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Diagnosed with a rare disease, livedoid vasculopathy, Cheryl Sturdevant turned to Mayo Clinic for help. Then she turned to helping others. When Cheryl Sturdevant found out she had livedoid vasculopathy, she had no idea what it was. An uncommon disorder, livedoid vasculopathy affects the skin. For no clear reason, it often causes deep wounds in the lower legs and feet, and those wounds can trigger debilitating pain. "I had symptoms from my calves down onto my feet. The wounds on top of my feet made it difficult to wear shoes. The pain was intense," says Cheryl. "I had been teaching at the time of my diagnosis. But I wasn't able to keep doing that, due to my symptoms. I started looking everywhere for information and help." Both were hard to come by. Cheryl went to a number of doctors, including several specialists, but she was unable to find someone who could work with her to manage the disease. She kept researching livedoid vasculopathy and found information about it on a Mayo Clinic website. That prompted her to make a phone call that would change everything.
Dick Feller likes to joke about his medical escapades. In just six years, Dick Feller had three open-heart operations, had both legs and an arm amputated, and was fitted with a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, to keep his heart pumping. That's a lot for one person to take. But with unconditional support from his family and an unwavering sense of humor, Dick hasn't let the experience affect his attitude. "I have three stumps and a pump," Dick, 71, jokes. "And because I didn't want things to get boring, I had gall bladder and kidney stone surgery in between those other procedures."
An avid runner, Judi Zitiello, 66, was forced into a six-week hiatus when she developed a meniscus tear in early 2014. The retired financial executive was always active – exercising, hosting dinner parties, and volunteering to run the JT Townsend Foundation, a Jacksonville, Florida, philanthropic organization. Judi wasn’t too concerned about the downtime at first. She knew her body would take time to heal. But the pain lingered. Then Judi began losing weight and her energy waned.
Troy Chroniger enjoyed a busy, if hectic, life in Orlando, Florida, as a construction estimator and dad to three daughters. To relax, Troy, age 43, enjoyed sports and an occasional motorcycle ride with friends. Life changed dramatically one Saturday in November 2011, when he was out for a ride, hit a rough patch of road, veered and collided with a guardrail. He was rushed to a hospital in Orlando, where doctors diagnosed him with a debilitating brachial plexus injury. "It was one of the worst the doctor said he'd seen," Troy recalls the physician saying. Of the five nerves that make up the brachial plexus in the shoulder, Troy suffered a complete nerve evulsion injury. His doctor referred him to Mayo Clinic, which performs hundreds of brachial plexus procedures annually.
When Lynn Witherspoon was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wanted to move quickly. And she wanted to move to a place she felt would give her the care she needed. So she and her husband moved from their home in North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, to be near Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. "We live in a rural area, and I felt more comfortable going to Mayo for my cancer care," she says. She'd had relatives treated at Mayo. "So I knew what it offered and its reputation." Lynn was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. She completed five months of chemotherapy, and had a lumpectomy and removal of some lymph nodes, followed by radiation therapy. Something told her she should take another step to protect her health.
When her doctors suspected Kristen Soley had aplastic anemia, a rare condition in which the body stops making enough new blood cells, she says something told her to call Mayo Clinic. Aplastic anemia carries with it a high risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding. It can develop at any age and can occur suddenly. In Kristen's case, signs that something was wrong included swelling and bruising around her ankles. Kristen and her husband, Nate, drove from their home in Waverly, Minnesota, to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where her diagnosis was confirmed, and doctors outlined a treatment plan.