In the Loop

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November 8, 2018

Transplant Patient Finds Hope, Compassion and Second Chance at Mayo Clinic

By In the Loop

Scott St. Michel was in need of a liver transplant, but extra weight and the severity of his situation kept him off of the wait list — until surgeon Julie Heimbach, M.D., offered another option.


Scott St. Michel had been given up for dead. "I was too large for them to work on," he tells Twin Cities news station KARE 11 News of his attempts to find a doctor who could help him. "Too many things shut down and not working. They were done with me. I was there to finish. To die."

At 480 pounds, Scott, the station reports, had been living with a form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease so advanced that it shut down his liver and his kidneys. "Fatty build up in the liver ... can cause it to scar — that causes the liver disease that killed off my liver," he tells the station.

Due to his weight and the severity of his condition, the station reports other doctors had denied listing Scott for an organ transplant. But then he came to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where Scott says he was treated with compassion. The station reports it's that compassion that drove transplant surgeon Julie Heimbach, M.D., to give Scott "a second chance" by enlisting him in what the station calls Mayo's "revolutionary approach to liver transplant surgeries" designed specifically for "morbidly obese patients."

It's an approach, KARE 11 reports, that allows surgeons like Dr. Heimbach to essentially kill two birds with one proverbial surgical stone. During a single operation, surgeons perform a life-saving liver transplant and a "weight-loss procedure called a 'sleeve gastrectomy,' which reduces the size of the stomach by about 80 percent," according to the station.

While this combined surgical procedure is still relatively new at Mayo Clinic (Dr. Heimbach tells KARE 11 only 35 have been done so far), it's shown a lot of promise. The station reports that in a recent study, "Dr. Heimbach and others at Mayo found that obese patients" like Scott "who underwent dual liver transplant and weight loss surgery" were not only "better able to keep the weight off long term," but were also "less likely to need prescription medications" down the road. "Once we would address both of those problems, then his outcome in the long-term should be excellent," Dr. Heimbach says in this video story about Scott's care.

Four years after coming under Dr. Heimbach's care, a much healthier Scott says that's holding true. "One day I am dying, the next week I am not," he tells the station. "That just doesn't happen."

You can listen to both Scott and Dr. Heimbach talk more about the dual surgical procedure that helped save his life here. Then save us from an empty comments section by sharing your thoughts below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.


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Tags: Dr. Julie Heimbach, liver transplant, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, Patient Stories, sleeve gastrectomy

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