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Neurology & Neurosurgery Archive

June 12th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Spina Bifida Won’t Slow Down Ty Wiberg

By Hoyt Finnamore

Ty Wiberg received his black belt in karate this past spring, despite mobility challenges caused by spina bifida. If everyone else can do it, why can’t I?

If Ty Wiberg, a 13-year-old from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, has one guiding principle in life, that might be the one.

The Chippewa Falls Middle School student has undergone 16 surgeries, walks with braces and uses a wheelchair for distance. Ty was born with spina bifida, a spinal cord malformation. He also suffers from hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain for which a tube-like shunt drains excess fluid. And he has limited sensation from the knees down, among other issues.

Not that any of that is slowing him down.

Ty mono-skis, distance races with his wheelchair, scuba dives, plays wheelchair basketball, swims and does karate. This past winter, he spent a week at a downhill ski camp in Colorado for kids with disabilities and injured veterans. This spring, he recently received his black belt in karate.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Jane Byrd, Dr Sherilyn Driscoll, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spina Bifida, Spina Bifida Clinic


May 11th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Brain Hemorrhage Can’t Keep Cyclist From Pedaling On

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Donnie continues to recover from a brain hemorrhage that caused a stroke.

At age 42, Donnie DeWitt was the picture of health. A former Marine, he loved to run, surf and was an avid cyclist. But three years ago, while on a bike ride near his home in St. Augustine, Florida, Donnie collapsed. He’d suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that led to a stroke.

He was brought to Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center in Jacksonville, where physicians said the damage was so extensive that Donnie had less than a five percent chance of survival.

“We didn’t know if he was going to live, what the outcome would be,” says Belinda, Donnie’s wife. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: brain hemorrhage, Florida Campus, stroke, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Dr Ronald Reimer


May 4th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Young Stroke Survivor Raises Awareness and Educates

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Young stroke survivor Amy Edmunds and Dr. David Miller, director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida

Young stroke survivor Amy Edmunds and David Miller, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus.

Editor's Note: This guest post is written by Amy Edmunds, founder of YoungStroke.

In 2002, I was a daily commuter to Capitol Hill who worked in sales management. Never did I think I would someday return to testify as a patient advocate at Congressional hearings on behalf of young stroke survivors. But then again, never did I expect to be a stroke survivor at age 45.

On Jan. 11, 2002, with no identified risk factors and no family history, I had an ischemic stroke. Initially, my mother observed my repeating phrases during conversation. Next, she witnessed my temporary blindness. Today, I have no recollection of these events. And my resulting deficit remains some long-term memory loss.

Like many, I mistakenly assumed stroke was an affliction of the elderly. As I attempted to learn more about my own experience, I learned approximately 30 percent of people who suffer a stroke each year are under age 65. And women are at an increased risk for stroke. So, too, are African American individuals – many of whom have significant aftereffects.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: stroke, Dr David Miller, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Florida Campus


April 23rd, 2015 · Leave a Comment

A Long Journey to a Seizure-Free Life

By Hoyt Finnamore

Kate Seifert send her neurologist a photo from Kilimanjaro to show him that she'd gotten her life back.In December 2014, Gregory Cascino, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, received a photo of a former patient. Kate Seifert was standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, almost 20,000 feet above sea level, at the mountain’s Uhuru Peak. The photo was accompanied by a note from Seifert’s mother.

“We will be forever grateful for the miracle you and everyone at Mayo Clinic gave to Kate and our family,” wrote Karen Seifert.

The story of that miracle begins 20 years earlier, when Kate, then a high school student in Appleton, Wisconsin, began having seizures. “I had my first complex seizure in the middle of a basketball game,” she says. “I was on my way back to the bench and fell on the ground shaking.” After a visit to the emergency department and an appointment with her primary care physician, Kate was referred to a neurologist. She was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Initially, the diagnosis had seemed to come without warning. But as Kate learned more about the condition, she realized she had been having partial seizures for several months.

“I’d have episodes where I’d feel like someone else was controlling my thoughts, or times where the corners or a wall would look huge, but the rest of the wall would look normal,” Kate says. “My mom had wanted to take me to a psychiatrist.” As the family’s epilepsy education began, they realized these episodes were sensory seizures. Soon, Kate would be having those seizures daily.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr. Gregory Cascino, Dr. Richard Marsh, Epilepsy, Neurology & Neurosurgery, seizures


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