, Dr Daniel Lachance, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Patient Stories, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Dr Kendall Lee


May 16th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

#StrokeMonth: From Victim to Therapist

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Stroke survivor Sean Bretz (center) with Lisa Lazaraton (far left), a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, his mother and aunt (right).

Stroke survivor Sean Bretz with Lisa Lazaraton (left), a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, his mother (center) and aunt.

It’s been almost three years since Sean Bretz collapsed. Unbeknownst to the then 23-year-old U.S. Coast Guardsman, a giant aneurysm had burst in his brain, causing a massive stroke.

“His prognosis was grim,” neurosurgeon Rabih Tawk, M.D., recalls. “We used every technology available to help him.”

Despite complications and issues, which required him to be induced into a medical coma, Bretz made an almost full recovery.

“I realize I was lucky and recovered pretty well. A lot of other people who have this type of stroke do not,” says Bretz, who attributes his success to the large team at Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.

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Tags: Aneurysm, bretz, Dr Rabih Tawk, rehabilitation, Sean Bretz, stroke, Stroke Center, therapy


May 9th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

#StrokeMonth: It’s a Numbers Game

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Written by Lesia Mooney, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Mayo Clinic's Advanced Primary Stroke Center in Florida.

Members of the Mayo Clinic Primary Stroke Center in Florida host community events to help educate the public about stroke, stoke risk and ways to reduce risk.

Mooney (left) with other members of the Mayo Clinic Primary Stroke Center in Florida at a community event on stroke awareness.

795,000.
That's the number of people annually in the United States who have a stroke.

130,000.
That's the number of Americans who die each year due to stroke

$36.5 billion.
That’s the cost of stroke annually, which includes the cost of health care services, medications and missed days of work related to stroke.

The numbers are staggering, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stroke is a major health care issue, but yet I'm still surprised by the lack of awareness surrounding stroke.

There are many misconceptions about stroke, including that it’s an older person’s issue. In reality, stroke can happen to anyone, including children. I've seen patients as young as 18 and as old as 103.

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Tags: American Stroke Association, High Blood Pressure, high cholesterol, Lesia Mooney, MayoClinicFL, stroke, Stroke Center, strokemonth