Kathy’s Story: Living Better with Mesothelioma – Possible with the Right Team of Experts

Kathy Ebright was enjoying life with her husband, 2 kids and 7 grandchildren in rural Pennsylvania, when everything changed suddenly.  This is true for thousands of people fighting cancer across the world, but hearing the word “mesothelioma” is not common.

“I went numb, I might have said a few words, but I couldn’t put words together to speak,” Kathy said.

Kathy and her husband, Doug

Almost everyone has been touched by cancer, but Kathy and her husband didn’t know anyone with mesothelioma in their small town of Richfield. They only heard of the disease from commercials for lawyers who specialize in asbestos lawsuits.

Kathy’s mesothelioma was discovered during a scan of her abdomen, which she has regularly to monitor a heart condition.  Her vascular doctor saw unusual spots on her scans, which her primary care doctor and oncologist reviewed, and they determined it was pleural mesothelioma.  This means the cancerous cells are located in the chest cavity, and sometimes the lung.  Usually, those with pleural mesothelioma experience shortness of breath, but Kathy was lucky enough to catch her mesothelioma before experiencing any symptoms.

Kathy’s daughter, Ally, who works with the tumor registry at the Geisinger Medical Center, sprang into action after the initial shock.  They attended tumor boards at Geisinger, where physicians from multiple disciplines (radiation, medical, and surgical oncology) meet to discuss cases.  Kathy’s medical oncologist, Dr. Rajiv Panikkar, suggested to Kathy that she go to the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, where she would see a team skilled and experienced in the most novel treatments for mesothelioma.

On December 20, 2015, about a month after her initial diagnosis, Kathy had her first appointment with Dr. Joseph Friedberg, a nationally known expert in mesothelioma and head of thoracic surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Kathy and her family were nervous, but mesothelioma nurse navigator Colleen Norton helped them navigate the unfamiliar and frightening process of a mesothelioma diagnosis.  She made sure they were prepared for their appointment beforehand, and Colleen even handled authorization with their health insurance company.

“We just felt we were along for the ride because Colleen always had everything taken care of,” said Kathy’s husband Doug.

And they were just as impressed with Dr. Friedberg, who was calm, reassuring and explained Kathy’s situation very clearly.

“On the back of his folder, he hand drew a lung to display what was going on with me, and it could’ve been taken right from a textbook it was so good,” Kathy said.

Kathy’s granddaughter, Carleigh, who serves as her main cancer-fighting motivator

They were also impressed with Dr. Friedberg’s tenacity and understanding.  Kathy wanted to spend Christmas with her family, but Dr. Friedberg didn’t want wait too long to perform the lung sparing surgery.

Her surgery was scheduled for January 5, 2016.

Throughout the surgery, Kathy’s family couldn’t have been more comfortable and informed.

“We camped out in the Healing Garden just about the entire time,” Doug said. “Melissa Culligan, Dr. Friedberg’s nurse, was in and out of the operating room, updating us every two hours.  We were never left wondering how Kathy was doing.  We also had the option to call into the operating room if we had any questions.”

During Kathy’s recovery in the hospital, she said the nurses were “phenomenal.”  Colleen also came to see her several times a day, and they added a La-Z-Boy to Kathy’s room so her husband could more comfortably spend the nights with her.

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, yet, Kathy and her family couldn’t be happier to have the UMGCCC team in their corner.  She now returns every 3 months for the next 2 years for check-ups, and Dr. Friedberg describes her scans as “pristine.”

“It’s very reassuring to know we have such caring people looking out for my health,” Kathy said.

Learn more about the Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment Center at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Center by clicking here, or calling 410-328-6366.

Living with Mesothelioma: A New Normal

In December of 2007, Timonium resident Jen Blair was pregnant with her second son, Kevin. It was a “very painful pregnancy.” She went to a few doctors, who told her the pain was normal. The pain returned, “worse than ever,” six weeks after giving birth to Kevin.  More doctors. More tests. She was first told she needed laparoscopic surgery, then that she had stage 4 cancer in her abdomen. She was told to get her affairs in order.

It turns out Jen had peritoneal (in the abdomen) mesothelioma, in which cancer cells are found in the membranes around organs in the abdomen. This is very rare — only about 350-500 cases are diagnosed annually in the US – and the five-year survival rate is just 16 percent.

“It was overwhelming,” Blair said.

Now that she knew what she was up against, it was time to find a doctor.
Her brother did an Internet search of the best Mesothelioma doctors, and up popped H. Richard Alexander, MD, an internationally recognized surgical oncologist and clinical researcher at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC). UMGCCC is only a half hour from her house, but Blair said her choice had much more to do than travel time from home.

“Dr. Alexander’s team was incredibly supportive,” Blair said. “When I called with literally dozens of questions, some of which, thinking back now, were ridiculous, they always took time to give me an answer. That really impressed me.”
Just a week after calling UMGCCC about her condition, Blair met with Dr. Alexander.  After an examination, Dr. Alexander told Blair that she was a candidate for surgery. For surgery to be an option in  treating mesothelioma, it has to be considered a safe operation, and the disease has to be confined to one area. Blair decided to have surgery.

“That one decision changes everything for a patient,” Blair said.  “Not all doctors specializing in mesothelioma have the patient’s best interest at heart.”

Many doctors, Blair said, are motivated by money.  She said she’s heard horror stories from other mesothelioma patients, where doctors demanded an upfront sum of money—sometimes adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars—before operating.  But not at UMGCCC.

In March 2008, Dr. Alexander performed surgery with HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy), which uses heated chemotherapy in combination with surgery to treat cancers that have spread to the abdomen lining.  While surgery to treat mesothelioma isn’t a cure, Jen’s quality and quantity of life have been greatly improved.

Blair was virtually pain free for more than seven years after the surgery, and was able to spend time with her family, and watch her two sons, Kevin and Nick, as they grew up. She had a second surgery with HIPEC in March 2015, and more than a year later, suffers very few episodes of pain.

While the days are still hard and life won’t ever be normal, Jen says it’s a huge relief having Dr. Alexander and his team in her corner.

“Dr. Alexander is hopeful, but realistic,” Blair said. “That’s important.”

Jen now works as a volunteer at UMGCCC, comforting and supporting other patients going through the same things as her.  She also works closely with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which is a non-profit “dedicated to ending mesothelioma and the suffering caused by it, by funding research, providing education and support for patients and their families, and by advocating for federal funding of mesothelioma research.”

Learn more about the Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment Center at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Center by clicking here.

ENT Surgical Team Annual Volunteer Trip

Annual Volunteer Trip Takes UM Surgical Team to Fiji to Treat Patients with Head and Neck Conditions

Update (2/21/16): This past weekend, Fiji was devastated by Cyclone Winston.  All 12 members of the UM surgical team are OK and awaiting the international flight home.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Fiji as they struggle to rebuild, and we pray for the families who lost loved ones and whose homes were destroyed.

We are exceptionally proud of the courage and dedication of our mission team. They saw over 100 patients over the course of their stay and completed a large number of surgeries. The actions of these selfless individuals embody many of the reasons that individuals choose medicine as a career and many of the reasons that a number of clinicians volunteer for such medical missions.


University of Maryland head and neck surgeons Rodney Taylor, MD and Jeffrey Wolf, MD have seen first-hand how devastating cancer and other conditions of the head and neck area can be for some patients.  Not only do certain types of conditions undermine their health, but they can also be disfiguring and carry social stigmas.

Dr. Wolf

Dr. Jeffrey Wolf

Dr. Taylor

Dr. Rodney Taylor

“Many times people with head and neck conditions are ostracized from their communities and go into hiding. These conditions can be life-altering,” says Dr. Wolf. He and Dr. Taylor are associate professors of otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who treat patients at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

The doctors are determined to help. Each year, a team of University of Maryland Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists (led by Drs. Taylor and Wolf) travel to a different under-served part of the world to provide their services free of charge. The team pays 100 percent of their own way, including airfare, shipping costs for their equipment and the cost of purchasing additional supplies not available onsite.

This year, the UM medical mission boasts 12 volunteers – surgeons, anesthesiologists, residents and nurses. This specialized ENT team will travel a total of 29 hours by plane, boat and car to Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu. There they will operate out of the Mission at Natuvu Creek, a nonprofit model community that provides medical and educational services to rural people of Fiji.

This visit will mark the first time Vanua Levu has been visited by ENT, head and neck surgeons, and the team is eager to start helping those in need. They expect to see a lot of patients with disfiguring conditions, such as cancer, and those with goiters (enlarged thyroids) and parotid tumors (on the salivary glands). The team will care for as many patients as they can during their week-long stay in Vanua Levu.

The trek will be long, and the medical team is hopeful the surgeries will be successful.

The team heads to Fiji on February 12.

Donations will help defray the cost of travel and other expenses. Learn more about how to donate here: http://www.marylandentmissions.org/donate

For more information on the Mission at Natuvu Creek, visit their website: http://natuvu.org/

A Little Hero Recovers from Heart Surgery to Run Like Superman


Editor’s note:
For 2-year-old Thaddeous McKenzie, the Baltimore Running Festival was just a fun day when he got to run fast with a bunch of other kids. For his mother, Jennifer McAnany, and others who formed “Team Thaddeous,” it meant a lot more.  

By Jennifer McAnany

(as told to Amy Katz)

I felt my son grip my hand tightly as he wiggled in anticipation of the race. He was restless, but only because he was excited to run in the Kids Fun Run at the Baltimore Running Festival. I looked down at him, beaming with pride. I could think only about how truly blessed I am to have a healthy child who is living life to the fullest and being a normal 2-year-old.

When I was pregnant with my son Thaddeous, I wanted the best care possible for my baby. Because of complications, I was already considered a high-risk pregnancy, so I went to see Dr. Geoffrey Rosenthal at University of Maryland Medical Center. At 20 weeks, doctors found a heart defect and diagnosed Thaddeous with Tetralogy of Fallot. In this heart defect, it is difficult for the heart to pump oxygen properly, causing the child’s lips, tongue, and fingers to turn blue from lack of oxygen. The most common treatment for TOF is usually open heart surgery, and this surgery usually must occur within the first few months of life. It was scary for me because we wouldn’t even know how bad the defect was until he was born.

The day Thaddeous was born was very nerve-racking for me. He was born at UMMC – where they were prepared to perform open heart surgery on him immediately, if he needed it. As soon as he was born, the nurses came and assessed him. I was thrilled when I learned little Thaddeous was well enough to be able to go home from the hospital with me when I was released two days later. He was monitored every couple weeks and seemed to be doing okay.

About 11 weeks later, when we went in for a genetics appointment with Dr. Julie Kaplan at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (part of the UM Medical System), she noticed that Thaddeous was looking a little blue, demonstrating one of his heart-defect symptoms. They had to immediately transport us from Upper Chesapeake hospital to the UM Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. It was a horrible weekend because his oxygen levels would drop every so often and he wasn’t scheduled to have open heart surgery until Monday morning. This is when we started calling him our little Superman because he pulled through his surgery and came out of it as our little hero.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovers after surgery. He's now a healthy 2-year-old.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovering after heart surgery at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. 

 

The full-heart repair was a success and Thaddeous recovered fairly quickly. He was doing great. So when I heard about the Children’s Heart Program Running Team in the Baltimore Running Festival on Oct. 12, not only did I sign up to run – I signed up our little Superman. He even had his own bib number. And then several family members and friends signed up. As “Team Thaddeous,” we raised money for the program to be able to help other young patients and families.

Ready, Set, GO! The buzzer went off to signal the start.

Thaddeous ran as fast as he could, trying his hardest to keep up with the other kids and pulling me along with him. He was having a blast in his Superman shirt with his cape blowing in the wind, and I felt so glad he is still on the mend.

He will still have to have yearly check-ups for the rest of his life, but he is living life like a normal 2-year-old. He has his hiccups at times but what 2-year-old doesn’t? He walks, he plays, he kicks the ball and does everything he wants to do. The sky is the limit for him now.

As we crossed the finish line, still hand-in-hand, I once again realized how thankful I was.  He wouldn’t be able to be here running this race beside me for the Children’s Heart Program if it wasn’t for all of his doctors, nurses, and everyone who helped him get where he is today. I did the race for Thaddeous and to give back to the program that had helped us. It was like everything came full circle, and I can’t thank everyone at the University of Maryland Medical System enough.

Go to the Team Thaddeous page to see more photos of Thaddeous or to make a donation to sponsor his team’s fundraising effort.

Team Thaddeous

Team Thaddeous after running to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program and, below, with Dr. Rosenthal (third from left).

 

Group picture with Dr. Rosenthal

 

Nurses Run for their ‘Heart Kids’

By Jen Arrington, MS, RN, CPN, and Kristen Fantel, BSN, RN, CEN

On Oct. 12, 17 nurses and friends of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) will be running in the Baltimore Running Festival to raise money for the UMMC Children’s Heart Program. When people ask us why we run, there’s one easy answer. We run for patients like Brandon Kerrigan and all of the heart kids that we care for everyday.

When Brandon celebrated his 15th birthday on Aug. 16, no one had any idea that two days later he would be fighting for his life. Brandon was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, and went into cardiac arrest while being flown from Easton to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. Once Brandon was stabilized, his family was told that he would need a heart transplant. Since his arrival to the PICU, Brandon has been determined to get strong while he waits for his heart. He charms the nurses and staff with his bright smile and Nerf guns, just trying to be a normal 15-year-old, while cooped up in the hospital. You can see how charming he is in this picture of us with him at the bottom of our team page.

Brandon is only one example of a patient we are running for. We care for many cardiac patients in collaboration with the Children’s Heart Program. This program provides comprehensive cardiac care for children with a wide range of conditions — from rhythm abnormalities to childhood hypertension, from heart murmurs to serious birth defects requiring complicated heart surgery. While we care for these complex patients, they quickly become a part of our unit – we offer an encouraging smile to their parents in the hallway, we say our silent prayers. And on good days – we dodge Nerf guns as we enter the patient’s room.

The strength and resilience of these children, who battle against all odds, is simply inspiring. As nurses, we are often left with the feeling of wanting to do more. We carefully assess these patients for any changes in condition, we give medications, we advocate for their every need, and we attempt to play and create normalcy whenever we can. But we want to do more.

This is why we decided to run as part of the Children’s Heart Team. We don’t have a miracle drug and we can’t take away the heartache in the eyes of the parents of these patients. But we can run.

As with all of the patients we care for, the teamwork involved in the care of these patients is also inspiring. The team includes Nurses, Doctors, Child Life Specialists, Respiratory Therapists, OR and Cath Lab Staff, Rehabilitation Services – and many, many other people who deserve to be celebrated.

This strong team work was the inspiration for our fundraising efforts. We created a T-shirt that recognizes this team effort, and we are selling the T-shirt around the hospital in order to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program.

In addition to the shirt, we are also hosting a fundraiser at a local restaurant. Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Blue Hill Tavern in Canton. The restaurant will be donating 20% of its proceeds from the day to our cause. Schedule a lunch with your co-workers, dinner with your family, or join the PICU nurses for Happy Hour – and help an important cause.

Want to join us in our effort to do more? Contact us! Maybe today we can give back a little bit of the inspiration that we have received from these amazing children.

To make a donation: http://www.ummsfoundation.org/picuheart

A Gift of Life and Friendship After a Family’s Loss

The weekly StoryCorps segment on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition is a highlight for the show’s listeners. Today’s StoryCorps interview was very special to staff at UMMC.

Rick Bounds received a lifesaving liver and kidney transplant here in 2007. Today, he’s a healthy triathlete with four competitions and a 100-mile bike ride to his name. And he serves as a member of the Medical Center’s Patient and Family Partnership Council.

Go to the NPR site to hear or read the conversation between Rick Bounds and Dorothy Biernack, whose husband, Marty, was the organ donor who made it possible for Rick to live. Rick and Dorothy get together several times a year to celebrate Marty’s lifesaving final gift.

Young Accountant Reaches Professional Milestone One Year After Living Donor Liver Transplant

By Jennifer Dietrick

Baltimore, MD

FEBRUARY 18, 2013 — As of today, I am officially one year post-op! One year ago, Dr. Barth and Dr. LaMattina had finished the living donor liver transplantation that saved my life!  When the doctors returned to the waiting room to update my family, the entire room erupted in applause! My boyfriend, Rob, was the donor.  Here’s what I’ve been up to in the past year:

I’ve been very busy with work. Being an accountant, this is our busiest time of the year so I am trying really hard to keep up. My biggest goal is to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). The test is VERY difficult. It is split into 4 grueling sections which require about 2 months of intensive studying each, while working a full-time schedule.

Before I went into acute liver failure, I had passed 2 parts of the exam (halfway!) but unfortunately, all 4 parts of the exam must be passed within an 18-month time frame. I lost the 2 parts that I had passed during the past year while I was focusing on my recovery. It was very disappointing. In December of 2012, I finally started getting some energy back after struggling with persistent anemia and a hematocrit between 28-30 (36 is normal). I studied really hard during the holidays and took 1 part on January 4 and I just found out that I PASSED!! Now I am on my way again to achieving my goal — and I am only 1 year post-op.

It’s such a wonderful feeling! During the past year, my recovery was really difficult and it seemed like I would never get better and now, 1 year out, I am down to 2 pills, twice a day and living a completely normal life!

I wanted to share this with other patients in hopes that it may provide some hope for anyone recovering or for those who have loved ones recovering from transplants or any other major surgery. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel and it is frustrating getting there but if you keep on working at it, you WILL go on to live the life you imagined and more!

You don’t have to be defined by the fact that you are a transplant recipient or let it hold you back from accomplishing your goals and dreams! Yes, I received a liver transplant but hopefully in the future I will be defined as Jennifer Dietrick, CPA!!

 

UMMC Mentorship Plants Seeds of Discovery With Local Student

by Lauren Goldschen

As a rising senior at Atholton High School in Howard County in August of 2010, I was excited to start my Intern/Mentor Program provided through my school. This program encourages students within the Gifted and Talented Program to apply for internships/mentorships with professionals who hold careers students admire. I’ve always wanted to become a doctor, and I envisioned my mentor as a local physician who would teach me how to schedule patients and take vital signs.  I did not anticipate that the reality of my internship would actually entail observing transplant surgeries and becoming a published author in the #1 peer-reviewed surgery journal, Annals of Surgery.

Finding a mentor for the program was certainly a struggle as I applied to numerous physicians throughout the area. My high school teacher, Mrs. Natalie Kelly, and I received numerous rejections from local physicians. I stumbled upon the University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) website, which conveniently listed physicians’ names with contact information and their ongoing research projects. I selected a variety of doctors and sent emails explaining the intern/mentor program and asking if they would serve as my mentor.

Although I anticipated more negative feedback, I was amazed that multiple doctors at UMMC responded and agreed to participate as my mentor. It was even more incredible that the first positive response came from Dr. Stephen Bartlett,  Peter Angelos Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Chair, Department of Surgery at UMMC, and Surgeon-in-Chief and Vice President of the University of Maryland Medical System, who graciously agreed to serve as my mentor.

On my first day with Dr. Bartlett, I watched him perform a kidney transplant. And on my second day, I met Dr. Bartlett’s colleague,  Dr. Rolf Barth, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and transplant surgeon at UMMC, who would become another one of my mentors.

My internship project was to compare patient satisfaction rates of living kidney donors who donated via the novel single-port donor nephrectomy versus living donors who donated via the standard multiple port technique. UMMC’s single-port donor nephrectomy utilizes a single incision in the belly button to remove a kidney from living donors. UMMC was the only the third hospital in the country to adopt this single incision donation technique as the standard of care for all living kidney donors.

The UMMC transplant team believed that this technique, which is more cosmetically appealing and less invasive, could attract more living kidney donors and help decrease the growing kidney transplant wait list. But before the procedure could be promoted, the surgeons first needed to determine if donors preferred this novel single-incision procedure to the standard multiple port procedure.

I began my internship project by writing a survey for living kidney donors that addressed their pain levels after donation and satisfaction rates with the overall donation process. The surveys were distributed to UMMC donors of both the novel single-port and the standard procedure. Read about the survey data that were published in the Annals of Surgery.

My internship was extremely rewarding and memorable, and I’m continuing my internship with the transplant team now as a college student. I enjoy accompanying the doctors on hospital rounds and observing the transplant surgeons interact with their patients. There have been numerous teachable moments, especially in the operating room in which I get to learn about anatomy from a truly unique perspective. I also value the advice that both Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth share with me regarding college decisions and future medical career plans.

Although I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, I had never before considered the research aspect of medicine. However, this internship experience has certainly sparked my research curiosity. Currently, I work in a cell biology lab studying the aging process of kidneys, and this summer I am again working at UMMC with Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth to investigate the transplant results of different immunosuppressant drugs.

This fall I will be a sophomore Biology Major/Spanish Minor at the University of Pittsburgh. I plan to attend medical school, and due to the wonderful opportunities provided by Dr. Bartlett, Dr. Barth, and the UMMC team, I know that research will always be a fundamental part of my medical career.

Arthritis and Joint Problems Sideline NFL Pros and Weekend Warriors Alike

Robert Sterling, MD

Robert Sterling, MD

By Robert D. Sterling, MD
Associate Professor of Orthopaedics

Ouch! As you can imagine when you see a player get sacked, years on the football field can take their toll! A 2008 University of Michigan study of retired NFL players found that, compared to the general public, these former football greats have a very high rate of diagnosed arthritis. Their joints are, plain and simple, just worn out. So of the older retirees in this study, almost 25 percent have had at least one joint replacement. The vast majority have had knees replaced. Hips replacements are less common.

So as some great athletes take to the field this Super Bowl XLVI weekend, some of us former “great” athletes may be wondering if that creaky knee or aching hip needs a possible replacement. When is the right time to see a doctor about it? Listen to your body, and it will tell you: If you are experiencing pain, swelling or stiffness in one of your joints, now is a good time to get checked out.

During your evaluation, we will get a full history of your complaints and examine your joints to figure out why you are having pain. This history and physical exam is often followed by an x-ray to look at your bones. The first steps we try for treatment of arthritis usually involve exercise, weight reduction, knee braces, and medications to help your pain.

Whether you want to get back on a field or just back to playing with grandkids, diagnosis and appropriate treatment of any joint pain should be the next step in your training program.

For more information or to make an appointment, contact the University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics at 877-771-4567.

Mitral Valve Repair Lets Marathon Runner Boogie at Son’s Wedding

By Nick Papas

I had just completed the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon. It was not my best time. There was no personal record that day. It was a day marked by a continued struggle with a chronic heel injury.  But there was something more serious brewing in my body that day. It was a particularly strong flare-up of my mitral valve pain. I was so familiar with the pain. It had been diagnosed and studied throughout my life. I had mitral valve prolapse. 

 So, I brushed off the chest pain as I slogged through the marathon and finished.

Then a couple hours later, as the marathon and half-marathon runners of our family celebrated with extended family and supportive friends, I shared my personal marathon experience with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Beth Ann. My tale included the throw-away detail about my old familiar chest pains. No big deal. Or so I thought.

 Beth Ann, a medical student, was not as flippant as I was about the little detail of chest pain.  She pulled out her stethoscope and diagnosed me on the spot as having mitral valve regurgitation. She strongly suggested that I see my PCP. I was stubborn and a bit incredulous. I didn’t rush.

 Eventually my heart acted up in such new and painful ways that I was compelled to go to my doctor. This set into motion the chain of events that lead me to Dr. James Gammie at UMMC.

An initial link in this chain was me doing my homework. I read the scientific papers. I consulted with knowledgeable, trusted people and friends.

 I had to make my decision: Was I, a man who loves to be active by running and biking, going to be happy taking drugs? Would I be satisfied watching my body get weaker and weaker while my heart became more and more sick?

 Ultimately, the decision was a no-brainer.

 I took action right away, partially because I concluded that it was the right thing to do and partially because my son’s wedding was just around the corner. I wanted to be healed enough to dance at my son’s wedding.

My surgery was performed at UMMC on September 6, 2011. Noah and Beth Ann were married October 8, 2011! I am happy to say I danced! I danced quite a bit! My wife, Patty (in the photo with me), and I had a great time.

 I am grateful not only to be alive but to be living. I am optimistic that with my newly repaired, healthy heart I will be able to enjoy the coming years with my family and to live these years actively. 

In the future, look for me in the 2012 Baltimore Half or Full Marathon. I’m the self-proclaimed, 52-year old, poster “child” of UMMC Mitral Valve Repairs!