Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

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Feb 8, 2016 · Dialysis Patient Stays Active, Sets New Life Goals While Awaiting a Kidney Transplant

The first step in this process would be to have your mother evaluated for a kidney transplant. If she is determined to be a good candidate for the surgery, you could then be evaluated to determine if you are a candidate to be a living donor.

You can request an appointment at one of Mayo Clinic’s three transplant centers online at

Mayo Clinic in Arizona, 800-446-2279 (toll-free)
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday

Mayo Clinic in Florida, 904-953-0853
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday

Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, 507-538-3270
7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday

You can learn more about kidney transplants at
http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/kidney-transplant/basics/definition/prc-20014007

Paul Scotti, APR
Division of Public Affairs
Phone: (904) 953-0199
Fax: (904) 953-2487
scotti.paul@mayo.edu

Dec 16, 2015 · Wife Gives Husband the Gift of Life with Living Donor Kidney

Cameron Mullis received a living donor kidney transplant from his wife, Savannah. When 29-year-old Cameron Mullis of Jacksonville, Florida, was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy and told he’d need a kidney transplant, he was facing the likelihood of kidney dialysis and several years of waiting for a suitable donor. Little did he realize, his potential donor was living under the same roof as him.

IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA, lodges in your kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, may hamper your kidneys’ ability to filter waste, excess water and electrolytes from your blood. Kidney damage may be indicated by blood and protein in the urine, high blood pressure and swollen feet. There currently is no cure for this disease outside of a kidney transplant. 

After his initial diagnosis in September 2014, Cameron came to Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus for an evaluation for a kidney transplant. He was listed for a kidney in May 2015. The median wait time is 3.6 years for a donor kidney, given the national demand for donated organs, especially kidneys. Currently, more than 101,000 patients are listed nationally for a donor kidney, while last year, only about 17,000 kidney transplants were done in the U.S.

Cameron and his fiancée, Savannah, were planning to be married on June 12, 2015, and the couple wondered whether their plans would be thwarted due to the uncertainty of Cameron’s health. Savannah works at Mayo Clinic and was a scheduler for the Transplant Department for three years, so she was very familiar with the transplant evaluation and listing process.

“After a few weeks of learning Cameron’s diagnosis, I just realized I needed to be strong for him and try to do everything I could to live a normal life without making every day solely about his condition,” Savannah says. “I knew it could be a long wait for him, so we tried to make the best of the situation in the meantime.”

“My transplant experience has exceeded my expectations, and I feel amazing. I am ready to be productive and live a normal active life again.” – Cameron Mullis

A registered organ donor since age 16, Savannah had her blood tested to see if by some chance she would be a potential match. When Savannah was contacted by his transplant coordinator and told she was, in fact, a potential match for her husband, she says the weight of the world lifted from her shoulders.

“Prior to that call, I felt like I was going to have to put our dreams of a big family, travel and a normal life on hold to take care of my husband,“ Savannah says. “But when I got the call that I was a match, I knew everything would be OK.”

MullisWedding600The living donor transplant between husband and wife occurred at Mayo Clinic on Sept. 8, 2015. The recovery process wasn’t easy at first, but today, both Savannah and Cameron are doing well just months after their surgeries and have resumed their lives as normally as possible.

“My transplant experience has exceeded my expectations, and I feel amazing,” says Cameron. “I am ready to be productive and live a normal active life again.”

Thanks to living organ donation and the gift from his wife, who was extremely fortunate to be a suitable match, Cameron’s wait for a kidney was only four months when it could have been several years. As a result, he was able to avoid going on dialysis altogether.

“With 3,000 new patients per month listed nationally awaiting a new kidney, there are never enough deceased donor organs available to meet the demand,” says Martin Mai, M.D., a transplant nephrologist at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. “Living organ donation helps fill that gap in available kidneys, and each living donor makes a huge impact in the quality and longevity of life for the recipient.”

For Cameron and Savannah Mullis, there is no doubt they are strongly supportive of everyone registering to become an organ donor.

“I can say firsthand that it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Savannah says.


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Oct 26, 2015 · Clinical Trial Testing Virus Therapy Gives New Hope to Melanoma Patient

FrankMosely805A diagnosis of stage IV melanoma can be a frightening prospect, with surgery and chemotherapy often an integral part of the treatment regimen. But Frank Moseley, a Jacksonville, Florida, native with an advanced melanoma diagnosis, was eager to do whatever it takes, even going beyond the norm, to give him the best chance of recovery.

So when Frank agreed to become the first participant in a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus and be injected with a form of the herpes virus to treat his melanoma, it was no surprise that he was confident it would work. 

Frank had retired after a 41-year career at Publix and was a busy grandparent – with 10 grandkids – when his wife first noticed a suspicious mole on his back in 2011. He had the mole checked by his dermatologist, and a biopsy confirmed melanoma, which led to him undergo surgery a week later.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of Frank’s experience with melanoma. In February 2012, he felt a swollen lymph node in his neck, and his dermatologist sent him to Mayo Clinic for further testing and diagnosis. At Mayo, Frank learned that his melanoma had spread to his lungs and liver, that further surgery would not be useful, and that chemotherapy was the standard treatment at this point.

After being referred to Richard Joseph, M.D., a Mayo Clinic oncologist and melanoma specialist, Frank was told he’d be a good candidate for a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of the oncolytic herpes virus in treating metastatic melanoma.

“Dr. Joseph told me he was involved in a clinical trial testing virus therapy and thought I’d be a great candidate for it, since my tumors were small. So I said why not,” says Frank. “I had no hesitation at all to test this new virus therapy as a treatment option for my melanoma.”

The idea behind the phase II trial is that the virus will attack the melanoma cancer cells, which in turn would wake up the body’s own immune system as well, according to Dr. Joseph. “It has shown some success so far in reducing tumor size, so I offered it to Frank as another treatment option besides the standard chemotherapy regimen,” he says. “He agreed to become the first person here at Mayo Clinic in Florida to participate in the study.”

Frank’s first injection occurred on April 2, 2015. The treatment regimen included injections into the tumor site over a 12-week period. The results from Frank’s initial MRI scan after 12 weeks of treatment showed no change. Another 12-week round of treatments was ordered, and his second MRI scan suggested that the growth of his tumors had slowed down, and his condition had stabilized.

“We are taking small steps and continuing Frank’s virus therapy treatment with the hope that his tumors will eventually start to shrink,” says Dr. Joseph. “I’m optimistic that the addition of this therapy to his treatment regimen can be helpful in managing his disease.”

What does Frank think about his participation in the trial so far?

“Participating in the trial not only is enhancing my treatment, but has opened the doors for other melanoma patients to participate in this wonderful opportunity,” says Frank. “Mayo Clinic is an awesome place, and I’m lucky to be a part of some of the latest cancer research and treatments available.”


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Aug 12, 2015 · Cystic Fibrosis Patient Says Double Lung Transplant Transformed His Life

Jon Jantomaso stays active with his family after his lung transplant.

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. 

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system, and affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices. These secreted fluids are normally thin and slippery, but patients with cystic fibrosis have a defective gene that causes the secretions to become thick and sticky. Instead of acting as a lubricant, the secretions plug up tubes, ducts and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.

Jon tried to compensate for his chronic illness, which left him tired and weak due to greatly reduced lung function, by being as physically active as possible throughout his life. He was hospitalized multiple times due to infections, which he was prone to because of his condition. Things took a turn for the worse in his early 30s, when he had to have the upper portion of his right lung removed after experiencing recurring infections. The first discussions about possibly needing a lung transplant occurred at that time, but it wouldn’t be until almost 10 years later that his disease had progressed to the point where a double lung transplant was necessary to prolong his life.

“The last five years since my transplant have been the best years of my life. I’ve had great lung function and more energy than I’ve ever had before.” – Jon Jantomaso

As Jon’s disease continued to progress, he had to be hospitalized and treated with antibiotics and receive continuous oxygen on several occasions. He was evaluated for a possible lung transplant by medical centers in Tampa, Florida, and North Carolina, but was deemed a high-risk candidate due to a related heart issue, and he was denied placement on the transplant list. He eventually came to Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, where he was evaluated and listed for transplant in December 2009.

Jon finally received his double lung transplant on April 10, 2010, and was release from the hospital just 17 days later.

“The last five years since my transplant have been the best years of my life,” Jon says. “I’ve had great lung function and more energy than I’ve ever had before. In addition to playing tennis, basketball, swimming and water skiing, I’m training for my first half-marathon and maybe even an Ironman competition.”

Jon, who is the father of three adopted children ranging in age from 8 to 11, credits his donor and his doctors at Mayo Clinic for enabling him to become an active father for his children. Before his transplant, he couldn’t really hold his children or do any strenuous activities with them, but things have changed since his transplant.

“I’m very grateful to the people who took care of me at Mayo Clinic, and even more thankful to my donor who gave me a second chance at living as normal a life as possible,” he says. “I was recently able to meet my donor family and told them how much I truly appreciated the gift their loved one gave to me.”

Jon has some advice for others who suffer from cystic fibrosis and are considering being listed for a lung transplant. “Try not to be entirely focused on your disease on a daily basis. Go on and live your life as best as you can in the meantime,” he says. “And when your lung transplant finally becomes available, embrace the opportunity … it will forever change your life for the better.”


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Apr 21, 2015 · Living Kidney Donations Save Two Lives in the Same Family Years Apart

TammyStelly805Receiving 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. 

Tammy’s kidney problems began at age 9, when she was diagnosed with acute kidney failure her doctors believed resulted from a staph infection. As she grew older, her problem worsened, and she was eventually diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a scarring disease of the kidney. Over time, her conditioned worsened to the point that about two years ago, she needed to go on dialysis three times a week. Tammy also started the process for being listed for a transplant but was told it could take up to five years to receive a donor organ.

“It was a very stressful time knowing that I was sick and likely would have a pretty long wait for a donor kidney,” says Tammy. “I experienced the full range of emotions and decided I needed to take some action on my own. I created a Facebook page to try and proactively find my own living donor but didn’t have any luck.”

That’s when her brother-in-law, Stephen Lowe, stepped up and offered one of his kidneys if he was found to be a good match.  A six-month testing and evaluation process followed. In November 2014, he learned he was a compatible match. Tammy’s transplant took place on Feb. 10, 2015, at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. Both Tammy and her brother-in-law have been doing well since the surgery.

“I’m feeling good, and my quality of life has significantly improved over what it was pre-transplant,” Tammy says. “The gift Stephen gave me was one of the greatest blessings you can give someone. I will be eternally grateful to him.”

Tammy has resumed some of her favorite activities, which include gardening and woodworking. She also loves to travel and plans to do so again now that she’s free from regular dialysis treatments. And going back to work or school may also be part of her future plans once she’s fully recovered. Her brother-in-law is back to work and resuming his normal life.

“While I initially came to Mayo Clinic for treatment because of its convenience to my home in the Jacksonville area, that truly became a secondary reason once I experienced the wonderful care I received here from everyone involved in my case,” she says. “I want to thank my doctors and the entire Mayo transplant team for helping me get through this process so that I can resume my life as normally as possible.”


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Apr 1, 2015 · Dialysis Patient Stays Active, Sets New Life Goals While Awaiting a Kidney Transplant

Mayo Clinic patient, 57 year-old Jim McGarry of Fruit Cove, Florida, a diagnosis of End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) that has required him to go on dialysis three days a week while he awaits a donor kidney hasn’t gotten him down.

Mayo Clinic patient Jim McGarry says 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 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.”

Jim’s primary care physician at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, Floyd Willis, M.D., kept a close eye on his diabetes over the years and noticed in 2012 that his glomerular filtration rate levels, a measure of kidney function, were dropping. He was referred to Peter Fitzpatrick, M.D. a Mayo Clinic nephrologist, who diagnosed Jim’s renal disease and told him he’d eventually need a kidney transplant. Jim held off going on dialysis until April 2014 and now comes to Mayo Clinic’s dialysis center for treatment three times a week for four-hour visits.

“Yes, it’s sometimes inconvenient being on dialysis treatments, and it certainly makes out-of-town travel a bit more difficult, but my mindset is that I’m lucky to have dialysis as an option for buying me the time I need to await a donor kidney, which could take several years to find,” says Jim. “I’ve adjusted my life so that it’s now just a routine part of my weekly schedule of activities.”

A former director of field sales for an automotive software company, Jim was forced to give up his job and go on disability because of his illness. But that doesn’t mean he’s sitting around waiting for his life to change … he’s doing something about it and has set new life goals to pursue.

Jim now has the free time to pursue his master’s degree, something he never had time to do during his busy career. He’s also started a Facebook page called “Looking for a Life Saver” to actively seek a potential living donor who would be a match for him. Jim also is serving as a mentor to other patients with end-stage renal disease who are still in the pre-dialysis stage to let them know the options they have and what it’s like to be on dialysis. In addition, he is leading a petition drive to enact legislation that would help increase the insurance coverage for anti-rejection medicine that all transplant patients must be on for the remainder of their lives. And, as an active participant in the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Walk, he’s hoping to raise $15,000 this year through donations by his sponsors, which is double what he raised in 2014.

“I feel very fortunate compared to some other folks I’ve met in my situation and want to do what I can to help give back to honor all the wonderful people who have supported me,” Jim says. “I owe a lot to my many Mayo caregivers, especially my doctors, who have expertly guided me through this sometimes scary and life-changing process.”

What advice does Jim give to others facing dialysis and an eventual transplant?

“First, I’d say make sure you are very comfortable with your dialysis center and your nephrology team since you will be spending a lot of time with them in planning and implementing your care,” he says. “Second, you should re-evaluate your goals at this point in your life. You may have to reset some of those goals based on your current situation, but that’s OK. You want to make sure your life still has purpose, and you are doing things that are fulfilling and helping you stay positive. Most importantly, focus on staying healthy, which is really what matters most.”


Share Your Mayo Story. Are you interested in sharing your Mayo Clinic experience with others? If so, we’d love to hear from you. You can use this Web form to share your story yourself, or email us, and we’ll help you share your story.


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Feb 20, 2015 · World Record Skydiver Credits 'Sam' for the Ability to Live Life at 100 mph

Kim Dobson, 63, of Oveido, Florida, skydiving.

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.

Kim Dobson, 63, of Oveido, Florida, scuba diving“I’ve always lived a very active lifestyle and wasn’t about to let this setback in my health stop me from living my life to the fullest,” Kim says. “I’ve always kind of lived life at 100 mph and wasn’t going to do anything different.”

But in 2007, shortly after completing a world-record jump in California, things took a turn for the worse. Kim’s hepatitis C continued, and his health began a steady decline. His journey for answers took him to Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, where he was evaluated and immediately admitted to the hospital. The once fit man was now very weak and being fed through a feeding tube as his weight plummeted to 119 pounds.

“This was a very different situation than I was used to during my life,” he says. “As a soldier and an athlete, I was always very strong and in control of things. For the first time, I felt weak and out of control. It wasn’t a feeling I wanted to ever feel again.”

Kim was listed for a transplant at Mayo Clinic in February 2008, and he received his new liver in September of the same year. Less than a year later, he was skydiving again — and setting records, too. Since his transplant, Dobson has claimed state records for skydivers over age 40 in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He also holds three different world records for skydivers over 40. And he holds a world record for skydivers over age 60.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God, my donor and my donor’s family for the giftKim Dobson, 63, of Oveido, Florida they’ve given me,” Kim says. “I named my liver ‘Sam’ to honor and have a more personal relationship with my donor, who I’m very grateful to.”

He also credits Mayo Clinic for saving his life, and providing the care and compassion to get him back on his feet again.

“I’ve never been treated better at a hospital than I was treated at Mayo Clinic,” Kim says. “Everyone really cares, from the doctors and nurses to the housekeeping staff.”

He also encourages everyone to consider becoming an organ donor, as have most of his friends and family members. “Each of us has an opportunity to save multiple lives simply by registering as an organ donor,” he says. “Through your generosity, let someone else have a chance to continue their life’s journey once your life’s journey has ended.”


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Feb 18, 2015 · Faith and Mayo Clinic Help Cancer Survivor Overcome Multiple Health Battles

Mayo Clinic patient Donald Jones, of Ponte Vedra, Florida, with his wife.

Mayo Clinic patient Donald Jones, of Ponte Vedra, Florida, with his wife, Beth.

When 53-year-old Donald Jones of Ponte Vedra, Florida, found out he had lung cancer, the former smoker accepted it as a challenge that he was prepared to fight and win. Little did he know the other serious health issues that lay ahead, which would create serious new challenges for him over the next year.

An avid golfer and hiker, Donald could tell something wasn’t right with his breathing after a hiking trip to the Smoky Mountains in 2013. A visit to his physician resulted in tests that showed a spot on his lung. It was cancer. He called Mayo Clinic for an appointment with a pulmonologist. There, he was told he’d need surgery to remove the lung tumor. For about three months after the surgery, everything seemed fine, and he was fortunate not to require additional radiation or chemotherapy to prevent recurrence of his cancer.

What came next began a series of medical events that would threaten even the most optimistic patient’s resolve. During an employee engagement session at his job at CSX railroad, Donald noticed that along with a headache, he began having some speech difficulties, including missed and transposed words. He knew something was wrong and thought he might be having the early signs of a stroke. He went back to Mayo Clinic for some brain scans and the news wasn’t good. He had a brain tumor.

As he began to accept the latest news about his health and think about his treatment options, a Saturday afternoon golf outing turned into his next medical crisis. While on the golf course with his wife, Donald began to experience dizziness, depth perception issues, and an extreme headache. A 911 call and trip to the Emergency Department at Mayo Clinic revealed he was having a seizure resulting from the pressure from the tumor on his brain.

“It felt like my brain had just locked up,” Donald says. “I could see things but felt like I wasn’t actually there. The stillness was deafening. I couldn’t even remember my wife or daughter’s name.”

But then, during the hustle and bustle of his treatment in the ER, he says something very strange happened. As Donald was lying there in a trance-like state, he recollected a childhood memory from his time at Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. “I suddenly felt immersed in a bright light, and things became clear as a bell,” he says. “I could suddenly speak again and remember the names of my loved ones at my side, and felt a sense of peace and calm.”

Jones had surgery to remove his brain tumor, which had been affecting the portion of his brain that controlled speech. His follow-up appointments involved discussions of his treatment plan, which included radiation therapy and chemotherapy to prevent a recurrence of this cancer. After months of treatment, PET scans suggested that all seemed well. But he wasn’t done with his health battles just yet.

Four months after completion of this brain surgery and post-operative treatment, Jones ended up back in the emergency room with extreme pain and discoloration in his legs. He was diagnosed with an extreme case of cellulitis and was admitted to the hospital for two weeks. Even after he was discharged, it took several months of ongoing therapy to treat and control his cellulitis, which, left uncontrolled, could have cost him his leg.

“I had three potentially life-threatening health scares in a one-year period, and Mayo Clinic and my faith got me through all of them,” Donald says. “All three health issues are now under control, thanks to my doctors, nurses and other caregivers who took very good care of me during each of my emergencies.”

Donald is currently writing a book about his medical journey with the hope that it will help others facing their own life-threatening medical conditions remain optimistic.

“God has given me many blessings as I faced my own mortality,” he says. “But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an exceptional medical team at your side to give you the best odds of successfully beating your disease. I truly believe that Mayo Clinic provides an environment for treatment and healing that is unmatched anywhere else.”


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