On the day he was born, Marcus Nichols had already beaten the odds. Marcus and his twin, Mathieu, shared a single amniotic sac — a rare condition that's often fatal. "They were only the third set of monoamniotic twins born live at Mayo," says their mom, Piper Nichols. But that was just the first of many health hurdles Marcus has cleared in his 17 years.
Born with a congenital heart defect called single ventricle heart, Marcus had three major surgeries in his first five years. This past July, the family learned he would need another. "The conduit supplying blood to his lungs was clogged," Piper says. That was causing pressure in — and damage to — his liver. So the family made plans for Marcus' fourth surgery.
Though nervous, they knew Marcus would be in good hands. "Mayo's an incredible facility with incredible people," Piper says. Those people include pediatric cardiologist Patrick O'Leary, M.D., who first told the Nichols about Marcus' heart condition. He's "been with us since the beginning," Piper says, providing reassurance and "so much empathy." And cardiac surgeon Joseph Dearani, M.D., who, she says, "really cares about Marcus, not just about his heart." And the cardiac ICU nurses who would care for Marcus after his surgery.
That last group now includes Marcus' father, Mick Nichols. He'd been a pastor but changed careers after Marcus' third surgery. "We realized by that time what a difference Mayo was making in people's lives, not just physically, but socially and emotionally as well," Piper says. Mick wanted to be a part of that. "He feels like he's doing what he's meant to be doing," Piper says, adding that he's now able to "love on" families like his own in a special way. "It's a way of giving back to Mayo" for the care that Marcus has received, she says.
So on Oct. 5, Mick knew better than most parents what to expect when Marcus came out of surgery. But once again, Marcus defied the odds. "They expected he'd be in the hospital two weeks, but he blew through all the normal post-op milestones and went home after six days," Piper says.
For that, she's grateful to the many hands that cared for Marcus at Mayo Clinic — and to those folded for him in prayer. "This entire process has been bathed in prayer," she writes on the family's blog chronicling Marcus' surgery and recovery. Piper says her own prayers often took place at the Saint Marys Campus Chapel, a place she's gone to "many times over the past 17 years." It's a space she calls her "prayer war room." And it's one more reason for her faith in Mayo Clinic. "There's a serenity in that sanctuary," Piper says. "It's a breathtaking, powerful room for so many people. You don't get that in other hospitals."
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