June 4th, 2015 · Leave a Comment
Born with five congenital heart defects and suffering through several medical complications, Courtney needed both a new heart and a new liver. Previous surgeries at ages 2, 6, 12 and then again at 22, and numerous blood transfusions over the years, had caused her immune system to develop high levels of antibodies that would attack and reject foreign tissues.
She was told that her risk of organ rejection was too high if she received a heart and liver transplant in the usual order. Her Mayo Clinic doctors, however, turned her dire situation into an advantage, and she was one of the first in the world to receive an organ transplant in a way that was likely her only chance to survive. Read the rest of this entry »
April 21st, 2015 · Leave a Comment
By Paul Scotti
Receiving a donor kidney from an anonymous deceased donor is a gift of life to anyone in need of a transplant. Receiving an organ donation from a living family member is extra special, when you consider the risks and sacrifices associated with making that choice.
Tammy Stelly, a 46-year-old retired postal worker from Middleburg, Florida, experienced that special gift when her brother-in-law was found to be a compatible match and became her living kidney donor.
“I was overwhelmed that he offered to be tested as a possible match,” says Tammy. “I never imagined that we might actually be a compatible match.”
Tammy isn’t the first member of her family to have kidney disease, nor was she the first to receive a kidney transplant from a living donor who also is a family member. One of her relatives received a kidney from his daughter many years ago, and lived another 17 years before passing away due to unrelated causes. Read the rest of this entry »
April 1st, 2015 · Leave a Comment
By Paul Scotti
If you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, it can be easy to get down and wonder why this is happening to you and how will it affect your future goals and dreams. For 57-year-old Jim McGarry of Fruit Cove, Florida, a diagnosis of end-stage renal disease that has required him to go on dialysis three days a week while he awaits a donor kidney hasn’t gotten him down. If anything, it’s given him the motivation to push himself to set and achieve new life goals.
“Finding out I had kidney disease in 2012, after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 10 years earlier, was a wake-up call for me about how I was living my life,” says Jim. “I used to travel a lot, didn’t eat right, and didn’t get enough exercise, but that all changed once I realized I needed to deal with my health issues. Then I started to make some much-needed changes to regain my health and re-evaluate the priorities in my life.”
February 20th, 2015 · Leave a Comment
By Paul Scotti
He’s a former Green Beret who served in Somalia. He’s a record-holding skydiver with several thousand jumps under his belt since he began leaping out of airplanes at age 18. And he’s a liver transplant recipient, who affectionately refers to his transplanted organ as “Sam.”
Kim Dobson, 63, of Oveido, Florida, is the definition of someone who lives life to the fullest. He not only participates in national and international skydiving competitions, but also scuba dives, plays golf, and enjoys shooting sports. With both a sports and military background, he was active, fit and the picture of health. But that all changed in 1994, after knee surgery and after undergoing a series of tests for back pain. Told he had elevated liver enzymes, Kim was eventually diagnosed with type 3 hepatitis C. Surprised but confident he could beat his disease and resume his active lifestyle, he went through three cycles/47 weeks of interferon treatments at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.
February 6th, 2015 · Leave a Comment
Mayo Clinic patient Don Salamone is proof that being in great shape before undergoing a heart transplant can enhance recovery. Even while tethered to a ventricular assist device that kept his heart functioning until the transplant surgery, he pushed himself to work out on a stationary bike for two hours daily and walked several miles on a treadmill.
While he could handily beat the competition in races before he received the implanted device, he couldn’t beat viral cardiomyopathy, which makes it harder for your heart to pump and deliver blood to the rest of your body, and can lead to heart failure.
Don underwent his heart transplant surgery in October 2012. True to his mission, he spent only eight days in the hospital following the surgery.
“I made a pledge to be in good shape before the surgery and to always honor my responsibility to my donor to take care of this heart,” Don says. As a result, within days of his surgery, he was up early, walking laps, training and eventually competing in numerous runs in Arizona and elsewhere.
Fast forward to Jan. 16, 2015. Now close to age 60, Don was living his promise. He was at the 10K starting line at the popular P.F. Chang’s Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Phoenix, where some 30,000 athletes participated. Read the rest of this entry »
January 27th, 2015 · Leave a Comment
By Paul Scotti
For most organ transplant recipients, receiving the “gift of life” is a one-time experience. But for Nellie Betancourt, battling the hepatitis C virus that had been in hiding in her body for years required another “second chance at life,” thanks to a second generous donor and a new generation of anti-viral drugs.
Betancourt, a 56-year-old mother of two and grandmother of seven from Puerto Rico, was first diagnosed with elevated liver enzymes during a routine exam in 1995. Further testing revealed a positive result for the hepatitis C virus, which resulted in several rounds of standard anti-viral drug treatments over the next several years, none of which were successful in effectively managing her disease. This began a 20-year battle with hepatitis C that was to eventually include two liver transplants performed at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.
“By 2002, I was told that my liver enzymes were rapidly increasing, and that I’d eventually need a liver transplant or face liver failure,” says Betancourt. “I was only 42 years old at the time.” Read the rest of this entry »
October 30th, 2014 · Leave a Comment
You never know how an experience – even a negative experience – can shape the rest of your life. Decades ago, when Jane Applen-Anderson came to Mayo Clinic Hospital, Methodist Campus, in Rochester with her leg swollen to three times its usual size, she wasn’t thinking about what good could come out of it.
She would come to learn she’d been bitten by a poisonous brown recluse spider. Mayo Clinic doctors treated her infection, removed the dead tissue, and worked to repair the damage done. They saved her leg, and they saved her life. That was just the first time.
While in the hospital, Jane was informed that tests showed her type 1 diabetes needed to be regulated more closely. Otherwise, she could lose her kidney function and her vision within the next year. Refusing to let the condition bring her down, Jane carefully followed her diabetes self-care plan. “You have to be a responsible patient, and do your part to follow your care plan,” she says. Read the rest of this entry »
August 25th, 2014 · Leave a Comment
By Paul Scotti
When a doctor suddenly becomes the patient with a life-threatening illness, Mayo Clinic’s commitment to high-quality medical care that puts the needs of the patient first takes on fresh perspective, especially as it relates to the principle of compassionate care, which is a hallmark of Mayo Clinic.
Such was the case when Joseph J. Tepas III, M.D., a 68-year-old pediatric surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida, learned that the wheezing and shortness of breath he was experiencing turned out to be idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a potentially life-threatening disease that occurs from unexplained scarring of the lung tissue.
In addition to doing pediatric surgery, Dr. Tepas is a practicing trauma surgeon and surgical intensivist. He is the medical director of the region’s only pediatric trauma unit, and, as a retired captain in the Navy Reserve, appreciates the critical importance of maintaining a personal commitment to health and fitness. Dr. Tepas had always lived a healthy lifestyle and, other than some occasional allergy symptoms, never had any significant health issues. But lying dormant in his otherwise healthy body was a disease that was quietly scarring and shutting his lungs down.
August 14th, 2014 · Leave a Comment
Todd Goldrick was living the dream. Good job. Loving wife. Two young, healthy kids. Weekends spent playing golf, softball, kayaking, hiking, running or just hanging around home with the family. But that changed suddenly in 2010, when he and his wife simply tried to buy some life insurance. He was just 28.
"Mine came back straight out denied," Todd says. "They told me the reasons. There was a whole long list -- high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a few other things that I don't remember exactly."
Before that day, Todd says he'd been to see his doctor in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area "maybe every two years," so the policy denial came of left field. In fact, he says it scared him into doing nothing about it, at least initially. "I was kind of naïve and a little scared to go back to the doctor," he says. "So I didn't do anything."
Six months later, he got a sinus infection that wouldn't go away, and eventually he went to urgent care, where some flags were raised unrelated to his sinuses. "They took my blood pressure, and it was 200 over 120," he says. "At that point, they told me I needed to go to the ER." Read the rest of this entry »
August 13th, 2014 · Leave a Comment
By Paul Scotti
Some people who overcome a life-threatening illness feel motivated to give something back to those who helped make their recovery possible. Charlie Willwerth, a 61-year-old leukemia survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient from St. Augustine, Florida, is taking steps to help bring life-saving stems cells to others in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Two years out from his bone marrow transplant, and with his leukemia in remission, Charlie recently completed courier training with Be The Match, the world’s largest bone marrow registry, to become a volunteer stem cell courier. His new “job” -- transporting life-saving stem cells from a donor’s location to a matching recipient -- can take him anywhere in the world.
“This is the most direct way I can help others who have helped me get a second chance at life,” says Charlie. “If it wasn’t for my donor, I might not be here today to have the opportunity to help others with needs similar to mine.” Read the rest of this entry »