In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 21, 2017

Liver Transplant Patient Helps Set New Nighttime Skydiving Record

By In the Loop

 Steve Woodford, liver transplant patient, and some high-flying friends achieved their goal of setting the Fédération Aéronau¬tique Internationale's large formation night skydiving world record.

A funny thing happened the other day as we were flipping through the January 2017 issue of Parachutist, the official magazine of the U.S. Parachute Association. (We're behind in our reading but trying to pick up velocity.) A familiar name and face greeted us: Steve Woodford, a liver transplant patient featured in a Sharing Mayo Clinic feature story last year.

Steve is also a parachutist, and as we read in an article titled "Officially Dark," he was on a quest. He and some high-flying friends recently achieved their goal of setting the Fédération Aéronau­tique Internationale's large formation night skydiving world record. For Steve, the record-setting jump (which occurred this past November under the light of "an uncommonly bright moon") had been 20 years in the making. And it likely wouldn't have been possible without the life-saving liver transplant he received at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida in 2015.

As told in that Sharing Mayo Clinic story, Steve's medical troubles began when he became "unexpectedly sick" during a backpacking trip to Belize. "I woke up itching, and noticed a yellow tint to my eyes and skin," he says. "I saw a local doctor for a blood test, urine test and ultrasound, and was told I had hepatitis C and needed to go straight home for immediate treatment. Little did I know what was to come after returning home to Utah."

What was to come, Sharing Mayo Clinic reports, was that instead of hepatitis C, Steve was actually dealing with an "inoperable and incurable" form of bile duct cancer. He immediately underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and also had a stent inserted into his bile duct "in an unsuccessful attempt to solve a drainage problem."

Steve was then referred to a transplant center in Salt Lake City, where gastroenterologist and former Mayo Clinic physician Michael Charlton, M.D., told him a liver transplant would be his only hope for survival. With a regional wait time of "one to two years" at the time, Steve was encouraged to contact Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida to see if he could be evaluated and added to the transplant list there.

It was a move that would ultimately save not only Steve's life, but the life of his wife, Maria, as well. While at Mayo Clinic with Steve, Maria had a routine mammogram, which revealed a tumor. "After a biopsy confirmed her breast cancer diagnosis, she underwent surgery on Christmas Eve 2014 and began radiation therapy," Steve tells Sharing Mayo Clinic. "We were a bit shocked that both of us got sick at the same time, but remained confident we'd both beat our illnesses."

Less than two weeks later, Steve's five-month wait on the transplant list ended with a life-saving surgery of his own. "Mayo Clinic saved both of our lives within weeks of each other," Steve says. "It was truly a miracle of timing and great care." The same kind of timing and care, we assume, Steve can now put into things like … setting new world skydiving records.

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Tags: Bile duct cancer, Breast Cancer, Hepatitis, liver transplant, Patient Stories

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