Dana Sparks @danasparks

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Activity by Dana Sparks @danasparks


20 minutes ago by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: Young Transplant Patient Receives Birthday Gift of a Lifetime

GonzalezSalasJosesphAsk a 10-year-old boy what he wants for his birthday, and you're likely to get an answer like: games, toys, a new bike, or maybe just straight cash. Joseph Gonzalez-Salas' wish list for his 11th birthday was a little different. After nearly three years of living with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that negatively affects the way the heart pumps blood, all Joseph wanted was a new heart.

Last July, Joseph was miraculously granted that wish and received a heart transplant at Mayo's Rochester campus — on his 11th birthday.

As the NBC's TODAY Show recently reported, Joseph's health issues began in 2013, when he started to "feel ill" back home in Panama. To his parents' dismay, doctors diagnosed him with dilated cardiomyopathy — the same condition that had taken his sister's life just seven months after she was diagnosed. She was 8 years old. Not wanting Joseph to "suffer the same fate," his father, Ezequiel Gonzalez, did "extensive research" that led him to Mayo Clinic as "the best option for his young son."

Read the rest of Joseph's story.

This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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23 hours ago by @danasparks · View  

Are You at Risk for Alzheimer's Genes?

a black and white family picture with the older grandmother highlighted

Certain genes make you more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. Genes control the function of every cell in your body. Some genes determine basic characteristics, such as the color of your eyes and hair. Other genes can make you more likely to develop certain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with Alzheimer's disease. However, genetic risk factors are just one of the factors involved in getting Alzheimer's disease.

Most common late-onset Alzheimer's gene

The most common variety of Alzheimer's disease usually begins after age 65 (late-onset Alzheimer's disease). The most common gene associated with late-onset Alzheimer's disease is called apolipoprotein E (APOE).

APOE has three common forms:

  • APOE e2 — the least common — appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.
  • APOE e4 — a little more common — appears to increase the risk of Alzheimer's.
  • APOE e3 — the most common — doesn't seem to affect the risk of Alzheimer's.

But, gene's aren't the only factor. Read more.

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4 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Don't Underestimate the Dangers of Summer Heat!

blue sky with clouds and bright sunshine

When the weather is blistering hot, emergency medicine specialist Dr. David Claypool says you need to listen to your body. "What starts out as heat cramps can quickly move to heat exhaustion and then heatstroke when the body loses the ability to regulate and cool itself down." Dr. Claypool adds a reminder that people start the day hydrated and keep hydrating. He says if you feel hot but develop chills that's a clear sign you need to slow down and seek cool air or water.

a young boy playing in a water fountain on a hot day with water spraying everywhere

More heat safety information:
First aid for heatstroke
What Diabetics Need to Know When Summer Heats Up
Young Athletes and the Summer Heat
Running from Dehydration, Heatstroke and Hyperthermia 

Watch interview with Dr. Claypool.

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Claypool are in the downloads.

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5 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: The Blame Game

a young couple in a counseling session disagreeing and discussing problems, blaming each other

Validate before blaming.

Dear friend,

Research shows we don’t see what our eyes see; we see what our brain thinks we are seeing. Our brain tells our eyes what it wants to see, and when the eyes obey, the brain believes what they show. From among many possibilities, we thus see, hear, and believe the details that confirm our preset beliefs.

Our beliefs guide our preferences. Our preferences direct our words and actions, which eventually shape our life. How and what we see thus are very important to our lives and those of others who depend on us.

Interestingly, most of us aren’t aware that we are so biased. We do not recognize our blind spots; we believe we are rational. Not realizing that our truth is just one aspect of the complete truth, we become anchored in our version. Our truth becomes an integral part of our being. Defending it becomes our mission, even at the risk of creating conflicts with the world.

Conflicts happen when both sides perceive being wronged and intend to right that wrong. In conflicts, the two parties protect different versions of the truth. In this state, each is blind and deaf to why the other person sees and hears what he or she sees and hears.

We can avoid conflicts once we realize that our individual truth is just one version of reality, not necessarily the right or complete version. When I stand rigid on my post, most others look unreasonable. Realizing this, I should change my default assumption from “you are wrong and I am right” (or “you are right and I am wrong,” as can happen to people with low self-esteem) to “we both could be right.”

I believe I have the ability to make this change. I have the ability to change my anxiety-provoking negative bias to goodness-seeking positive bias. Research shows that once we bias ourselves to “seek” the positive, we start “finding” more positive. As a result, we develop more positive emotions, better social connections, and greater prosocial behavior.

I should recognize my negativity bias. With that recognition, I should strive to overcome this bias by seeking what is right in others. With that disposition I will default to peace. And when we all look at each other and seek what is right in the other person, the world will default to peace.

May the world notice the good within you; may you notice the good in the world.

Take care.


Dr. Sood 2

Read the Blame Game and previous blog posts.

Also, follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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5 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Heat Wave Forecast to Cook Midwest, Eastern U.S.

thermometer pointing up toward bright sunshine

With temperatures soaring, Mayo Clinic experts are reminding people to take precautions in the heat.

According to the National Weather Service - Hot and very humid conditions will push the heat index to well over 100 degrees across a large portion of the central and southern states this week. Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories are in effect for much of the Plains, Miss. Valley, Midwest and southern states through the weekend.

National Weather map of the U.S. heatwave in the Midwest 7/21

Courtesy National Weather Service

Family medicine physician Dr. Jennifer Nordstrom, Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse,Wisconsin, says heat illness can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to a potentially life-threatening heatstroke. She says certain individuals are at higher risk in the heat.

What puts you at higher risk?

  • Diabetes, asthma or heart disease
  • Being elderly or very young
  • Being overweight or in poor physical condition
  • Recently been ill with a fever
  • Having had heat illness before
  • Hard chargers who ignore the warning signs

Preventive measures 

  • Avoid strenuous activities when the heat index is above above 105 degrees Fahrenheit or the dew point is above 70.
  • Drink 8 to 16 ounces of water an hour before beginning a workout.
  • Maintain fluid intake before thirst begins.
  • Avoid exercising in the hottest part of the day.
  • Wear loose clothing to allow for circulation.

Heatstroke symptoms:

  • High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
  • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache. Your head may throb.

If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number.

Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

  • Getting the person into shade or indoors.
  • Removing excess clothing.
  • Cooling the person with whatever means available — a cool tub of water or a cool shower, garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person's head, neck, armpits and groin.
National Weather Service graphic of how to practice safety in the extreme heat

Courtesy National Weather Service

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6 days ago by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: Hospice Patient's Sentimental Return to the Water's Edge

a hospice patient named Lee Graham with Gold Cross paramedics

The Mississippi River runs through Lee Graham's memories. He and his wife, Shirley, owned a cabin on the river for decades. It's where his kids learned to waterski, and where he spent many sunny days boating and fishing with family and friends. And for years, it was the first place he'd head after clocking out as assistant chief of the Rochester Police Department. "When I'd get through work … I'd race down to the river to get there and have as much river enjoyment as possible," he tells us. It didn't matter if he touched the water. "Just to be in the surroundings" was enough. "It's kind of hard to explain," he says. "I just enjoyed being there." (We understand.)

Lee recently spent another memorable day on the river, thanks to a program called Sentimental Journeys. The program, a partnership between Mayo Clinic Hospice and Gold Cross Ambulance, helps hospice patients take a special trip or attend an event, like a wedding or graduation, that might not be possible without assistance. When hospice staff told the Grahams about the program, they knew exactly where they wanted to go.  Read the rest of Lee's story.


This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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Tue, Jul 19 at 11:36am EDT by @danasparks · View  

Discovery's Edge: The Microbiome

a medical illustration of microbiomes

The microbiome consists of all the microbes living “with” you at the current time and you can't live without them. Mayo Clinic is seeking to understand how the microbiome promotes wellness, enables disease and how that knowledge can change the practice of medicine.

This video appears on the Discovery's Edge. blog.

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Sun, Jul 17 at 8:15am EDT by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Difficult Diagnosis Interrupts Residency

vascular patient Natalie Ertz-Archambault at medical residency chart

Successfully finishing a medical residency is a significant milestone in any physician's career. But when Natalie Ertz-Archambault, M.D., graduated in June 2016 from the Internal Medicine Residency at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, the achievement felt particularly sweet.

"It was an incredible success for me, since I actually started my residency in 2012, completed four months, and then became too ill to work," she says. "At that time, I wasn't sure if I'd ever reach graduation."

Uncovering the cause of Natalie's illness took time and careful investigation. When she received a diagnosis, Natalie was surprised to learn she had vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. This rare genetic disorder makes the body's hollow organs, including the blood vessels, digestive tract, bladder and uterus, fragile. It can lead to severe complications, such as blood vessel injuries, that require close monitoring.

After eight months of medical care, Natalie was able to resume her training as a resident physician. Looking back, she sees the experience has changed her, not only personally, but professionally as well.

"I returned to my residency knowing what it's like to be sick, what it's like to have a life-threatening illness, and, honestly, what it's like to have a rare disease that doctors know little about," Natalie says. "I also saw what a difference it can make when you have physicians who are willing to advocate for you, who don't feel limited to just their particular specialty. That's the kind of care I want to give to my own patients."  Read the rest of Natalie's story.


This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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Thu, Jul 14 at 4:00pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: Precious and Meaningful

children's hands touching a globe representing world peace, friendships
Every stranger could have been your friend or loved one

Dear friend,

SNR 172. I don’t know if this means anything to you—perhaps a user ID, a password, a bank locker number, or even an acronym. It meant nothing to me either until it was assigned as the license-plate number for our car in 2010. Now I see it almost every day. It is mine in some ways, with my safety linked to the safety of the vehicle that carries this plate.

How many things or people are potentially linked to me that I presently don’t know? Their meaning will manifest at some future point. As I pick my four-year-old up from day care, how can I not help but be thankful to the family of her lovely teacher, who gives her so much love, care, and patience, despite her personal medical challenges. I feel deeply connected to my daughter’s teacher’s parents, even though I haven’t ever met them. Perhaps a doctor who might save my life in the future was just born today. Presently I don’t know that child, that child’s parents, someone who might inspire him or her to study hard, or any of his or her teachers.

If I extend this imagination, everybody and everything become relevant and meaningful to me. Nothing is an exception. Every stranger could be my friend, colleague, or loved one. Everybody is special, worthy of my attention and kindness.

I have no doubt that one or many of you, through some benign act, has profoundly helped me, perhaps even saved my life or those of my loved ones. When I live my day today thinking such, I feel more grateful and connected to you. Every day that I am alive and can take a deep breath, I should carry this belief. This awareness will give me greater peace, joy, and vitality.

Live your day today keeping the conviction that everyone and everything around you are precious and meaningful, and they are helping you more than you can imagine.

May you find a deeper connection with others, remembering that each person is connected with your life in ways you don’t even know.

Take care.


Dr. Sood 2

Read Precious and Meaningful and previous blog posts.

Also, follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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Thu, Jul 14 at 2:00pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

It's The Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival in La Crosse

La Crosse Dragon Boat festival
LA CROSSE,Wis. — It’s time to release your inner dragon! Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare’s Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival returns this weekend at Copeland Park with exciting dragon boat races, children’s activities, entertainment and fun for the whole family.


The festival begins on Friday evening, July 15, with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. followed by youth races featuring six teams representing organizations, schools and the community. Racing begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, July 16, as forty-seven teams consisting of 20 paddlers battle to be the best in their division. The breast cancer survivor ceremony will be held at approximately 1 p.m. Division finals will be taking place all afternoon. The awards ceremony will be held around 3:30 p.m.

Read more: http://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/bigbluedragon

MEDIA CONTACT: Rick Thiesse Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, [email protected]

La Crosse Dragon Boat festival


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Wed, Jul 13 at 5:30pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

8 Things Everyone Should Know About Sarcoma


Learn more about sarcoma.
Other health tip infographics:

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Tue, Jul 12 at 5:58pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: Kicking Off a Kidney Donation 'Chain Reaction'

kidney transplant patient Jennifer Tamol in her hospital bed
Jennifer Tamol is part of a trend. A trend Martin Mai, M.D., a nephrologist at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus and chair of Mayo's Division of Transplant Medicine, would very much like to see grow. Four years ago, Jennifer decided she wanted to donate one of her kidneys. What makes her decision so unique, the Florida-Times Union reports, is that she didn't actually know anyone who needed a kidney. That made her a "non-directed altruistic donor," which, according to Jennifer, initially confused those around her. "Half the people think I'm completely crazy," she tells the paper. "They may be right."

Or, as the paper reports, it may be that Jennifer just wants to help others in one of the most generous and humanitarian ways possible. "I mean, obviously I like being able to help somebody," she says. "I have something that I don't strictly need, so to give somebody their life back ..."

Read the rest of  Jennifer's story.


This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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Tue, Jul 12 at 4:42pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Discovery's Edge: Before the Bone Breaks

medical illustration of osteoporatic bone
“People were still getting fractures.”

That was the problem faced by Sundeep Khosla, M.D., Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and osteoporosis expert. He and his team were troubled. Patients without a diagnosis of osteoporosis were arriving at the clinic with unexplained hip and spine fractures.

Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that causes gradual bone weakening. Low bone density is one factor used to identify osteoporosis, and the gold standard measurement for bone density is the dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan.

“A low DXA score, below a certain level, is defined as osteoporosis,” Dr. Khosla explains. “But for patients not quite in that zone but still at risk, DXA doesn’t pick them up. We needed a better identification method for fracture risk.”

The day a patient is diagnosed with osteoporosis is not the day that patient became ill. The disease process occurs over time, and presents a complex picture. Researchers have to determine how age, gender, and other diseases may affect bone remodeling. But to gather that information, they need comprehensive data that spans years.

Dr. Khosla had access to long-term patient data, but what he needed was a new and innovative way to assess fracture risk. Read the rest of the article on Discovery's Edge.


This article originally appeared on the Discovery's Edge blog.

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Sun, Jul 10 at 8:06am EDT by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Proton Beam Therapy at the Right Time for Jackson

patient Jackson Fisher smiling and sitting at an outdoor restaurant table

For two weeks, 14-year-old Jackson Fisher was plagued by headaches, double-vision, nausea and weight loss. His parents, Michelle and Patrick Fisher, weren’t sure what was wrong. But when Jackson came home one evening completely exhausted after lacrosse practice, they decided it was time to find out what was going on. The next day, they took Jackson to the emergency room.

What doctors found during that ER visit triggered a series of events the Fishers never could have anticipated and that eventually led the family to Mayo Clinic’s Proton Beam Therapy Program, where Jackson received treatment for a brain tumor.

“Every single person we’ve met at Mayo Clinic has been amazing, and we feel like we were meant to meet them,” says Michelle. “His doctors told us they were going to fight for Jackson. They’ve been forthcoming and explained things simply and honestly. I never second guessed his care. Being at Mayo Clinic has been the most positive experience of our lives.” Read the rest of Jackson's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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Thu, Jul 7 at 5:17pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: Listen To The Conscience

a drawing of a person's head with colors representing inner reality, mental health, thinking and dreaming

Listen to the conscience, not just to the mind or the senses.

Dear friend,

Your entire repertoire of conscious experience comprises an integration of three inputs—sensory information from the world, sensory information from the body, and self-generated thoughts from the mind. At any instance, all of these inputs compete, and the information that is most salient (to survival value) becomes your present-moment experience. To simplify it further, in your entire life, your conscious present-moment experience will comprise either the input from the senses (external world or the body) or the thoughts generated by the mind.

Our five senses have no memory. They are passive conduits to the moment-by-moment flow of information. The mind uses the senses for safety, pleasure, and information.

The mind itself spontaneously churns countless thoughts and imaginations. These thoughts often project into a narrow time frame (usually yesterday, today, and tomorrow). The untrained mind mostly thinks thoughts related to self-worth, relationships, safety, and daily tasks.

If you live in a world where your physical safety is constantly threatened, external sensory input will likely dominate your conscious experience. This was the case for our ancestors, and it is true today in the war-torn or crime-prone areas. In the relatively safer parts of the world, where external dangers don’t require diligence, your attention is free to roam in your mind, in the company of your thoughts and imaginations. Whether you know it or not, if you live in one of the safer neighborhoods, very likely, you spend the bulk of your day with your mind wandering. I believe this has created a unique opportunity for us.

When your attention is freed from the external threats and can focus inward, you have a choice—you can let your attention travel with spontaneous thoughts or direct it deeper, where conscience resides.

Conscience is the inner light that illumines the truth, telling me right from wrong. Conscience helps me do the right thing when no one is looking. My conscience isn’t swayed by greed of pleasure or fear of pain. My conscience isn’t selfish. It is objective, true, pure, and dependable. Conscience knows we all share the same sun and have the same I.

There is one problem though. Although conscience always has an opinion, it speaks in a humble, low volume, easily drowned by the vortices of the mind and the senses. When the majority of the world muffles the voice of conscience, we become unkind to each other.

I should dial up the volume of my conscience. I should use conscience as my guiding light. A mind anchored in conscience still experiences senses and thoughts. However, these thoughts and senses serve a self that includes many others. They help and heal, freeing the mind so it can fly into the vast vistas of the truth.

My mind is trainable. I should tether it to conscience so it can harness the senses, thoughts, words, and actions to comfort the other minds that are caught in the whirlpool of suffering. In that effort I will find peace and freedom.

May your conscience speak more loudly than your senses and thoughts; may your ears listen to your conscience more than they listen to your desires.

Take care.


Dr. Sood 2

Read Listen To The Conscience and previous blog posts.

Also, follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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Thu, Jul 7 at 12:30pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

Tips for Water Safety

two young people in a boat wearing life jackets

Boating is fun, but it’s important that it's also safe. Whether it’s a fishing boat, a canoe or kayak, or a personal watercraft, there are some basic safety tips that apply to all.

According to the National Safe Boating Council, learning to swim is one of the most important ways to stay safe on the water. But even expert swimmers can get into trouble. It’s important to be sure that everyone in the watercraft is wearing a life jacket.

“Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard show that watercraft accident victims are more likely to survive if they are wearing a life jacket,” says Janet Chestnut, M.D., Emergency Department director at Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls. “There are excellent models of life jackets that are comfortable and easy to put, so there really is no excuse not to wear one.”

Here are some additional tips to make your fun on the water safer:

  • Leave the alcohol on shore.
  • Be a weather-watcher. Check the forecast before setting out. If you do get caught in a storm, navigate to shore as quickly as possible.
  • Let someone know the details of your trip. Tell your plan to a friend who is staying on shore. Share details about who is on the boat, where you will be and how long you will be gone.
  • Be prepared for any contingency on the water. Follow a pre-departure checklist to be sure that nothing has been overlooked or forgotten.
  • Maintain constant supervision of children, regardless of their swimming abilities or use of life jackets.
  • Operate at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas. Stay alert and steer clear of large vessels.
  • Be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids. They have been put in place to ensure your safety.
  • Make sure that more than one person is familiar with all aspects of the boat’s handling and operations.

"While you are enjoying your time on the water, remember these safety tips to ensure that you and everyone in your watercraft is safe and can enjoy the time together," adds Dr. Chestnut.

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Wed, Jul 6 at 8:21pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

A Day Above Mayo Clinic

a nighttime aerial photo of the Mayo Clinic Plummer and Gonda Buildings on the downtown campus

Mayo Medical Laboratories (MML) created A Day Above Mayo Clinic as part of a video series highlighting the wide breadth of contributions made to patient care. MML is a global reference laboratory operating within Mayo Clinic's Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. The staff collaborates with clinicians to provide knowledge of, and access to, the latest testing and treatment guidance. The 3,200 employees support every stage of the continuum of patient care, with laboratories in more than 19 buildings throughout Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. Enjoy.

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Wed, Jul 6 at 8:26am EDT by @danasparks · View  

Nutrition: Fuel Your Body Everyday


See more health tip infographics: mayohealthhighlights.startribune.com 


Jeet responded Sat, Jul 9 at 10:22pm EDT · View

This is not true if you are diebetic

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Tue, Jul 5 at 4:41pm EDT by @danasparks · View  

In The Loop: Biology Professor Has Helping Others Down to a Science

Bill and Anika doing a research project

This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

In the summer of 2013, Anika Geibel was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumor. She was just 7 1/2 years old. The diagnosis turned her life — and the lives of her family members — upside down. "We had been medically evacuated from Africa (where Anika was born and raised) and nothing seemed 'normal,'" Anika's mom, Rena Geibel, tells us. But during Anika's two years of treatment, the Geibels would eventually find "consistency and something 'normal' at Mayo" in routines beyond tests and procedures, feeding tubes and wheelchairs. On Mondays, for example, Anika "knew she would see Bill."

"Bill" is Bill Wellnitz, who visits with children like Anika two mornings a week on the 16th floor of the Mayo Building in Rochester. "I'm mainly supposed to pass out books to patients," he tells us of his role, "but I try to interact with both kids and parents in a number of different ways." One way is through science. The retired biology professor cooks up "simple experiments" that "help kids understand a little bit of science" while they're waiting for their appointments. The distraction helps make "a less-than-stellar situation bearable," Bill tells us. And it "makes a new, different, strange environment seem a bit more welcoming." Sometimes, the tricks of his trade even work like magic. "Doing science helps me forget about what is going to happen" during a medical visit or procedure, Anika told her mother, "and puts my mind on something else." Read the rest of Anika and Bill's story.

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