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Written by Rebecca Uhl “My chest just has a dent.” “Everyone is unique, and this is simply the way I was made.” This is what I told myself growing up, being unaware that I had a congenital chest wall deformity known as pectus excavatum. As a sophomore at Temple University in Philadelphia pursuing a marketing degree and with a passion for extreme sports, I didn’t have time to consider that something could be wrong. Then one day, a family member in the medical field urged me to research the impact the dent in my chest could be having on my heart.
When Virgil Jernigan came to Mayo Clinic for foot surgery, he was in for a lifesaving surprise. During an exam before his surgery, he mentioned to his nurse practitioner that he had been feeling fatigued and short of breath. So she ordered cardiac testing. Virgil was shocked to learn he had a leaking mitral valve – a potentially life-threatening heart condition.
In many ways, Jenny Peterson was like other mothers of young children. She cooked and baked, cleaned and washed clothes, and cheered her children on from the sidelines of their activities. In one significant way, though, Jenny was different: She did all of these things without sight. Jenny lost her vision in 1976, after having a severe reaction to antibiotics. "I developed toxic epidermal necrolysis, and lost 100 percent of my skin, my hair and fingernails," says Jenny, a resident of Vermillion, South Dakota. She was just 23 at the time. Her children, just 2 and 5. The antibiotics were meant to treat a sore throat. But her reaction was life-threatening. It caused Jenny's skin and mucous membranes to blister and peel. It also caused scarring in both of her eyes. She walked out of the hospital after 96 days, alive but functionally blind. "I could see shapes and light, but that was about it," she says. "I could walk around my own home, but I couldn't drive. I couldn't read. I couldn't see my children clearly."
Back in 2014, Ardis Kyker was at home going about her daily routine when she experienced tightening in her chest. The pain went away as soon as she sat down to rest, so she proceeded with her day. Later, while pushing a cart at a grocery store, the pain returned with more intensity. So Ardis checked in at the Emergency Department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, Minnesota. While test results ruled out a heart attack, the team in the Emergency Department scheduled her for a stress test because of the pain she was feeling on exertion.