In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

June 27, 2019

Brain Surgery Helps Birth Couple’s First Child

By In the Loop

Newlyweds Derin and Sandra Gebhardt had tried everything in their power to have a child, but the reason for their conception troubles wasn't something they could control.


Newlyweds Derin and Sandra Gebhardt had tried everything in their power to have a child. "I had the thermometer, charts, all the research from websites," Sandra tells The Daily Mail. One thing they hadn't tried, or dreamed they's need to consider, was for Derin to undergo endoscopic brain surgery at Mayo Clinic. But that's what it took when doctors determined the cause of the couple's conception troubles was a benign tumor on Derin's pituitary gland.

The 12 months leading up to Derin's diagnosis had been filled with heartache and anguish as they struggled to conceive. Derin was not, however, struggling putting on weight. "There's obvious frustrations when your body doesn't work the way it's supposed to," he tells The Daily Mail. "I figured that it was all a product of the way I had been living." When Derin's testosterone levels came back shockingly low during "a routine visit to his family doctors," it became obvious that something else was going on.

A follow-up blood test revealed a tumor on Derin's pituitary gland. And when Derin arrived at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Arizona for treatment, it all started to make sense. "Think of the pituitary gland as a bit of a symphony conductor," Bernard Bendok, M.D., Derin's neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic, tells The Daily Mail. "Hormones are so critical to regulating body function, and what can happen sometimes is that the cells in the pituitary can overgrow. This can either overproduce a hormone, which can affect other hormones, or [tumor] cells can push on the pituitary and suppress hormones."

In Derin's case, the paper reports "he was producing too much prolactin," a hormone that can "impair testicular function" and "affect testosterone levels and sperm production." The hormone was also responsible for Derin's weight gain.

"Despite the crushing news," the paper reports Derin and Sandra "were relieved" by what Dr. Bendok told them. "It gives me a relief because at least we have a reason I have all these problems and you have an action plan on how to deal with what's in front of you," Derin says.

That action plan began with medication to shrink Derin's tumor and decrease the amount of prolactin his body was secreting. Sandra did what she could to help Derin lose enough weight to allow him to safely undergo surgery at Mayo Clinic. "Sandra packed all my meals, and the diet was miserable," Derin tells The Daily Mail. "But it's something you have to deal with."

Just five months later, Derin's determination would pay off when he weighed in 80 pounds lighter. A short time later, they learned Sandra was finally pregnant. A month after that, Derin underwent "life-changing, but ultimately not that invasive" surgery to remove his tumor.

For Derin, that meant a quick recovery that had him and Sandra back home in Montana with time to spare before their son, Gage, arrived just a few days after a Father's Day we're guessing they won't soon forget.

You can read more of Derin and Sandra's story here and watch a Mayo Clinic News Network video about their journey below. Then add a bundle of joy to our world by sharing your comments below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.


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Tags: Brain Tumor, Dr. Bernard Bendok, Mayo Clinic Hospital in Arizona, neurosurgery, Patient Stories

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