In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 26th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Graham Has Fans From His House to the White House

By In the Loop

Graham Trocke-Fowler showing his many handmade braceletsWhen R.J. Trocke-Fowler had to write about a personal hero for a class assignment, he didn’t need to look far for inspiration. He wrote about his younger brother, Graham, who was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer in 2012. (We think he’s pretty inspiring, too, and wrote about him ourselves a while back.)

It’s easy to see why Graham made it to the top of his brother's list. During the course of his treatment at Mayo Clinic for spitzoid melanoma, the 11-year-old has had 14 surgeries. But it’s what he’s done between and since those surgeries that’s truly captured his brother’s admiration. After his diagnosis, Graham began making and selling rubber band bracelets (or “Grahamlets,” as he calls them) to raise money for childhood cancer research. So far, he’s raised an impressive $50,000 or so. That’s a lot of bracelets — in the neighborhood of 34,000, in fact. [...]

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Tags: Graham Trocke-Fowler, Melanoma

March 26th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light – Documenting a Struggle With OCD

By In the Loop

Jennifer Giesen showing the incision on her headJennifer Giesen was just 13 years old when she’d had enough of obsessive compulsive disorder. It had made her young life such a torment that she just wanted out. "I was always in such a heightened sense of anxiety that it caused migraines, and I was constantly nauseous or dry heaving. By the time I turned 13, I was praying for God to kill me," she writes in a post for Aljazeera America that documents in heartbreaking detail her struggles living with the disorder.

She spent much of eighth grade "in and out of the psych ward," she writes, "on more drugs than you could imagine." Those drugs caused extreme drowsiness, weight gain and tremors, and she "became almost numb to the outside world," she says. That numbness continued until Jennifer checked herself into a treatment facility after graduating from high school at age 17. "It was by far one of the hardest things I've ever done but so worth it," she writes. "It made me a functioning human being." But over time, her anxiety returned. She dropped out of college after her junior year and moved back in with her parents. “I could not get a ‘normal’ job,” she writes. “So I was on disability, living at home with my parents, and going to therapy. That was basically my life.”

Frustration mounted, and Jennifer decided something had to change. That change came, she says, when she found out about a deep brain stimulation study at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. [...]

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Tags: deep brain stimulation, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

March 26th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Quote of the day

By In the Loop

"Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying or meditating or endeavoring something for the public good."

Thomas Kempis

March 24th, 2015 · 1 Comment

After the Lightning Jolt - Finding Hope and Help When Others Said There Was None

By In the Loop

Greg Widseth sitting and talkingGreg Widseth tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the last thing he remembers is smiling at someone while leaving his son's basketball practice last March. Then the seizures began. After the initial "lightning jolting" in Greg's brain, he didn’t even recognize his wife. He says things are still a bit murky as to how he ended up at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. But both he and his wife, Nan, say they're glad he did.

Neurologists near Greg's home in Crookston, Minnesota, struggled to figure out what to do after "standard anti-seizure medications" proved to be ineffective, the Star Tribune reports. He and his wife were essentially told that his seizures were just something he was going to have to learn to live with. At that point, Nan called her sister in Rochester -- who happens to live next to Jeffrey Britton, M.D., a Mayo neurologist. After hearing about the Widseths and their search for help, Dr. Britton and colleague Andrew McKeon, M.D., a neuroimmunologist at Mayo, agreed to meet with them.

Drs. Britton and McKeon discovered that Greg was suffering from a rare disease that "prompted his immune system to attack his brain cells, resulting in as many as 60 seizures a day." After running “special blood and spinal fluid tests developed by Mayo Medical Laboratories,” they also found out that Greg had "antibodies known to target certain brain cells.” It was that last finding, the paper reports, that “prompted a round of immunosuppressant drugs” that had Greg “feeling nearly normal” again just four days later. “It was like a light switch was turned off,” Greg tells the Strib. [...]

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Tags: autoimmune neurological diseases, Dr Andrew McKeon, Dr Jeffrey Britton

March 24th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Dropping a Few Mayo Mentions at South by Southwest

By In the Loop

south by southwest music festival at sunsetSouth by Southwest has become a spectacle and cultural phenomenon. It’s a place you can hear bands on the brink with names like Apanhador Só and World Hood. You can hear the vocal stylings of a poet/playwright/rapper or one of 2,000 other musical acts. You can see dozens upon dozens of films – in 19 different categories. And you can consider the musings of “the brightest minds in emerging technology” during the five-day interactive confab that fancies itself an “incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity.” The New York Times describes the 29th annual music conference and festival as "a marathon of attention-seeking" and "a wild jumble of overlapping and contradictory agendas." All right then.

While most of us were far from the rocking streets of Austin, Texas, during the festival, Mayo's name was on the lips of one speaker at South by Southwest Interactive. And that was music to our ears. During a talk about why culture trumps advertising, Chris Kneeland, CEO of Canada's Cult Collective, talked about companies with great cultures that bring "great brand benefits," as reported in Marketing Mag. Kneeland, whose company believes “brands need more than customers, they need a cult following,” gave the folks at Marketing a preview of his talk. Their discussion revolved around the "power of engaged employees" and "how great culture can grow a brand." [...]

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Tags: Brand, south by southwest

March 24th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Quote of the day

By In the Loop

“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.”

Robert A. Heinlein

March 19th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Cashing in on Life — Aspiring Auctioneer Takes Advantage of Second Chance

By In the Loop

Cash Owen, age 10, doing work as an auctioneer.

Cash Owen's skills as an auctioneer and his medical story were recently highlighted on KARE-11 TV and in USA Today.

By all accounts, and his parents' admission, 10-year-old Cash Owens probably shouldn't be alive today. "Twelve hours after he was born, he started vomiting neon green," Leah Owens, Cash's mom, tells us. "They told us that his intestines did not develop right." At that point, their local health care provider told Leah and Dan Owens, of Truman, Minnesota, to get young Cash to Mayo Clinic … now. At Mayo, doctors determined that Cash would need surgery. The surgery wasn't easy on the newborn. "We lost him 12 times," Leah says. "They kept resuscitating him, and finally, they … hooked him up to the ventilator.

Cash and his family stayed at Mayo while doctors waited for his intestines to grow so they could properly join them. "We were at Mayo for quite some time," Leah says. "Cash had three different surgeries." After his initial surgery, Cash needed a double hernia surgery because of all the stress and trauma his body had endured. "My sister worked on the NICU when Cash arrived at Mayo, but of course she couldn't touch him because she was family," Leah says. "But having her there helped us better navigate and understand the terminology that was being used to describe Cash's condition."

Leah says her sister wasn't the family's only guiding light during that time of uncertainty. "Cash's entire care team was phenomenal," she says. [...]

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Tags: GI Surgery, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, NICU, Pediatrics

March 19th, 2015 · Leave a Comment

What Do Surviving a Tsunami and Surviving Cancer Have in Common?

By In the Loop

Doing sashiko in Mayo's Cancer Education CenterWhen we think about recovering from a serious illness, we tend to think about things like rest and recuperation, medication regimens, dietary changes, support from family and friends. We might not think about embroidery. Or button-making. Or making embroidered buttons. But a unique class offered this week at Mayo's Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center in Rochester is keeping hands and minds busy … in the name of resiliency and healing.

It's called sashiko. And it's one of the creative arts that helped the Japanese people begin their recovery after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the island nation in 2011. The catastrophe killed more than 15,000 people, with many others injured and missing. At least 332,395 buildings were destroyed or damaged, and even today, nearly a quarter million people remain displaced. How does someone cope with such overwhelming circumstances? Could Mayo Clinic patients, particularly cancer patients, gain insight into resiliency from their experience?

Those questions were on the minds of the folks at the Cancer Education Center as they looked at the work of Japan's Otsuchi Sashiko Project and Senninbari Project. Representatives of those organizations were in Rochester this week for an exhibit titled, Surviving Tsunami Waves – The Exhibition of Resilience through Arts and Narrative, which began on March 11, the anniversary of the tsunami. [...]

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Tags: Cancer Education Center, Resilience

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