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Sometimes even doing everything right to live a healthy lifestyle isn’t enough to ward off a serious illness. Such was the case of 67-year-old Donald Glynn of Jacksonville, Fla., an avid runner who has participated in countless marathons, half marathons and 5K races over the last 30 years. He also watched his diet, weight and blood pressure, and did most of the things you’d expect of someone who led a healthy lifestyle. But Donald, who worked as a surgical assistant at Mayo Clinic in both Rochester and Florida before his retirement, neglected one thing — regular checkups. Given his family’s history of heart disease (his mother, grandmother and grandfather all had it), that turned out to be a serious mistake. After experiencing an irregular heart rate earlier this year, Donald was shocked to learn that his arteries were severely blocked and that he’d need a heart transplant. His condition was serious enough that while waiting for a new heart, he’d need to have a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted to help his damaged heart function properly. “Needless to say, given my lifestyle and being a runner for so many years, I was stunned to hear about the condition of my heart,” he says. “I thought I was doing everything right, but given my family history, it apparently wasn’t enough.”
It’s been almost three years since Sean Bretz collapsed. Unbeknownst to the then 23-year-old U.S. Coast Guardsman, a giant aneurysm had burst in his brain, causing a massive stroke. “His prognosis was grim,” neurosurgeon Rabih Tawk, M.D., recalls. “We used every technology available to help him.” Despite complications and issues, which required him to be induced into a medical coma, Bretz made an almost full recovery. “I realize I was lucky and recovered pretty well. A lot of other people who have this type of stroke do not,” says Bretz, who attributes his success to the large team at Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.
Written by Eunice Nishimura My journey started innocently enough as a neck strain I received while playing with my daughter’s golden retriever in October 2010. As the year ended, the discomfort had increased, and I sought out my physician in January 2011. He set up appointments for MRI and MRA exams. Once done, I quickly ended up at a level I Trauma Center, where I was diagnosed with a tumor on my C3 spine. The full diagnosis was stage IV non-small cell lung cancer with spine and lymph node metastases. The lung tumor was inoperable due to its proximity to the pulmonary aorta. Within 48 hours, the lymph node was removed, and I began radiation on the spine tumor, which lasted 3 weeks. During that period, a cousin in Southern California suggested I contact Mayo Clinic in Arizona for a second opinion and gave me the name of Dr. Helen Ross. I had my consultation with Dr. Ross on Feb. 7. From our first meeting with Dr. Ross, both my husband and I developed a trust and respect for her that continues to this day. Dr. Ross presents a forthright, open and considered respect for me not only as a patient but also an individual. She does not sugarcoat her evaluations. She always questions what has been done in the past and then takes it one step further.
To 22-year-old double lung transplant recipient Curtis Higgons, being dubbed the “miracle patient” by his physicians may seem somewhat overstated. But when you consider the medical challenges his doctors had to contend with in preparing him for a life-saving double lung transplant, his moniker may be well deserved. Curtis was born with cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States alone. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections. It also obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. As the diseases progresses, lung transplantation often becomes a last treatment option. “Although I was diagnosed with CF at six months old, it only had minor effects on my breathing until I reached my early high school years,” says Curtis. “I was a varsity athlete in bowling and golf, but during my sophomore year of high school things began to progress, and I ended up in the hospital three times.”
Written by Lesia Mooney, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Mayo Clinic's Advanced Primary Stroke Center in Florida. 795,000. That's the number of people annually in the United States who have a stroke. 130,000. That's the number of Americans who die each year due to stroke. $36.5 billion. That’s the cost of stroke annually, which includes the cost of health care services, medications and missed days of work related to stroke. The numbers are staggering, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke is a major health care issue, but yet I'm still surprised by the lack of awareness surrounding stroke. There are many misconceptions about stroke, including that it’s an older person’s issue. In reality, stroke can happen to anyone, including children. I've seen patients as young as 18 and as old as 103.
JoAnna Goebel refused to let diabetes stop her from welcoming a healthy baby into the world When soon-to-be moms find out they are pregnant, many are eager to share the happy news with loved ones. When JoAnna Goebel learned she was expecting, she got on the phone, too. One of her calls wasn't to a family member or friend, though, but rather to the Diabetes Technology Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "I knew I needed to connect with them right away," says JoAnna. "I found out I was pregnant on March 4, and I called them on March 4." Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 19, JoAnna realized that pregnancy posed unique health challenges for her and her baby. She was focused on overcoming those challenges. And with the help of her Mayo Clinic obstetricians and staff in the Division of Endocrinology, she was able to do just that. On Oct. 24, 2013, JoAnna delivered a healthy six-and-a-half-pound baby girl, Isabella, just two weeks shy of her due date. "I understood that being diabetic and having a baby would put me in a high-risk category," JoAnna says. "But it's not like it was back in the 80s. People often think of the movie 'Steel Magnolias.' That's not the way it is anymore. I was bound and determined to stay healthy throughout my pregnancy. The wonderful care I received at Mayo Clinic helped make that happen."
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. And for those patients whose disease has spread beyond its origination site, most treatment options have offered only modest success in controlling the disease. So when James Donaghy of Huntersville, North Carolina, entered a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic in Florida testing the effectiveness of an experimental immunotherapy drug called MK-3475, he figured he had nothing to lose after several other chemotherapy treatment options failed to control his melanoma. The 67-year old, Brooklyn-born Donaghy had his first experience with melanoma in 1994, when he found a mole on his back. As a phone company lineman for 36 years who worked outdoors on a daily basis, he figured his prolonged exposure to the sun may have put him at high risk for skin cancer. The mole was eventually diagnosed as melanoma and removed by a plastic surgeon. With regular monitoring by his doctor, all was well for many years, until he found another mole in 2011, this time on his neck, which turned out to be a recurrence of his melanoma.
Many people experience a warning prior to a stroke. But often it goes unnoticed, especially when you’re young and otherwise healthy, like Lorena Rivera, 44. A nurse educator at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, Rivera was the picture of good health. She didn’t drink or smoke, had good blood pressure, and ate a healthful diet. She was also physically active. So when the mom of three experienced headaches and numbing in one arm, she wasn’t too concerned. However, when she temporarily lost vision while doing errands one day, she became more frightened. Rivera, it turns out, had been experiencing a TIA – a transient ischemic attack – which produces similar symptoms as a stroke but usually lasts only a few minutes and causes no permanent damage. Often called a mini stroke, a TIA is a warning. About 1 in 3 people who have a transient ischemic attack eventually has a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after the first episode.