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Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Pulmonary Archive

June 30th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Nicole’s Journey From Nurse to Transplant Patient and Back

By Hoyt Finnamore

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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May 14th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Miracle Patient Overcomes Unique Challenges to Receive Double Lung Transplant

By Paul Scotti

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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August 7th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Florida Double Lung Transplant Recipients ‘Pay it Forward’

By Admin

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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February 19th, 2013 · Leave a Comment

An Unexpected Miracle from Down the Hallway

By Paul Scotti

Mayo Clinic patient Shirley Thompson, recipient of a double lung transplant

Mayo Clinic patient Shirley Thompson, recipient of a double lung transplant

Sometimes miracles happen when you least expect them. No one believes that more than Fleming Island, Florida resident Shirley Thompson, whose tale of how she received two new lungs while in a medically induced coma at Mayo Clinic hospital in Florida isn’t exactly the typical scenario.

The 48-year old married, mother of two was first diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) in March 2012 by her local pulmonologist after undergoing an EKG and experiencing shortness of breath. She was eventually referred to Mayo Clinic for an evaluation and was put on continuous high flow oxygen during treatment for her lung condition. Read the rest of this entry »

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November 14th, 2011 · Leave a Comment

International Praise for Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center

By Makala Johnson

Meet Mr. Hussein Hatata, lung cancer survivor, who praises the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependency Center for helping him to quit smoking.

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March 2nd, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Nicotine Dependence Residential Treatment Program – John’s Experience

By Makala Johnson

It's one of those things that at least for me, even when I was leaving to go to Rochester back in 2008, I really had little hope the program would work for me. I smoked 2+ packs a day for 25+ years, and it's not an easy thing to let go. In my mind it gave me comfort, and had become a friend.

It's really a remarkable experience. I know in my case I really didn't have the desire to quit even after I arrived there, but in the back of my mind I knew I should. Once I was there I figured I would give it a shot, but really didn't believe it would work.

One thing I can tell you without any hesitation is the Mayo is like no other hospital I've ever been to, and specifically the Smoking Cessation branch. EVERY one of the staff makes you feel like they care about your well being and success. They address smoking as a disease that must be treated, rather than an out of control habit.

I truly truly truly believe that if they can help me they can help anyone…The freedoms are the biggest reward. No more waking up at night coughing away, no more running out of an airport looking for a space to smoke.

I remember about 6 months after I returned from the Mayo and had my annual physical at work. My lung function test was the first normal one I had in 16 years. My Dr. told me, "You know you gave up drinking 13 years ago, now smoking, you're one of my few patients that seem to be getting healthier as they get older." I truly believe with all my heart, that I couldn't have quit smoking without the Mayo's program, and the support you get even after you leave.

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February 19th, 2010 · Leave a Comment

“It’s spectacular. It’s comforting. And it removes anxiety and fear.”

By Lee Aase

Rachel Nielson came from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Mayo Clinic last week looking for answers to problems that had bothered her for several months. On Wednesday, halfway through her visit, she shared her impressions of Mayo Clinic and what she called the "unparalleled" experience:

Rachel sent a follow-up note this morning to describe her overall perspective, a week after finishing her appointments at Mayo Clinic:

Since my return from Mayo back to my home in Colorado Springs, I have had a new peace about my symptoms and health outlook. My husband and children share in this new peace. My diagnosis is Costochondritis, which causes much chest & back pain that can often-times come on suddenly, seemingly implicating serious problems such as heart attack or lung issues. I have had these pains for almost 3 months, preceded by a severe respiratory infection, and I am usually a very healthy, athletic 40-year old woman. Though my full recovery may take several months, my anxiety level has significantly decreased, freeing up my body to heal at a faster pace. My quality of life has increased since much of the unknown has been revealed to me. I am very thankful to Mayo and its patient & knowledgeable doctors and staff. Though my healing path is still before me and will take time and rehab, I have been provided a road-map filled with hope that my quality of life will return for me and for my family down the road. Many thanks to Mayo and I remain overwhelmed by my experience there!

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