Margaret Shepard (@margieshepard)
Activity by Margaret Shepard
"I immediately called the doctor, fearing I had had a stroke," says Van Gorp.
A visit with her doctor ruled out a stroke. Several appointments with specialists and numerous tests followed, but didn't bring her any closer to a diagnosis.
As the weeks passed, Van Gorp's right hand would sometimes clench up, then eventually release. The muscles in her arm were beginning to atrophy, and she was losing strength in other limbs as well.
Finally, a specialist suggested that Van Gorp might have ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. He offered to refer her to an ALS specialist at Mayo Clinic or another medical facility. She chose Mayo.
Respiratory health is important to John Saviano, a man who has led a healthy life, who doesn't smoke, and who drinks only moderately. For years, he routinely made annual visits to two physicians. He saw his regular physician for basic check-ups. Because scuba diving is one of the Miami Beach man's hobbies, he also saw an ear, nose, and throat specialist to determine that his nasal and ear passages were open to ensure safe diving and snorkeling. In 2003, however, a persistent sore throat sent him for an extra visit with his regular ENT physician.
The diagnosis was adult tonsillitis, and the initial treatment was antibiotics. When that treatment brought no improvement, his physician performed a tonsillectomy. John found recovery from that surgery painful and slow. After several weeks of pain, and further visits to the ENT surgeon, it was apparent that something was still wrong. As John put it, "My tonsil grew back." Something was in his throat and could easily be felt.
Lori Blommers used to cry at dance recitals. She knew that her youngest daughter, Harper, would never join the girls on stage because of injuries suffered at birth. Today, Harper is happily dancing away, thanks to an unusual surgery at Mayo Clinic that allowed her arm to move more freely.
When Harper was born on Aug. 26, 2004, she became stuck in the birth canal with only her head delivered. The pulling and the pushing after 27 hours of labor damaged Harper's collarbone and severed the brachial plexus nerves from her left arm.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves extending from the spinal cord that controls muscle movement and sensation in the shoulders, arms and hands. About 1 in 2,000 babies born in the United States suffer brachial plexus injuries at birth. "It's primarily a problem of big babies trying to get out of small moms,"says Mayo Clinic pediatric orthopedic surgeon William Shaughnessy, M.D.
The pain was unbearable, and the questions even worse.
Every month of 2005, Detective Jeffery Hughes of the Madison, WI, Police Department experienced 55 to 60 headaches, each lasting several hours. The headaches brought him to his knees in pain, but it was the recurring question from his daughter that hurt even more: "Mommy, why is Daddy crying on the bathroom floor again?"
The answer: cluster headache, a rare condition considered to be the most intensely painful primary headache syndrome. It sometimes occurs in more than one family member. So when Hughes, now 38, began developing episodic cluster headaches in 1992, he recognized them as the same ailment his grandfather had. For 13 years, Hughes suffered 5 to 7 debilitating headaches a month, an unpleasant pattern but one he learned to tolerate.
In 2005, no one knows why, his headaches suddenly mushroomed to 55 to 60 a month. With two headaches a day lasting for 6 to 7 hours, it didn't leave much time for anything else in his life. His primary care physician tried maximum doses of every medication and therapy--with no lasting results.
Wendy Cook was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis as a child, which has caused many small tumors to grow on various nerves throughout her life. Only one required surgery and none caused her significant pain.
But that changed when she began experiencing pain in her right buttock. Eventually, the pain became so intense that she scheduled an appointment with her hometown doctor.
When her doctor showed Cook, a nurse, her MRI results, she broke down in tears. What she had assumed was a small tumor was massive, located along her sciatic nerve and extending into her pelvis and rectum. Given the extent of the tumor, Cook's doctor recommended she seek treatment at a larger medical facility. She chose Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Carter Schlink has a twin sister, Breah. As babies, they were alike in many ways — both incredibly cute, similar button noses and fair complexion. When the twins were 2 months old, Carter's dad, Kyle, noticed something about his son that was different — his head shape.
It was flatter on the back and a little bit uneven.
Kyle mentioned his observation to the babies' doctor, who recommended the Schlinks try to keep Carter off of the back of his head for a few months to see if it would improve his head shape. During the day, Kyle and his wife, Holly, tried carrying Carter or toting him in a baby sling. During the night and naptime, they used a sleep positioner to ensure he slept on his side. These measures had no noticeable effect on Carter's head shape, so the couple consulted a specialist at Mayo Clinic.
Heidi had been thinking about cosmetic surgery for years. She decided to do it after her father was killed. "It was hard on me, and my family, and I wanted to reward myself for getting through it. I wanted to do something for myself." says Heidi.
Her reward was a septorhinoplasty (surgery to remove obstructions and improve the appearance of the nose), a chin implant and breast enlargement.
The 27-year-old had considered having plastic surgery on her nose for years. "I broke my nose as a child and I was always self-conscious about it," Heidi says. In addition to affecting the appearance of her nose, the injury narrowed her nasal passage on one side. Even after sinus surgery the problem continued to worsen. She wanted to breathe easier again and look better, too.
The first went to his wife, Jane, who has remained by his side, as John says, "in sickness and in health." The second medal went to his son, Brian, who donated a kidney to his father. And, in a surprising finish, the third gold medal went to his transplant team at Mayo Clinic.
"I thank God every day that I came to Mayo," says John.
Melissa Bruesehoff is a wife, mother, teacher and church council member — titles that for many years she couldn't imagine claiming. Bruesehoff was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 4 years old, and complications from the condition prevented her from experiencing many things that most people take for granted.
"During my school and college years, extracurricular activities weren't an option," says Bruesehoff. "I struggled with learning, and at times I worked with a tutor. I spent many more hours doing homework than a usual student."
Sam and Laura Kirstein first met in college where they both were runners on the school's athletic teams. They had one other thing in common: both had been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Sam had ulcerative colitis; Laura had Crohn's disease. And for both, IBD soon halted their active lifestyles.
As their symptoms worsened, Sam and Laura feared that their athletic careers were over. "There were a number of years where I really didn't do anything," says Laura. "It's difficult enough to manage a regular life with IBD, let alone trying to throw in athletics." Laura eventually found the right mix of medications to keep her symptoms in check. Medications didn't work for Sam, and after running out of options, he was referred to Mayo Clinic.