With no cure available, a Mayo patient finds comfort in a reunion with a former teacher whose words and encouragement had a lasting impact on his life. With some help from his Mayo physician.
Tim Ruettiger, a gym teacher and wrestling coach in New Lennox, Ill., had no idea what a lasting impression he had made on one of his students, Ron Krasneck.
In 1982, Krasneck was 14 years old when he first met Ruettiger, known as Coach Rudy. Krasneck was slightly built, standing just 4 feet, 6 inches tall. Born with a rare genetic condition linked to cancer, the teenager had undergone multiple orthopedic surgeries to treat bone cancer. But Coach Rudy treated Krasneck just like the rest of the students.
Thirty years later, Mayo's Horacio Asbun, M.D., a surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Florida, learned about Coach Rudy's impact during a conversation back in December 2012, after Krasneck learned that surgery couldn’t cure his advanced gall bladder and liver cancer.
“I couldn’t do anything for him,” says Dr. Asbun, who knew much of Krasneck’s medical journey. Diagnosed as a toddler, his disease ramped up in his late teens. At age 46, Krasneck had survived nine episodes of bone cancer, amputations of a hand and wrist, partial removal of a shoulder/scapula and removal and rebuilding of C2 and C3 vertebrae. He walked with a prosthetic leg, though it was hardly noticeable. He'd had more than 35 major surgeries.