Archive for the ‘Patient Stories’ Category

Jesse Jensen’s Deep Brain Stimulation Story

February 16, 2011

When he was just five years old, Jesse Jensen of Missoula, Mont. began having tics, or involuntary movements, and was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. The tics were so violent they caused him intense neck pain and kept him out of regular school for 10 years. Last spring, Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Kendall Lee, M.D., and his team performed deep brain stimulation on Jesse. His tics have stopped and he was able to cut back on the majority of his medications. His family says the surgery “gave Jesse a life free of Tourettes…a life we never thought was possible.” Jesse’s family put together the video below to tell Jesse’s story.

My Adventures In ‘Minne-snow-ta’

February 7, 2011

Roy Exum recently wrote a comical editorial for the website Here are a few pieces from his article:

Several years ago I was an in-house guest at the famed Mayo Clinic, which is about 90 miles south of Minneapolis in the state of “Minne-snow-ta”…

It has never been lost on me that – every winter – about 15,000 Mayo Clinic employees battle the worst weather imaginable to take care of patients like me. So this week I checked on my blue-eared chums and they’ve already had 60 inches of snow this winter. Yesterday the wind chill was minus-45 degrees…

Mayo Clinic sprawls for almost ten blocks in downtown Rochester but the main buildings are connected by a web of amazing underground hallways, all brightly lit and warm and sprinkled with pleasant art so people don’t have to brave the elements and become lab specimens. But the next time you grumble about a “wintery mix” in Tennessee, I’m here to tell you it could be a whole lot worse. The Minnesota people are a hardy bunch…

It’s something to see. Every kid goes to school every day. One time I was there and the wind chills got to almost 70 below so the governor called off school in the entire state. What makes that odd was that it was only something like the tenth time they’d done it in the last 50 years…

To read the entire article, click here.

Robotic Head and Neck Surgery

February 4, 2011

Surgeons at Mayo Clinic have developed a new robotic procedure performed through the mouth (transorally) to treat cancers of the tongue base and tonsils. Mayo Clinic is one of the few medical centers in the United States offering this surgery, and Mayo physicians have extensive experience in the procedure.

In this video, Doctors Kerry Olsen, M.D. and Steven Olsen, M.D. discuss the use of robotics for head and neck surgery. A patient also shares her experience.

The Heart of a Woman

February 3, 2011

Written by heart attack survivor Susan Cardelli:

Just last week was the 10th Anniversary of my heart attack—January 25, 2001—or as the medical community would call it “A Cardiac Event”. Whenever I hear it referred to as a “cardiac event”, I always picture myself walking down the red carpet, dressed in a sequined hospital gown, pulling an IV cart, while waving at the paparazzi.

As we all know, having a heart attack, open heart surgery, or any heart procedure is anything but glamorous. It is frightening, lonely, painful, and life-altering. It is also isolating and causes most of us to suffer from depression. The media, people around us, and some medical professionals cluck their tongues and blame us, the patients, for having heart disease. We should’ve exercised more, ate more whole grain Cheerios, had less stress, lost weight, etc. What is worse is that WE blame ourselves!

For too long I beat myself up and blamed myself. This only kept me depressed, not caring about whether I lived or not, despite the fact that my cardiologist told me over and over again that the reason I had my heart attack at age 41 was due to heredity. It finally dawned on me that it was not about “fault” or “blame”, but about acceptance of what is. I had to get to a place of learning to love myself before I could take any steps towards taking care of myself.

I believe what the medical community and society in general needs to focus on is not what exercises or diets or medicines we need—but first, how we feel about what happened to us, how we feel about ourselves, and how to move forward in lives that have been forever changed.

Joining WomenHeart in 2001, just a few weeks after my heart attack, has been a major reason why I am still here. WomenHeart Co-founder Nancy Loving called me and talked with me for a long time. She made me realize that I was not alone and that there were others who had also been misdiagnosed and under treated. It was great talking with someone who totally understood. Then, in October of 2002, I attended the first ever Science and Leadership Symposium for Women with Heart Disease at the Mayo Clinic. That is when I made amazing connections, and the real healing began.

There were many tears shed throughout the symposium. These tears were of relief and joy that, yes, we were truly not alone in this. We were finally being heard and validated. We all became family instantaneously. Even though we were all from different parts of the country and different ages, lifestyles, ethnicities and beliefs—having the shared experience of heart disease brought us together.

I am still so amazed and proud of what our WomenHeart Sisters Class of 2002 have accomplished in the last 10 years! When we started going out there, no one knew that heart disease was the #1 killer of women. All they saw were pink ribbons on yogurt. Today, almost everyone has seen a red dress on some product or ad. We started that. Imagine how many lives we have all saved…

A special thanks to all my WomenHeart sisters for having the courage to go out there and educate other women and medical professionals that yes, it is not just a woman’s heart that is important; but the heart of a woman as well.

MaryEllen’s Journey: Hope Returns (Final Episode)

February 1, 2011

The moment finally came. 

But it was an uneasy one at first.

MaryEllen Sheppard was about to receive her last round of chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic, with friends and family by her side. But as her loved ones and her nurses cheered her on, a wave of emotion hit this mom with nerves of steel.

What will life be like after these medical appointments end?, was one of the questions MaryEllen wondered about as tears streamed down her cheeks. 

In this final installment of MaryEllen’s Journey, MaryEllen shares how she was feeling during those last chemotherapy and radiation appointments and visits with Mayo again post-treatment to share what she did to get her life back on track.

We truly thank MaryEllen for giving Mayo Clinic’s video crew open access to her  life to share her story and experiences with others going through a breast cancer diagnosis. It was a privilege getting to know her and help her share her story with you all.

Missed an episode?:

Please click on the following to see MaryEllen’s journey from the beginning:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Dr Northfelt on Mayo Clinic’s Cancer Center team

MaryEllen on why she enrolled in a clinical trial

MaryEllen reacts to genetic counseling session

Bonus: Dr Northfelt on the importance of nutrition and fitness

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Sister Generose & Intern Jena Rose

January 21, 2011

I was 9 years old and had arrived in Rochester for a minor, surgical procedure. While navigating our way around Saint Marys Hospital, my family and I ran across several portraits of the Sisters of St. Francis hanging in the hallway. Being raised Lutheran, I had never seen a nun before, and my parents patiently explained that these women were former administrators of the hospital. A few moments later my dad added, “And, Jena, I know it’s not spelled the same, but the sister on the end—that’s Sister Generose.” My first thought? “That’s my name!”

To clarify, the combination of my first name, Jena, and my middle name, Rose, sounds exactly like the name Generose. As a 9-year-old, I was ecstatic that I had a phonetically-shared name with a woman of such strong devotion and prestige. Learning of the existence of the Generose Building only added to my excitement because that had to mean she was a big deal! It was this joy I carried with me and that provided me with a sense of peace and comfort throughout my impending surgery.

Fast forward 11 years: I find myself spending my college J-term as an intern in the Department of Public Affairs at Mayo Clinic. The first couple days in the office were mainly spent becoming familiar with my surroundings and expectations of the position. Little did I know that I would be presented with the opportunity for my “Mayo experience” to come full circle.

On Thursday, January 6, I was fortunate enough to attend “The Values Thread at Mayo Clinic: A Conversation with Sister Generose Gervais and John H. Noseworthy, M.D.” This event was facilitated in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sponsorship.

As moderator Matt Dacy explained, the Sponsorship Board was formed in 1986, when Saint Marys Hospital, Rochester Methodist Hospital and Mayo Clinic formally integrated.  Its mission is to promote the Mayo Clinic values, and to maintain and reinforce the Catholic identity of Saint Marys Hospital.

As I was told, this event was a rare chance for employees to hear both of these notable figures speak—a chance I’m glad I did not miss. Both individuals were asked to share their journeys to Mayo and their experiences along the way.

As I’m confident many attendees would agree, while Dr. Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic’s president and CEO, is indeed a brilliant, passionate man, it was Sr. Generose who truly stole the show (even Dr. Noseworthy good-naturedly said it was difficult to offer his thoughts following her answers to the audience questions). Her wisdom and faith were evident in her confident, straightforward delivery peppered with witty stories and one-liners as well as valuable pieces of advice for the audience. I left the auditorium that day amazed and feeling as if I had traveled back in time to being a young child anxiously awaiting surgery at Saint Marys.

It has been over a decade since my first experience at Mayo, but my positive feelings toward the institution remain constant. I never dreamed I would land an internship with one of the world’s leaders in healthcare—ultimately creating a definite connection between my past and present. As an intern spending time with the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, this connection forms a parallel specifically with regard to the newly-formed “What would Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Tweet?” project. A fusion of 20th century insight and 21st century technology, this project chronicles a Mayo brothers’ quote for each business day of 2011 via the Mayo Clinic Twitter account.

Similarly, Sr. Generose, a representative of Mayo Clinic’s rich history, possesses stores of wisdom applicable to today’s society. This became even more apparent in meeting her, when Sister discussed Scripture in relation to current events, education of today’s young people, and the plans God has in store for each of us.

This story represents what I like to call my personal “Mayo effect.” However, I now know there is much more to “Generose” than just the name of a building: she’s an icon, a living symbol, of the strength of Saint Marys and the blessing of caring compassion bestowed upon each patient.

“New Year, New Skin, New Leg”

January 19, 2011

When Brenda M. woke up with flu-like symptoms in August 2007, she had no idea just how grave her condition was. Later in the day she noticed discoloration and severe pain in her right leg. By that afternoon, Brenda entered the emergency room where her health continued to decline. Doctors at Mayo Clinic worked incessantly to keep her alive through the night. She was diagnosed with an extremely rare blood infection and was given a 5 percent chance of survival.


Brenda began to improve with the help of medication. However, the infection had caused a great deal of damage to her right leg, and several months later, it was amputated below the knee. Though her road to recovery has been a long one, Brenda remains optimistic and eager to face the future. She is hoping to complete her skin graft treatments and begin the process of receiving a prosthetic in the upcoming year. Referring to this process, Brenda has adopted a motto for 2011: “New year, new skin, new leg.”