Lynn Closway @lynn closway
Activity by Lynn Closway @lynn closway
‘His and Her’ Weight Loss Surgeries Spawn Healthy Lifestyle Changes -Arizona couple loses pounds, inches, old habits after Mayo Clinic surgeries
Not many people who struggle with weight issues are proud to show off their “before” photos – especially when the “before” clearly communicated a need for change. A major life change.
But change, fueled by a healthy dose of motivation, is just what the doctor ordered for a Safford, Ariz., couple whose world, professionally and privately, revolves around food. Now their collective passion for the cuisine that once ruled their lives, resulting in weight gain, exhaustion and depression, has taken a significant healthy twist. Now, no matter how many homemade pies are calling their names from the counters in their own restaurants, they have mastered the art – of moderation.
On the Treadmill of Stress and Unhealthy Eating
It was the summer of 2008, and Nichole Rushton was primed and ready to run 26.2 miles – a marathon – something she had accomplished with relative ease twice before. At age 28, she well could have invented the concept of “multitasking,” keeping physically active, raising two kids and being a devoted wife to her husband, Isaac.
But, felled by an uncharacteristic sore throat, she had to sit out the marathon. Strep throat was the initial diagnosis, and then “mono” – until she deteriorated to the point where her kidneys went into stress mode. Diagnosis: Acute kidney failure. Further tests revealed vasculitis, an inflammation of the red blood cells. Then Nichole experienced a severe life-altering seizure, witnessed by a frightened, yet composed Isaac, which landed Nichole at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Arizona.
“I went from the treadmill to a hospital bed,” Nichole laments.
It was at Mayo Clinic that she heard words that rocked her world. Nichole would have to be on kidney dialysis for the rest of her life – unless she qualified to have a kidney transplant.
'Date Night' Takes on New Meaning for Heart Patient at Mayo Clinic in Arizona
It would be hard to ignore the elephant in the room.
This "elephant" happens to be the 400-pound artificial heart machine that is keeping alive a very special patient at Mayo Clinic in Arizona -- a 41-year-old husband and father of three whose heart was so damaged it had to be totally removed. The heart machine, called the Total Artificial Heart, then took over. It replaces the human heart and pumps up to 9.5 liters of blood per minute to save the lives of patients experiencing end-stage heart failure.
The human heart may have been replaced, but not the human spirit.
Mayo patient Charles Okeke is setting records. He has been on the Total Artificial Heart for nearly 250 days and courageously goes about life as best he can while being an inpatient at Mayo Clinic Hospital all that time. His is a complex case in that his body produces antibodies that make it challenging to be a good match for a donor heart. Still, he works out at physical therapy, using the treadmill, stationary bike and lifting weights. He is in remarkably good shape. He is as mobile as he can be, tethered to the machine and often can be seen having lunch or dinner in the hospital cafeteria, with staff at his side.
It is no small task to move the machine from point A to point B.
The "room" this time was the back cafeteria at the hospital, a place that on a recent Saturday evening was transformed into a serene respite from the 24-hour daily reality faced by Charles, who relies on the machine to function and to keep in close touch with his wife of 11 years, Natalie, and their three children, Cecilia, 8; Jacqueline, 5 and Dominick, 3.
Natalie and Charles dressed for the special occasion; Natalie in a lovely white sun dress and Charles in a blue and white tropical shirt.
That night was set aside to be a "dinner and a movie" date night for Charles and Natalie, the brainchild of Francisco Arabia, M.D., Mayo’s Chair, Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. Many others were delighted to participate in making the night a special one for the couple, from the hors d'oeuvres served on the cafeteria patio to the flowers on the beautifully set table, to "candles," to, yes, even a beverage of their choice. The Food and Nutrition Services staff went all out and their pride was obvious as they prepared and served the elegant meal for the couple.
The special menu? Lobster quesadillas with cilantro cream and a side of tropical fruit avocado salsa. Sonoma coast salad with pears, walnuts, cranberries and gorgonzola cheese, topped with champagne vinaigrette. Pork tenderloin medallions with wild mushroom sauce. Three-cheese potato gratin and a side of roasted baby carrots and asparagus. And, specially requested by Charles,
7-up pound cake for dessert, festooned with mixed berries.
Not exactly your standard-issue cafeteria food.
At last, Charles and Natalie had some welcomed privacy. They laughed, talked and shared stories. After dinner, they took their place on a comfortable leather sofa in the same room to watch the movie. They chose "Yes Man," starring Jim Carrey. In front of them was a bowl of popcorn and all the requisite movie theater treats -- boxes of Dots, Junior Mints and the like.
Charles was asked, point-blank, what it was like to be a patient for that many days at Mayo Clinic Hospital -- was it like a prison sentence? His response was candid. He described it as "like being in prison, but with very nice guards."
Charles remains introspective about his challenges, noting he takes his situation day by day, "just enjoying the people around me -- just enjoying the ride." Should that day come in the near future when a portable version of the Total Artificial Heart becomes available, it may well be possible for him to go home, something Natalie looks forward to. "I want my husband to be around my kids, raising them. We want some laughing moments," she says.
Lynn Closway is a communications consultant in Public Affairs, Mayo Clinic Arizona
Lynn Closway works in Mayo Clinic's Department of Public Affairs, and wrote this post as a spectator. For an account from one of Synchronicity's rowers, see Yvette Martin's related post below.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
If you happen to be one of the 76 teams that DIDN'T score the coveted first place in three of the top categories at the 6th Arizona Annual Dragon Boat Festival March 28 and 29, that is.
Be afraid for what next year may hold!
Team Mayo Clinic in Arizona easily reclaimed the corporate championship by placing number one (gold) in the 500-meter race and was the hands-down first-place winner in both the "Cheer" and "Team Spirit" categories. Mayo also took a third-place (bronze) win in the "Mixed Team - Division C" category, comprising both men and women paddlers.
Generally when the heart of Adrian Fernandez is beating at a frenetic pace, he’s behind the wheel of a race car, and a highly trained and loyal pit crew is waiting around the next turn of the track to spring into action.
Not so much when Adrian was on the treadmill at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, submitting to a rigorous workout of a totally different kind. His “pit crew” came in the form of skilled, compassionate cardiac professionals. And this time, Adrian was on his own to prove his performance – cardiac performance, as opposed to driving proficiency.
Sonographer Nan Pearson was among those who helped guide Adrian through Mayo Clinic’s new Heart Health and Performance Program, including his stress echo test, a diagnostic tool generally not used unless previous cardiac symptoms had been detected. A cardiac sonographer is able to view images of the heart and blood vessels to detect subtle differences between normal and potentially diseased areas and present the data for interpretation.
But Adrian was motivated to participate in comprehensive screening to determine his heart health. Not only does he need to maintain fitness for his racing profession, he has a wife and two young children to think about. And, he admits, “I have a cholesterol issue.”
He made it! Scott MacIntyre, singer/songwriter/pianist from Scottsdale, Ariz., that is. Scott, 23, a contestant on the current season of American Idol, made the list of the 10 finalists on last night's program (Wednesday, March 18) when “America” voted him in.
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest delivered the good news to a jubilant Scott by telling him he would be on the nationwide tour after the season’s end – news enthusiastically received by Scott and his family.
Pearls top the list as the suggested 30th wedding anniversary gift.
Still, some devoted husbands may opt to purchase their bride of three decades a special spa day – or an exotic trip to sip a cool drink by an ocean.
In the case of George and Anna Riley, Bloomfield, N.M., their beverage of choice on the eve of their 30th wedding anniversary was strictly cut off at midnight. That was the “stop all food and beverage” deadline before they were both readied for major transplant surgery at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
George’s gift to Anna trumped all material things. George, on their 30th wedding anniversary, instead donated one of his kidneys to Anna, 49, who suffers from a genetic disorder that has affected other family members. It became clear early on that Anna would require a kidney from a non-blood relative, so as to not compromise the health of any remaining relatives.
A number of their friends, many from their church, didn’t hesitate to step forward to offer to be tested to ultimately donate the gift of life to Anna. They were prepared in particular for one young church friend to be “the” donor. So it surprised them both when George qualified to be his wife’s donor, and Anna was touched that her husband of all those years would make such a generous and sincere offer.
Fast-forward to surgery day, Oct. 21, 2008, the exact day of their 30th anniversary. In pre-op, the couple’s beds were wheeled together, where they held hands and blew each other kisses. Their three children (Alicia, Amy and GW), son-in-law (Derrick) and George’s mom and stepdad were allowed to come into the area to pray with them. George, 50, “usually the strong one,” according to Anna, succumbed to emotion. “I then switched our roles a bit,” admits Anna. “I had to be strong for him.”
The night before surgery, family members had thrown an anniversary party for Anna and George, even if the food had to be curtailed at midnight. The prospect of Anna having a second chance at a healthy life was all they cared about. Her condition, medullary cystic kidney disease, often leads to end stage renal disease. Anna’s father, after undergoing three kidney transplants, died from the disease in 1991. But it gave Anna hope when she witnessed her younger sister, who has the same disease, go through a successful kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic.
The couple’s faith and church ties are strong, and through friends there, they were able to connect with a family close to Mayo Clinic Hospital that was willing to let them use their home during their recovery.
Along with their strong faith, Anna and George credit Drs. Marek Mazur, Adyr Moss and Ray Heilman at Mayo for their combined successes in their evaluation and surgery. “They were amazing,” Anna notes. George was able to leave the hospital the day after surgery, and Anna, although admitting to soreness, said she felt better immediately when she awoke from the surgery.
And now, a number of months later, “We are both back at work and feel great,” confirms Anna.
Lynn Closway is a Public Affairs Representative at Mayo Clinic.
Obesity. (Got your attention?)
It's the topic of a collaborative research study involving Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute and the University of Arizona. The study suggests that the composition of microbes within the human gut may hold a key to at least part of the cause of obesity -- and the prospect for future treatment.
The upshot? After studying the gut microbial composition of patients of normal weight, those who were morbidly obese and those who underwent gastric bypass surgery, it appeared that the microbes in the gut of those who were obese had some dramatic differences, compared with the normal weight individuals, while the composition following gastric bypass surgery looked similar to that of the normal weight individuals. More studies are needed, but Dr. John DiBaise, Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, says that down the road, information on an individual's gut microbial composition may make it possible to predict a person's susceptibility to obesity and lead to new treatments to favorably modify the gut microbial composition.
For more information, you can read the entire press release here.
Dr. DiBaise was quoted liberally in Time.com on this topic.
Lynn Closway is a Public Affairs Representative at Mayo Clinic.
She's a genius when commanding the grand piano, but 88-year-old Mayo Clinic volunteer, Anne Monte, of Scottsdale, Ariz., confesses her nagging fear: "People think it's a player piano. I'm so short, they can't see me back there!"
Her fears are unfounded --if you ask any of the Mayo patients and visitors who stop in their tracks to inhale the sight of the petite, white-haired lady seated at the piano bench who shocks them with her vitality and vigorous pounding of the keys. On Mondays, Anne's turn at the piano at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, she is surrounded by "groupies" -- smiling patient and visitor fans who express disbelief when they learn of her age and spot her wheel chair nearby.
Because polio rendered her almost immobile at age 13 and continues to sap her mobility, Anne arrives at the Mayo piano in a wheel chair, escorted by her husband and best friend of 62 years, Michael. Never dreaming she'd escape from the confinement of her iron lung at a New York hospital where she grew up, she still willed herself to survive. She was dubbed the "miracle child" by her beloved father who, as a guitarist, played with Irving Berlin during World War I. Convinced that Anne had talent, he propped her up at the piano at a young age.
"My dad believed in me so much. He would sit with me and rub my stiff fingers, helping strengthen them to play the piano," recalls Anne. "He was my whole world. He's in heaven now, teaching music."
Anne honed her artistic talent on her father's Steinway piano, now 108 years old, which she inherited. Her formal training took place at Julliard in New York City. The most important advice she gleaned from her favorite teacher and mentor was to hit the keys with her finger tips. "That's where you get music," he counseled her. She heeds that advice to this day.
After graduating in 1945 with a master's degree in concert piano, she suffered a blow. Unbeknownst to her, both her Julliard teacher and her father had conspired to withhold the fact that she would never be invited to play in the concert world -- her dream. Anne simply didn't have enough strength in her left hand to be accepted. "They didn't tell me while I was in school," says Anne. "They didn't want to crush my spirit."
With her characteristic optimism, Anne got over it and embraced the prospect of teaching piano to children, a decision she never regrets. Along the way, she met Michael Monte at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, who was a bass opera singer and performed in comedy and variety shows.
Her brother, Bill Ristuccia, also a gifted piano player who chose jazz as his passion, admits to picking up his foundation in classical music from Anne. Bill went on to establish the volunteer program that features pianists at Mayo in Arizona.
Although unable to live out her dream of becoming a concert pianist, Anne now is totally comfortable with her decision to teach kids. "Once I started with the kids, I loved it," she says. “Every student of mine is teaching music somewhere today."
Despite being sidelined by three operations as the result of the polio and osteoporosis (Anne laments that she was once 5 feet, 3 inches tall and now must admit to stretching to make 5 feet), she's never down for long. "I don't have time for arthritis!" she confirms. She strives to never miss her Monday morning gig at the piano at Mayo.
So does keeping her eye and mind on the skill of piano playing keep her mind sharp, like the doctors recommend? "Oh, absolutely," says Anne, a response echoed by her husband and everyone who knows her. "And the good thing is, you never have to retire when you have the 88 keys."
Anne winks and announces, "I have been playing here at Mayo for 12 years. And I hope to be here until God takes me."
Lynn Closway is a Public Affairs Representative at Mayo Clinic.