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4 days ago · New Knee Works Like Magic

After suffering with debilitating knee pain for years, knee replacement surgery turned back the clock for Linda Bure, who went from walking with a cane to dancing with preschoolers.

After suffering with debilitating knee pain for years, knee replacement surgery turned back the clock for Linda Bure, who went from walking with a cane to dancing with preschoolers.


Linda Bure of Austin, Minnesota, knew it was time to take care of her aching knee when she noticed her dog starting to gain weight because she couldn’t take him for a daily walk.

For more than 10 years, Linda had lived with and learned to adapt to the pain in her left knee. Eventually, it became so excruciating that she started walking with a cane. At first it was just to help her get in and out of her car. But then she started using the cane continuously, and her preschool students began asking questions about it. Linda realized she couldn’t continue living the life of an 80-year-old when she was only 52.

Linda consulted doctors at Mayo Clinic Health System who recommended knee replacement. Thanks to that surgery, Linda has bid the cane goodbye.

Relief in sight

In May 2016, Linda made an appointment with Aparna Kaur, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin. During the visit, Dr. Kaur asked Linda about the cane, and they talked about her knee pain. Dr. Kaur scheduled X-rays to take a closer look. She also referred Linda for an appointment with Michael Eckstrom, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Dr. Eckstrom told Linda she needed a new knee. The words were music to her ears. “The only words I could get out at the time were ‘thank you,’ as I was crying tears of joy thinking relief was in sight,” Linda says.


“I have a very strong faith base, and with help and encouragement from my amazing friends and co-workers, I knew it would all work out in the end.”

Linda Bure

Linda’s knee replacement surgery was scheduled for August 2016. Meanwhile, in June, Linda had emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.

“I was so worried my knee surgery was going to get pushed back due to the unexpected gall bladder surgery, but I healed well and was able to keep the knee surgery as scheduled,” says Linda. “I was somewhat concerned with the thought of going through a second major surgery in less than two months. But I have a very strong faith base, and with help and encouragement from my amazing friends and co-workers, I knew it would all work out in the end.”

Delight in daily life

Just hours after coming out of the knee replacement surgery, Linda felt relief from the pain she had been living with for so long.

“I was so impressed with Dr. Eckstrom and the entire team,” says Linda. “I was not viewed as just another surgical case, but was cared for as a whole person.”

Linda says that having a bit of Norwegian stubbornness in her genes, she went back to work part time after only seven weeks and full time after just 10 weeks, compared to the typical 10 to 12 weeks of expected recovery time. Today her knee pain is a thing of the past, and so is the cane.


“I feel so different. I have a newfound energy, and everyone around me can see it.”

Linda Bure

“I was finally able to do the simple things in life that I enjoy without the pain,” Linda says. “I’m able to hop on one foot and dance with my preschoolers.”

Linda also is able to vacuum without needing breaks, make dinner for her friends and enjoy it without being too exhausted. And she can now take her dog for his daily walk.

“I feel so different. I have a newfound energy, and everyone around me can see it,” Linda says. “As my preschoolers would say: It’s like magic.”

Note: A version of this story was previously published in Hometown Health


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6 days ago · Finding New Purpose After Career-Ending Concussions

After multiple concussions and memory loss, professional football player Ben Utecht went to Mayo Clinic for help. Since then, Ben's gained insight into the importance of promptly recognizing and treating concussions. Now he's dedicated to sharing that knowledge with others.

After multiple concussions and memory loss, professional football player Ben Utecht went to Mayo Clinic for help. Since then, Ben’s gained insight into the importance of promptly recognizing and treating concussions. Now he’s dedicated to sharing that knowledge with others.


Ben Utecht’s professional football résumé included a Super Bowl championship with the Indianapolis Colts and five productive seasons as an NFL tight end. It also included a traumatic brain injury.

Concussions, usually caused by a blow to the head, are most common in contact sports. Recent research from Mayo Clinic shows that while most high school athletes, their parents and coaches can identify the possible effects of a concussion, only about one-third know it is a brain injury.

Ben, who grew up playing small-town football in Minnesota, had been diagnosed with five concussions during his playing career. When the effects of those injuries started to disrupt his daily life, Ben turned to Mayo Clinic.

“I’ve been in the Mayo system for such a long time, and its reputation obviously precedes itself,” Ben says. “They do an exceptional job in patient care and really making patients feel like their situation is genuinely and authentically important.”

Unnerving symptoms

Though his love of football was strong, Ben knew it was time for a change when he started experiencing noticeable memory loss. He found himself faltering in the middle of conversations. He began decorating his computer with sticky notes to remind himself to complete everyday tasks. Routines that were once unremarkable suddenly felt daunting.

“There were long-term memory gaps,” Ben says. “I would be with friends, and everybody would be talking about a universal memory. For me, it was like it didn’t even exist. I couldn’t even place myself there. That was pretty scary.”

A longtime patient of Mayo Clinic, Ben sought evaluation and examination from neurologist Bradley Boeve, M.D., at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus.

When someone experiences a concussion, experts at Mayo Clinic typically follow a plan that includes evaluating the individual’s signs and symptoms; reviewing the medical history; and conducting a neurological exam to test vision, hearing, strength, sensation, balance, coordination and reflexes. The care team evaluates cognitive skills, including memory, concentration and the ability to recall information. Brain imaging tests also may be performed.

For Ben, a neurological evaluation revealed some cognitive weakness. Another brain injury could be catastrophic. His football days had come to an end.

Exploring another path

Knowing his professional football career was over, Ben focused on his other passions — music and motivational speaking. And his music career began to take off. Ben, who grew up in an athletic, musical and theatrical family, sold out 21 shows in a holiday concert tour in 2017.

“No one really expects the singing football player to ever be any good. But I love that because I’ve poured a lot of time and training into it, and it’s always fun to walk out on stage,” Ben says. “You can see people thinking, ‘All right, let’s see what this football player can do,’ and then they’re like, ‘Wow, he really can sing.'”


“What makes us relevant and gives us identity as human beings is only what we can remember.”

Ben Utecht

In addition to music, Ben felt inspired to share his story with others, including athletes, parents, coaches and medical staff, as well as individuals and caregivers dealing with memory loss. His motivational talk, “MVP: Mind, Value, Purpose,” tells about his personal journey with concussions. It’s focused on emotionally connecting people to the importance of their memory.

“What makes us relevant and gives us identity as human beings is only what we can remember,” Ben says.

In his presentations, Ben challenges people to consider how differently they might live their lives if they knew they would lose their memories and encourages people to live every moment with a distinct sense of purpose. Ben strives to model this approach in his own life. With his wife and four young daughters, he relishes the “beautiful chaos” of a busy career and a family schedule full of piano, dance, golf, volleyball and family movie nights. He’s also written a book and launched a consulting firm.

Inspiring change

To make sure the future stays bright, Ben continues to manage his health with annual exams and monitoring at Mayo Clinic.

“The experience has been fantastic,” he says. “Having the concussion history that I have, if I can make sure that I’ve got the best experts in the world looking at my brain at Mayo, then I know I’m in good hands.”


“My hope is that every adolescent and parent is educated about what a concussion is and who to go see.” 

Ben Utecht

By sharing his story, Ben hopes to help inspire change and shed light on the significance of concussions and returning to sports too quickly.

“Concussion for me as a player carries a different level of importance than any other injury because you’re dealing with the one thing that makes you who you are,” Ben says. “My hope is that every adolescent and parent is educated about what a concussion is and who to go see. I think that’s possible. I think that medical evidence is going to be the most essential part to any change in sports culture.”

Note: A version of this story was previously published in Mayo Clinic Magazine.


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Fri, Aug 10 5:01pm · Early Detection Sparks Swift Treatment for Brain Aneurysm

Keith Bruno's family history of aneurysms prompted his primary care physician to order a CT scan during a routine physical. That test and the surgery that followed it saved Keith's life.

Keith Bruno’s family history of aneurysms prompted his primary care physician to order a CT scan during a routine physical. That test and the surgery that followed it saved Keith’s life.


Keith Bruno knows all too well the devastating effects an undiagnosed brain aneurysm can have. Keith experienced the pain of losing a loved one when one of his family members died from a massive stroke caused by a brain aneurysm.

Keith might have suffered the same fate if his primary care doctor, Richard Engle, M.D., at Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus, had not recommended that Keith have a CT scan during an annual physical in January. The results of that test proved to be life-changing.

Startling discovery

A few hours after the CT scan, Dr. Engle called Keith to share the unfortunate news that the imaging had uncovered a brain aneurysm. The next step would be another test, a cerebral angiogram, that would gather more information about Keith’s condition and help guide his treatment. Those results revealed another ominous finding. Keith, who just turned 60, didn’t have just one brain aneurysm but two — with one aneurysm growing on top of the other.

Not only did Keith’s family history raise his risk for developing an aneurysm in the first place, it also may have played a role in that unusual shape and in the increased danger the aneurysm posed, according to Bernard Bendok, M.D., chair of Neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus.

“Family history makes it more likely an aneurysm will be irregular in appearance, including an aneurysm growing on top of an aneurysm,” says Dr. Bendok. “Their risk for rupture is also significantly higher. Mr. Bruno’s risk of rupture was double or quadruple that of someone with no family history.”


“Fifty percent of patients with a ruptured aneurysm won’t make it to the hospital. That’s why it’s so important to see a neurosurgeon that has training in all the techniques to treat an aneurysm.”

Bernard Bendok, M.D.

When a brain aneurysm ruptures, it causes bleeding in the brain that quickly can become life-threatening. With that in mind, Dr. Engle knew Keith needed specialty care.

“I talked with Dr. Engle, who’s been my doctor for 10 years, about some of the surgical options,” Keith says. “Then he referred me to Dr. Bendok.”

Keith, who lives in Phoenix, met with Dr. Bendok and Pelagia Kouloumberis, M.D., another Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon. They were concerned about the risk of rupture and advised Keith, who is used to being physically active and exercising four times a week, to decrease his activity.

“They didn’t want me to exert myself at all,” he says.

Successful surgery

Dr. Bendok and Dr. Kouloumberis discussed with Keith the treatment options available to him. Those options included three procedures: microsurgery with clipping, endovascular coiling and flow diversion.

“Fifty percent of patients with a ruptured aneurysm won’t make it to the hospital. That’s why it’s so important to see a neurosurgeon that has training in all the techniques to treat an aneurysm,” Dr. Bendok says. “We holographically and physically simulate the disease and the procedure before a patient arrives for their first consult. Our goal is to help them make the best informed decision and for the team to deliver the safest possible operation.”

After careful evaluation, the doctors recommended a titanium clip for Keith. “We created a 3D print of the aneurysm and tested all three treatments,” Dr. Bendok says. “Because of its location and its wide neck, we felt clipping would be the safest and most durable option.”


“I’m most grateful that my aneurysm was found, and I’m still alive.”

Keith Bruno

Dr. Bendok and Dr. Kouloumberis performed Keith’s surgery on May 14. All went well. Afterward, Keith spent two days in the hospital and six weeks at home recovering. He recently returned to work as an electrical field inspector for the state of Arizona.

“Everybody was happy to see me,” Keith says. “Being at my job reaffirms that I’m healthy again.”

Keith traces his path to renewed health back to that routine physical with Dr. Engle. So when his wife found a card emblazoned with the infinity symbol that said “endless thanks” on it, they knew it was just the right message to convey their appreciation. Keith sent the card as a token of gratitude to Dr. Engle for ordering the tests that ultimately saved his life.

“I’m most grateful that my aneurysm was found, and I’m still alive,” Keith says. “I was so fortunate to have had this diagnosed before it ruptured and can live a normal life.”


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Thu, Aug 9 10:09am · Minimally Invasive Back Surgery Puts Fear and Pain in the Past

Michele Krause's fear of surgery prevented her from seeking a surgical remedy for her back pain for years. All of that began to change when she heard a Mayo Clinic surgeon explain a less-invasive procedure.

Michele Krause’s fear of surgery prevented her from seeking a surgical remedy for her back pain for years. All of that began to change when she heard a Mayo Clinic surgeon explain a less-invasive procedure.


Michele Krause was scared. She needed spinal fusion surgery. But after witnessing the consequences a family member had suffered after going through the same surgery with disastrous results, Michele couldn’t bring herself to move forward. So she lived with back pain and its debilitating effects for eight years.

Then came a breakthrough. Michele received a link to a Mayo Clinic Radio segment with neurosurgeon Mohamad Bydon, M.D., about a less-invasive type of spinal fusion offered at Mayo Clinic. After listening to the discussion, she began to believe there might be a surgical cure she could handle.

“As soon as I watched him and heard him, something clicked, and I said, ‘I need to go see this guy. This is the guy for me,'” Michele says.

That was the start of Michele’s path to a pain-free future.

Debilitating discomfort

When Michele was in her late 50s, her back began betraying her. By the time she was 64, every part of her life was touched by severe pain. The unrelenting pain was caused by a number of factors, including spinal stenosis, disc degradation and the slippage of her lumbar vertebra — a condition called spondylolisthesis.

“I was increasingly becoming more debilitated. Lifting or bending was becoming more painful, so that I would have to stop what I was doing and lie down on the heating pad,” Michele says. “I was taking mass quantities of ibuprofen every day. My blood pressure was rising, and I was on blood pressure medication. I’d never had any type of surgery before nor had I had anesthesia, and I was doing everything I could to avoid it.”


“I’d never had any type of surgery before nor had I had anesthesia, and I was doing everything I could to avoid it.” 

Michele Krause

In addition to the pain, Michele suffered from numbness that set in on her lower extremities whenever she stood or walked for more than 10 minutes. In an attempt to ease her symptoms, Michele had gotten cortisone injections — four of them in 2017. She’d also undergone three years of physical therapy, all to no avail.

Then she heard Dr. Bydon talk about a minimally invasive option. Michele, who lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin, decided it was time to make a trip to Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus to see him.

Fears allayed

Michele called for an appointment with Dr. Bydon in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Neurosurgery. When Michele arrived at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Bydon could see she was in desperate need of relief from her symptoms.

“Upon evaluating Ms. Krause, it was clear that her pain was very debilitating,” Dr. Bydon says. “Like many patients with her condition, she suffered from mechanical back pain, as well as leg pain. She had attempted nonoperative measures, but they were not effective in addressing her symptoms. The pain was preventing her from sleeping or enjoying normal daily activities with her family.”

As a result of Michele’s condition, her fourth lumbar vertebra had slipped down onto the fifth lumbar vertebra, Dr. Bydon says. In addition to causing leg numbness and back pain, the spinal slippage resulted in pain radiating down both of Michele’s legs. She had exhausted every other possible intervention and, despite being only 64, she was moving toward needing a walker or wheelchair to move.

“Ms. Krause suffered in pain and rejected surgical treatment for a long time because of her fear of surgery,” Dr. Bydon says. “The minimally invasive option allowed her to consider surgery and ultimately resulted in much improved quality of life for her.”


“I wanted to make sure that her fear of surgery did not impede her from getting the help that was available to her.”

Mohamad Bydon, M.D.

During Michele’s initial appointment, Dr. Bydon explained the minimally invasive surgery. He would start by making small incisions into Michele’s lower back. Then, through those incisions, he would remove the faulty disc, insert a piece of bone in its place, and place screws through the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebra.

“Small incisions allow us to perform the fusion without removing tendinous attachments and ligaments,” Dr. Bydon says.

The face-to-face meeting with Dr. Bydon was exactly what Michele needed to agree to surgery. “He really instilled the confidence in me to go through with my first-ever experience with surgery or anesthesia,” Michele says. “In every way he made me feel so comfortable.”

Part of instilling that comfort in Michele involved meeting with her several times and calling her before the surgery. “I called to reassure her that I thought it was the right thing for her to do,” Dr. Bydon says. “I wanted to make sure that her fear of surgery did not impede her from getting the help that was available to her.”

In addition to speaking with Dr. Bydon, Michele met with her anesthesiologist and asked questions about the process and the medicines used during general anesthesia.

Remarkable transformation

Michele’s spinal fusion surgery, which took place at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, lasted about 90 minutes. That’s significantly less time than is required for open surgery. A few hours after the procedure, Michele was up and walking. And that was just the start.

“I’ve gotten nothing but better,” Michele says. “It’s incredible. I’m 16 weeks out and doing everything I did before but without pain. People in my life are totally amazed by the difference.”

 That difference has affected Michele’s daily life in big and small ways. For instance, in July, Michele was able to comfortably don a pair of heels for the first time since 2010.

“I wore them to dinner and through the evening, and I was elated,” she says. “My quality of sleep is better because I’m not constantly trying to get into a comfortable position. I’m less irritable, everything is better. I’m just amazed by the success of the fusion.”

Michele says that not only was Dr. Bydon a tremendous advocate for her before her operation, he personally followed up with her when she was released.

“When I was sent home, he called me and I wasn’t home. So he left a message, and then he tried calling again another day,” she explains. “He’s a super busy guy, and those are the kinds of things that mean a lot to the patient. The fact that he took the time to do that shows he cared.”


“I’m just amazed by the success of the fusion.”

Michele Krause

Michele says she is looking forward to her next follow-up appointment at Mayo Clinic.

“Every single person that had something to do with the process — from me calling up and making the appointment, going to different clinics to have different tests done, the surgery, Dr. Bydon’s nurse and the Saint Marys nursing staff, and the different fellow and interns, and of course, Dr. Bydon himself — everybody was so impressive,” Michele says. “I’ve been telling everybody about this.”


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Mon, Aug 6 3:33pm · Still Smiling Six Decades After First Facial Tumor

When Nancy Carroll's parents were told the growth on the left side of their then-2-year-old daughter's jaw was likely cancerous, they brought her to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. Almost six decades later, Nancy says that decision changed the direction of her life for the better.

When Nancy Carroll’s parents were told the growth on the left side of their then-2-year-old daughter’s jaw was likely cancerous, they brought her to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. Almost six decades later, Nancy says that decision changed the direction of her life for the better.


Life is full of choices. While many of those choices are inconsequential, others carry more significance, becoming turning points in creating the lives people live. For Nancy Carroll, the first such weighty decision came when she was just 2 years old.

It was 1959, and Nancy’s parents had just found a growth on her left jaw. After examination and testing in their hometown of Ames, Iowa, Nancy was sent for additional testing in Des Moines, Iowa. There doctors informed the family that Nancy’s growth was likely cancerous and should be removed immediately.

Nancy’s parents were caught off guard. “They went so far as to have all these photos taken of me after my diagnosis in case it was cancer because they thought I might die,” Nancy says.

But after the photo shoot, another thought occurred to them. What if Nancy’s doctors in Iowa had gotten her diagnosis wrong? What if they took their young child up the road to Minnesota, so she could be seen by doctors at Mayo Clinic?

Fortunately for Nancy, that’s what they did. Nancy says that was a bigger decision than it might seem today. “This was 1959,” she says. “My parents probably had an older car, and the 300 miles from Ames to Rochester would have been a big deal for them.”

It turned out to be miles well-travelled. Doctors at Mayo Clinic offered another approach to Nancy’s condition.

“They identified my growth as a cystic hygroma of the left parotid gland,” Nancy says. “They knew that some toddlers could experience this and that it might go away on its own.” After Nancy turned 3 years old, the tumor did go away. “One-hundred percent,” she says.

A brief reprieve

The next nine years of Nancy’s life were similar to those of most kids growing up in the 1960s. Then just before she began junior high school, the growth returned. “My parents immediately took me back to Mayo Clinic,” she says.

Confident it wasn’t life-threatening, doctors once again used a conservative approach. They told her parents they thought it best to wait and see if the growth would again go away on its own.

That wouldn’t be the case this time.

“Six months later, almost overnight, it became life-controlling,” Nancy says. “The growth got so big that I couldn’t open my mouth due to the pressure.”


“The surgery went perfectly, thanks to both God and the extraordinary surgical skills of Dr. Lynn.”

Nancy Carroll

At that point, Nancy was referred to H.B. Lynn, M.D., a Mayo Clinic surgeon, to discuss removal.

“I remember him telling us that at the time, he didn’t know if the growth was malignant or benign,” Nancy says. “But he was very forthright in explaining to us that he did know the facial nerve runs along the exact area where the growth was, and if he damaged or cut that nerve during surgery, I’d never be able to move the left side of my face or smile again.”

That night, after electing to go ahead with surgery, a scared Nancy lay in her hospital bed and prayed. “I remember telling God that if he allowed the surgery to go well, I’d smile every day for the rest of my life,” she says.

Those smiles came quickly after the surgery.

“I remember waking up in the recovery room and immediately seeing if I could move my face, and I could,” she says. “The surgery went perfectly, thanks to God and the extraordinary surgical skills of Dr. Lynn.”

Gone again, but not for long

The tumor Dr. Lynn removed from Nancy’s face was not cancerous. It would stay away for the next five years. But on her 17th birthday, Nancy woke to find it had returned in the same spot.

“It was the size of a marble this time. It hurt, and just like before, I could hardly open my mouth,” she says. “So right back to Mayo Clinic I went.”

Nancy was cared for at that time by Oliver Beahrs, M.D. Before surgery, Dr. Beahrs gave her the same cautionary tale Dr. Lynn had five years earlier. The surgery carried a risk of damage to the facial nerve that could leave the left side of Nancy’s face paralyzed.

“This time, there was more danger of that happening because the growth had wrapped itself around my facial nerve,” Nancy says.

Knowing the risks involved, Nancy and her parents still decided to go ahead with the surgery. That decision paid off.

“Dr. Beahrs said he had to jiggle my facial nerve a little in order to fully remove the growth, and even though that caused me to not be able to move the left side of my face for six months, he assured me I’d recover fully, and I did,” Nancy says. “So once again, I could smile and open my mouth without pain.”


“Even when people did question the lump, I never cared because I was just glad I could still smile. That was my core inner thankfulness.”

Nancy Carroll

Nancy hoped the surgery would mark the end of her medical maladies. But the growth came back, and Nancy spent the next four decades living with it.

“My team of doctors at Mayo who monitored the growth during that time employed the same conservative, team approach to my care,” Nancy says. “Plastic surgeon John Woods, M.D., specifically coached me that due to my previous surgeries, I’d become weak on that side of my face. Because of that, he advised me against having it surgically removed again unless it became life-altering.”

For 40 years, Nancy did what she could to put the growth out of her mind as she focused on her career as director of Ames’ Parks and Recreation Department. That wasn’t always easy.

“Sometimes after a public meeting someone would ask me what caused the lump on my face,” Nancy says. “Over time, that was emotionally challenging. But I knew the journey I’d been through since I was 2 years old. Even when people did question the lump, I never cared because I was just glad I could still smile. That was my core inner thankfulness.”

Finally, a promising fix

Even though she learned to live with her condition, when a new opportunity presented itself, she was intrigued. Uldis Bite, M.D., a Mayo Clinic plastic surgeon, told Nancy about a relatively new nonsurgical removal procedure that vascular and interventional radiologist David Woodrum, M.D., Ph.D., was offering.

“By then, the growth was almost the size of a pingpong ball and growing, which was very cosmetically distracting,” Nancy says. “So I met with Dr. Woodrum. He told me about a new treatment procedure he’d helped develop to treat small cancerous tumors. He thought it might also be useful in helping reduce the size and reoccurrence of my growth. We decided we’d try it on half of it.”

The procedure, called MR-guided percutaneous laser ablation, began with Nancy being placed in an MRI machine. Dr. Woodrum used the imaging to pinpoint exactly where he needed to insert a thin laser fiber into the growth. He then used the fiber to burn the growth.


“I’m no longer self-conscious about my appearance, and the remaining half continues to be contained. If you saw me today, you might not even notice it.”

Nancy Carroll

“He heated the fiber up for two minutes, while continuously monitoring the heating with a specialized MR-imaging sequence, which allows visualization of the tissue heating, killing the growth,” Nancy says. “The whole thing was painless, and I suffered no damage.”

The only change Nancy has experienced since the procedure is an improved quality of life.

“It took about six months for the growth to completely die and for my body to absorb it. That, along with the initial procedure, was a tremendous success,” she says. “I’m no longer self-conscious about my appearance, and the remaining half continues to be contained. If you saw me today, you might not even notice it.”

For that, Nancy says she’s forever grateful to Dr. Woodrum.

“He’s the best guy in the world, as far as I’m concerned,” she says. “He’s caring, highly personable and an expert at what he does. Every time I see him, I want to cry, and I usually do, because he’s changed my life. I’m just so appreciative of that.”


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Wed, Aug 1 7:00am · The Heartbeat Goes on for Dave Andros After Cardiac Arrest

With prompt medical attention and expert care, Dave Andros survived sudden cardiac arrest. Now he's eager to share his story with others to promote heart health.

With prompt medical attention and expert care, Dave Andros survived sudden cardiac arrest. Now he’s eager to share his story with others to promote heart health.


Dave Andros was climbing the stair machine at a gym in St. Peter, Minnesota. And then, suddenly, he wasn’t.

Dave, then 65, experienced sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed. When he fell, those around him sprang into action. Someone called 911, summoning police officers who, fortunately, were less than a mile away. Once on the scene, the officers began performing CPR and used an automated external defibrillator to twice reset Dave’s heart rhythm.

When paramedics arrived, they put Dave in an ambulance and drove him to a medical center in St. Peter, where he was stabilized before being transferred to Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota. Once there, he had a test to check for blockages in his coronary arteries. Dave’s blood pressure plummeted during the test, and he was placed on a machine to help his heart pump blood. When he showed signs of having seizures, doctors cooled Dave’s body temperature to protect his brain.

Dave had one more transfer ahead of him. A few days later, he was taken to Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus for coronary bypass surgery.

Overcoming long odds

The series of events might have made for a plotline on “Grey’s Anatomy” — though Dave’s character probably wouldn’t have made it to the next episode. According to the American Heart Association, only about 10 percent of people who have out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive.

“Mr. Andros was very fortunate to have expedient rescue from cardiac arrest,” says John Stulak, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Mayo Clinic. He calls Dave’s survival miraculous and a credit to the many hands that helped care for him from the time he collapsed at the gym. “Without that teamwork, Mr. Andros never would have made it to us.”

Although he was at the center of it all, Dave doesn’t remember any of his ordeal. “I was numb to everything that was happening,” he says.

Benefitting from experience

Dave’s wife, Dianne, has filled him in on what he missed. She was a constant presence at the hospital and says she’s grateful for the compassionate care her husband received from the staff, including cardiologist Krishna Pamulapati, M.D.

“The staff was so warm and personable,” Dianne says. “They’d talk to you, and you really felt like you got to know each other. They were so kind.”


“The high volume of cases we see combined with the wide array of problems that we’re able to treat sets us apart.”

John Stulak, M.D.

Dave’s care team determined he would need triple bypass surgery. After several days in Mankato, he was transferred to Rochester for the procedure. He would be in good — and experienced — hands.

“Mayo Clinic has experts in every field of cardiac surgery, including tried-and-true conventional operations, minimally invasive procedures, transplants and mechanical assist devices,” Dr. Stulak says. “We span the entire pyramid. The high volume of cases we see combined with the wide array of problems that we’re able to treat sets us apart.”

Ten days after Dave collapsed, Dr. Stulak performed the triple bypass procedure, routing the flow of blood around blocked arteries in Dave’s heart. The surgery was a success, and Dave returned home to recover after a few days.

Getting back on track

Back home, Dave attended cardiac rehabilitation, an exercise and education program designed to help people who have had a heart issue recover and improve their health. He has continued to exercise since finishing the program and has returned to work. Now he’s eager to share his story as a way to encourage others to take care of their hearts.

“It’s so important to take care of your body and your overall health,” Dave says.

Dr. Stulak agrees. He says that can be easier to do when you have a relationship with a health care provider. That’s especially important for people like Dave who have chronic conditions.


“I’m more keenly aware that we all have a destiny. I’m still here because I have a purpose yet ahead.”

Dave Andros

“Everyone should find a provider they’re comfortable with and then see that provider on a regular basis,” Dr. Stulak says.

In September 2017, Dave celebrated his 66th birthday surrounded by his family. “It was a blessing that I almost wasn’t here for,” he says.

While life has mostly returned to normal, Dave says having cardiac arrest has given him a new perspective.

“I know now that the saying, ‘every day is a gift,’ isn’t just something you read on a Hallmark card,” he says. “I’m more keenly aware that we all have a destiny. I’m still here because I have a purpose yet ahead.”

Note: A version of this story was previously published in Hometown Health.


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Mon, Jul 30 10:15am · All in the Family: Pulling Together to Help a Young Girl Heal

Working with their Mayo health care provider in Family Medicine, Hazel Sargent and her family are tackling the preschooler's diagnosis of celiac disease head on.

Working with their Mayo health care provider in Family Medicine, Hazel Sargent’s family is tackling the preschooler’s diagnosis of celiac disease head-on.


For most of her young life, 3-year-old Hazel Sargent of Garden City, Minnesota, had tummy troubles. She was frequently constipated and never a big eater. Then one day in the spring of 2017, Hazel woke up from a nap and was lethargic.

“She didn’t want to play or eat dinner,” Sheri Sargent says of her daughter, the youngest of four girls. “The next day, we took her in to see what was going on.”

After an examination and blood work, the family had their answer. Hazel had celiac disease. The condition triggers an immune reaction to eating gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The reaction can damage the lining of the small intestine, preventing certain nutrients from being absorbed into the body. Symptoms include constipation, bloating and fatigue.

The diagnosis, while difficult, gave the family answers and a path to a better outlook for Hazel.

Life-changing news

Sheri and her husband, Josh, knew Hazel’s diagnosis would mean lifestyle changes for the whole family. They also knew they would have someone to help guide them through those changes: Bonnie Steel, a Family Medicine nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota. Steel has been Hazel’s primary care provider since birth. Family Medicine providers like Steel care for patients of all ages and stages of life.

“Bonnie was really great,” Sheri says. “She very much wanted to make sure our questions were answered and set us up with appointments to see a nutritionist and pediatric gastroenterologist.”

Those appointments gave Sheri and Josh a better understanding of celiac disease. While there’s no cure, a gluten-free diet can help manage celiac disease symptoms.


“Josh and I have been impressed at how quickly Hazel has adapted to her new diet. She will now ask if a meal or snack is gluten-free before she will eat it.”

Shari Sargent


“Living healthy with celiac is a challenge because it affects so many things,” Steel says, adding that she’s been impressed by how the Sargent family has handled the diagnosis. “They are making this a new normal and not letting it define, control or defeat them.”The family has been making a concerted effort to work together to manage Hazel’s condition.

“The biggest change has been going through our kitchen,” Shari says. “We have a separate cupboard for Hazel with gluten-free bread and snacks. All of our family meals are now gluten-free. We don’t want Hazel to feel deprived.”

Those efforts are paying off.

“Josh and I have been impressed at how quickly Hazel has adapted to her new diet,” Sheri says. “She will now ask if a meal or snack is gluten-free before she will eat it. Hazel has been eating a ton and asking for seconds and thirds. She’s gained weight and has so much energy now.”

Family-focused care

The change in Hazel’s health is a welcome one for the Sargents and for Steel. “I have been so excited about how the family has approached this big diagnosis and how much better Hazel is now,” says Steel, who also cares for other members of the Sargent family. Steel says that caring for multiple members of a family has benefits for patients.

“It gives us a better understanding of the family health history,” she says. “Many times health is a reflection of so many things that are part of a family, including genetics and lifestyle. The choices we make and the things we do are influenced by our family and community.”

Steel says caring for whole families benefits her as a provider, as well.

“I feel like I really know, connect and understand each member of the family better. I share in their joys and sorrows,” she says, adding that it’s both rewarding and humbling to work with families like the Sargents. “I feel honored to be able to care for them.”

Note: A version of this story originally appeared in Hometown Health.


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Fri, Jul 27 1:05pm · Improving Lives With Creativity and Kindness

As a child, when Jim Rogotzke wanted a toy or device that didn't exist, he'd make it. Today the master electrician has turned that talent toward designing and developing devices to help patients.

Jim Rogotzke, left, with James Vannoordt.

As a child, when Jim Rogotzke wanted a toy or device that didn’t exist, he’d make it. Today the master electrician has turned that talent toward designing and developing devices to help patients.


In the heart of rural Minnesota at Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield, when a specialty object needs to be made, master electrician Jim Rogotzke is the person to call.

Rogotzke uses his engineering savvy to construct items as part of his official job responsibilities managing the southwestern Minnesota facility’s electrical and mechanical systems. But he also uses his talents to create devices beyond his normal workaday world — items that have greatly improved the quality of life for several patients.

“In rural Minnesota, we just don’t have medical stores across the street to get these things. In some cases, maybe they’re not even made,” says Melissa Wegscheid, an occupational therapist. “So we’ve learned here in Springfield how to meet our patients’ needs.” Sometimes that means a call to Jim.

Rogotzke has been building objects for use in the facility for years. One of the first devices he made was a weight sled for the Physical Therapy Department. At the time, the item sold for more than $800, Rogotzke says. “I built it from materials that cost $75.”

A few years ago, when Wegscheid asked him to build a part for a patient struggling to get into his prosthetic leg, Rogotzke didn’t hesitate to help. Since then, Rogotzke has helped a patient with a prosthetic arm, too.

“I see what they’re going through, and I can’t imagine going through it as positively as they are,” Rogotzke says. “It makes me feel good that I can help them out in such a positive way.”

Imaginative designs

The first time Wegscheid called on Rogotzke’s expertise for Occupational Therapy was to create a set of stairs for pediatric patients that could be taken apart and converted into a chair and desk. She took photos of an adult-sized assembly and showed them to Rogotzke.

“The tools and adaptive equipment I had available for therapy were just not working, so I went to Jim, and I said, ‘This is what I need the item to do.’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah, we can do this,’ and he made it,” Wegscheid says.

Rogotzke has always had a knack for design. Growing up, he would build his own toys when he wanted something that wasn’t made. “I picture things in my head and make them,” he says. “I just lucked out to have that.”

About two years ago, Rogotzke received the first request to help with a prosthetic. He applied his skills to develop a support device for a patient who, as a result of a stroke, had only one functioning hand and was struggling to affix his artificial leg.


“It makes me feel good that I can help them out in such a positive way.”

Jim Rogotzke

“For him to get into his prosthetic limb, he needed the support,” Rogotzke says. “He could put the prosthetic into the brace that I built and then use his single hand to pull it together and roll the prosthetic sock over his leg.”

Before starting the project, he and the patient discussed the issue and what might be helpful. Based on that conversation, Rogotzke built the leg brace. He presented it to the patient, watched the patient use it and then asked for feedback.

“With the leg support, I made it a little long,” Rogotzke says. “But I wanted it that way because it’s easier to shorten it than to make it longer.”

The brace worked, and the patient was pleased to have the device.

Meaningful outcomes

More recently, Rogotzke was called to help another patient who has having problems attaching his prosthetic limb. James Vannoordt received his prosthetic arm in 2017. But from the get-go, he had issues putting it on because he had to simultaneously hold the prosthetic in place while securing it with one hand.

“If I put it on the table, it slides. If I put it on the bed, it was too soft. On the couch, it was too soft,” says James, who lives alone. “It would take a good 10 to 15 minutes to put on. It was a hard system.”

James even resorted to using a clothes hanger to correctly affix the artificial limb. “I was putting it on one day when Melissa was there, and she said, ‘Oh my. I can’t believe you have to go through all of this,'” James says, adding that he was prepared to return the prosthetic because of the effort it took to get into it.

After witnessing James strain to get into his artificial arm, Wegscheid called Rogotzke. She filled him in on what James needed, and Rogotzke got to work. A short time later, James was presented with a brace that lets him get into his prosthetic in less than two minutes. Made out of wood and PVC piping, the brace holds James’ artificial limb steady so he can push his arm into it and connect the parts.


“I have a lot of appreciation for Jim. He’s a good guy. He has a big heart, and he wants to help people.”

James Vannoordt

“He came up with the idea of how to make something for me, and it turned out terrific,” James says. “It helped a whole lot. I have a lot of appreciation for Jim. He’s a good guy. He has a big heart, and he wants to help people.”

Both patients have demonstrated for Rogotzke the way they use the supports he built for them. Watching how adept the patients are at maneuvering their prosthetic limbs gives the work he’s done all the more meaning.

“Both of these guys, you can just see the appreciation in their eyes,” Rogotzke says. “I just can’t believe how something I did can make their lives so much better.”


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