Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Pulmonary

August 5th, 2016

Double Lung Transplant Recipient Beats Cystic Fibrosis to Become A Running and Fitness Enthusiast

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

After fighting cystic fibrosis for more than a decade, Tammy Bolerjack received a life-saving double-lung transplant at Mayo Clinic. Taking full advantage of her renewed health, today she’s fit and running strong. When Tammy Bolerjack was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 18, she found herself frequently in and out of hospitals for treatments to help her breathe. Running 5K races and half-marathons certainly wasn’t something she envisioned in her future. Little did she know then that eventually a double lung transplant at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus would not only allow her to breath normally, but would motivate her to become a fitness enthusiast and a competitive runner.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: cystic fibrosis, Emergency medicine, Florida Campus, lung transplant, organ donation


August 4th, 2016

Mayo Clinic’s First Lung Transplant Recipient in Florida Makes Most of Every Moment for 15 Years and Counting

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Richard and Janice Oppelt with transplant surgeon Dr. Cesar Keller. When Richard Oppelt arrived at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in early 2001, his lung capacity was minimal – only 21 percent of what it should have been.

A sandblaster for 24 years, Richard, from Melbourne, Florida, had developed silicosis, a lung disease caused by breathing in silica dust, which can damage the lining of the lung air sacs, and cause scarring and stiffening of the lung, making it difficult to breathe.

"When talking with someone, I would have to take a break to catch my breath," Richard says. "I was so short of breath sometimes that my wife had to finish my sentences. I also had a hard time making it up the stairs in my house without stopping several times."
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Tags: Dr Cesar Kellar, Florida Campus, lung transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, Silicosis


March 31st, 2016

Lung Cancer Patient Survives With Help of Novel Procedure, Celebrates Next Generation of Innovation

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Raegan Cury

Raegan Cury didn’t worry at first when she developed a cough in early 2002 that wouldn’t go away. She was a healthy young woman, athletic, a former gymnast, and her initial chest X-ray showed what looked like pneumonia.

Even her husband, a pulmonologist, wasn't too worried, until she received a surprising diagnosis. “I never thought it was going to be bronchoalveolar lung cancer,” says her husband, Dave Cury, M.D.

Raegan, who lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida, had surgery to remove the cancer and woke up with just one lung, due to the extent of the disease. The surgery was followed by four rounds of chemotherapy, but in 2003, tests found cancer nodules throughout her remaining lung. 

That was a dark period for Reagan and her family. She and her husband started their two young children, Chandler and Davis, in grief counseling.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Cesar Keller, Florida Campus, Lung Cancer, lung transplant, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, Raegan Cury


February 16th, 2016

Wisconsin Man’s Lung Cancer Found at Early, Treatable Stage Thanks to New Screening Program

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Early screening at Mayo identified lung cancer early for Bill McWhite. Bill McWhite was vacationing along the Texas Gulf Coast — normally, a time to relax — when his body refused to let him unwind. Instead, the 69-year-old Hayward, Wisconsin, man experienced a flare up of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, and found himself in the local hospital.

“I had congestion in my chest and was having problems breathing,” Bill says. “They gave me a couple medications, and, within two hours, everything was fine.”

That incident was motivation for Bill — a pack-a-day smoker for 55 years — to quit smoking and to seek care with a lung specialist back home. The decision would ultimately lead his doctors to find that he had lung cancer, through a new screening program that identified the cancer at an early, treatable stage.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: COPD, Dr Adel Zurob, Dr Thomas Carmody, Lung Cancer, Lung Cancer Screening, Mayo Clinic Health System, Pulmonary Disease


December 28th, 2015

There’s No Breaking Leo DeGoursey’s Stride

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

LeoDegoursey805A minimally invasive procedure allows Leo DeGoursey to move on from lung cancer surgery without missing a beat.

Leo DeGoursey is used to being busy. Until age 50, he enjoyed a career as a printer. Then he made a switch and spent the next two decades developing curriculum, equipping a lab, and teaching printing at a local college. During that time, he also worked with handicapped students and learned sign language.

Now, at age 85, Leo enjoys woodworking and playing the banjo. He's active in his church, exercises regularly, enjoys socializing and spending time with his family, and takes care of all of his own household maintenance and chores.

That's impressive for anyone. But Leo's active lifestyle is all the more noteworthy because in early 2015, he had surgery at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus to remove a cancerous tumor from his lung. Within days, he returned to his usual routines without a hitch.

"Since I had never had an operation, I expected that this surgery would result in pain, perhaps severe pain, upon recovery. To my amazement I did not experience any pain," Leo says. "Two days after the surgery, I was released from the hospital and shopped at a pharmacy on my way to my daughter’s house to buy some pain medicine. I never needed it. Never once did I feel like I had been through surgery."  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Matthew Thomas, Lung Cancer, minimally invasive surgery, U-VATS


December 23rd, 2015

Holiday Season Brighter for Pulmonary Hypertension Patient After Surgery

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss cindyweiss

Laura Floeckher found help for pulmonary hypertension at Mayo Clinic. The holiday season is much brighter this year for Laura Floeckhler, 45, from Orlando, Florida. Laura was diagnosed last Christmas with pulmonary hypertension, a rare disorder of the lungs affecting about 30 in every one million people. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Blood Clots, Florida Campus, Lung Disease, pulmonary hypertension, Pulmonary Thromboendarterectomy, Charles Burger, Kevin Landolfo, MayoClinicFL


August 12th, 2015

Cystic Fibrosis Patient Says Double Lung Transplant Transformed His Life

By Paul Scotti pscotti

Jon Jantomaso stays active with his family after his lung transplant.

Nobody knows better than Jon Jantomaso how precious every breath can be. The 49-year-old realtor from Seminole, Florida, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 2 months of age, and for the first 12 years of his life slept in a mist filled tent to help him breath and clear the mucus from his lungs. He has been in some form of physical therapy his entire life battling his disease.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: cystic fibrosis, Florida Campus, lung transplant


June 30th, 2014

Nicole’s Journey From Nurse to Transplant Patient and Back

By Hoyt Finnamore HoytFinnamore

Mayo Clinic nurse and transplant patient Nicole Jahns. When Nicole Jahns was just five months old, her parents – and her doctors – knew something was wrong. She wasn't gaining weight like a five-month-old should, and she wasn't, as her doctors put it, "thriving." They soon discovered why. Nicole had cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder that affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices causing them to become thick and sticky rather than thin and slippery, as they should be. It's a life-threatening condition that can cause severe damage to a person's digestive system and lungs.

Though it's been challenging at times, Nicole has never allowed her condition to stop her from living her life, and she dedicated herself to caring for others as a nurse at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. In late 2012, Nicole’s life was interrupted for six months while she waited for a double lung transplant. That transplant finally came in early May 2013, but getting there wasn't easy.

For starters, in a story in a local newspaper, one of Nicole's pulmonary physicians at Mayo Clinic, Mark Wylam, M.D., said that to simply stay on the transplant list, Nicole couldn't leave the hospital during her six-month wait for a transplant. Not even to simply have lunch or a cup of coffee with family or friends. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: cystic fibrosis, Dr Mark Wylam, lung transplant, nursing, Patient Stories, transplant


May 14th, 2014

Miracle Patient Overcomes Unique Challenges to Receive Double Lung Transplant

By Paul Scotti pscotti

Curtis Higgons, 22 year-old double lung transplant recipient at Mayo Clinic in Florida poses at the bowling alley with his bowling ball.

Photo by Ninoska A. Nunez

To 22-year-old double lung transplant recipient Curtis Higgons, being dubbed the “miracle patient” by his physicians may seem somewhat overstated. But when you consider the medical challenges his doctors had to contend with in preparing him for a life-saving double lung transplant, his moniker may be well deserved.

Curtis was born with cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States alone. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections. It also obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. As the diseases progresses, lung transplantation often becomes a last treatment option.

“Although I was diagnosed with CF at six months old, it only had minor effects on my breathing until I reached my early high school years,” says Curtis. “I was a varsity athlete in bowling and golf, but during my sophomore year of high school things began to progress, and I ended up in the hospital three times.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Curtis Higgons, cystic fibrosis, lung transplant, Mayo Clinic Florida, patient story, transplantation


August 7th, 2013

Florida Double Lung Transplant Recipients ‘Pay it Forward’

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Portrait of John McGill, Mayo Clinic patient

John McGill, Mayo Clinic patient and double-lung transplant recipient in December 2012.

When Richard Oppelt of Melbourne, Fla., became the first lung-transplant program patient at Mayo Clinic in Florida in June 2001, he never thought that 12 years later he’d be helping someone else with the same situation deal with his recovery. But that’s exactly what Oppelt did in Dec. 2012 when he heard John McGill, a friend of 20 years, needed someone to provide some caregiver support after his double-lung transplant surgery.

McGill was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that affects breathing and absorption of oxygen by the lungs, on Dec. 5, 2012. Oppelt, who knew McGill through working in the construction industry in Melbourne, became aware of McGill’s diagnosis through co-workers. Having gone through the same procedure, Oppelt felt inclined to offer his help.

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Tags: Florida, Gabriel House of Care, lung transplant, MayoClinicFL, pulmonary, transplant


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