When Derin and Sandra Gebhardt got married in 2016, they were eager to start a family. That dream wasn't easy to achieve, however. When they had difficulty getting pregnant, the couple searched for answers. Sandra wondered if the problem could be rooted in hormones. That insight led not only to a solution for their infertility, but also to renewed health for Derin, who had been battling a host of puzzling medical problems.
In his 30s when the couple wed, Derin's health had become a growing concern. "I was not sleeping well," he says. "I had terribly high blood pressure. I was 465 pounds." Although he was eating healthy and exercising, Derin couldn't lose weight.
"I just was scared to death that he was going to die."Sandra Gebhardt
"I remember talking to my mom, and I was like, 'There's something wrong, but we can't find it,'" Sandra says. "I just was scared to death that he was going to die."
It was when Derin and Sandra tried, to not avail, to have a baby, that Sandra began suspecting that a hormone problem could be at work. She was right. A local doctor confirmed Derin had low testosterone. But there was more. The cause of the hormone imbalance was a benign tumor on Derin's pituitary gland near his brain.
"I kind of had a sense of opening a new door and not knowing where that's going to lead," Derin says. "But also a little bit of relief to say, 'OK, it's not my fault.'"
Treatment began with medication to reduce the size of the tumor. Then Derin traveled to Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where he would undergo surgery to remove the tumor. His Mayo care team confirmed the nature of the tumor and the effect it was having on Derin.
"His hormones were out of whack because of this tumor pushing on the pituitary gland," says Bernard Bendok, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon.
"When Sandra told me she was pregnant, it was an answered prayer. It was wonderful when (Gage) was born, and he was healthy."Derin Gebhardt
To take out the tumor, a team of Mayo experts from Neurosurgery and Otorhinolaryngology used a minimally invasive procedure that involved two surgeons. Using small instruments inserted through the nostrils, the surgeons successfully removed the entire mass.
After the surgery, Derin's testosterone and prolactin levels went back to normal. Less than nine months later, little Gage Gebhardt arrived six weeks early. "When Sandra told me she was pregnant, it was an answered prayer," Derin says. "It was wonderful when he was born, and he was healthy.
That's the kind of heartwarming news Dr. Bendok is happy to hear. "We often think of endpoints in terms of just the patient's health," she says. "But when you also allow a family to create life together, that is a very meaningful thing."
Watch this video for more about Derin's story: