April 21st, 2017
Steve Shank knows what it's like to face an uphill climb. Despite being legally blind and affected by albinism, he has been an avid bicyclist for years, competing in 100-mile rides on the rolling hills of Iowa. The arduous contests challenged Steve physically and mentally, giving the Iowa City native an ability to endure difficult situations.
Beginning in 2015, that endurance was put to the test — one that tried every ounce of strength Steve had. In the fall of that year, he discovered his lungs were failing due to the same mutated gene that caused his blindness and albinism. His only chance of survival was a double-lung transplant. Read the rest of this entry »
August 5th, 2016
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 »
August 4th, 2016
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."
Read the rest of this entry »
March 31st, 2016
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 »
February 16th, 2016
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 »
December 28th, 2015
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 »
December 23rd, 2015
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 »
August 12th, 2015
By Paul Scotti
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 »
June 30th, 2014
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 »
May 14th, 2014
By Paul Scotti
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 »