For three long years, Michelle and Daniel Berg didn't know why their young son, Jaren, was having seizures. And why the epilepsy medication he was prescribed wasn't working, despite an increase in dosage. "It finally got to a point where he was on such a high dosage that it was affecting his school work and mood," Michelle says. So the Bergs traveled from their home in Minot, North Dakota, to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, hoping to find an answer.
At Mayo, Michelle says pediatric epilepsy neurologist Eric Payne, M.D., ordered tests to determine if Jaren did in fact have epilepsy. But when those tests came back negative, Dr. Payne went in a different direction. "Dr. Payne said, 'Let's just double-check to make sure it's not his heart,'" Michelle tells us. That decision would change the course of Jaren's treatment plan, and the course of his life. Additional testing revealed Jaren was suffering from a genetic heart-rhythm disorder called Long QT syndrome.
Jaren was placed in the care of pediatric cardiologist and Long QT syndrome specialist Michael Ackerman, M.D., Ph.D., who confirmed the diagnosis and teamed up with several colleagues to establish a new treatment plan for Jaren. That plan included asking pediatric surgeon Christopher Moir, M.D., to perform a procedure to remove nerves along the left side of Jaren's spine to make it much harder for his heart to spin out of control electrically. Two days later, Bryan Cannon, M.D., and Joseph Dearani, M.D., placed an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator inside Jaren's chest and abdomen to continuously monitor his heart.
It was, of course, a lot for young Jaren to handle. Which is why during the course of Jaren's treatment, Dr. Ackerman chose to nominate him to receive a once-in-a-lifetime experience from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. "When I was 9 years old like Jaren, I wanted to become the next Fran Tarkenton," Dr. Ackerman tells us. "So when my team and I saw Jaren in the intensive care unit wrapped up in a Minnesota Vikings blanket he'd made himself, we came up with a Make-a-Wish proposal to get him tickets to watch his favorite team play a game."
The Vikings did Jaren one better. As Vikings.com assistant editor and staff writer Lindsey Young reports, in addition to four tickets to the team's home game against the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings also invited Jaren, Michelle and Daniel to attend the team's Aug. 3 walk-through practice session, where Jaren got a chance to hang out with (and get autographs from) Vikings players, including Brian Robison, Danielle Hunter and Jaren's favorite player on the team, receiver Adam Thielen.
It was a day the Bergs say they'll never forget, and one Michelle says was just what the doctor ordered. "It was amazing and made me feel so happy for Jaren," she says. "He's been through so much in such a short amount of time, and this gave him an opportunity to just have fun and be a kid without having to worry about anything medical that day," she tells us. "We couldn't be more thankful to Dr. Ackerman or the Vikings for that."
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Tags: Community, Dr. Bryan Cannon, Dr. Christopher Moir, Dr. Eric Payne, Dr. Joseph Dearani, Dr. Michael Ackerman, epilepsy, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, Long QT syndrome, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Patient Stories, Pediatric Cardiology, Pediatric Neurology