Screening reveals stroke risk – An update on Norman

Norman and Mary Louise Clarke - carotid artery screening

Norman and Mary Louise Clarke

Norman Clarke had no reason to think that there was anything amiss when he stopped by for a preventative screening including a carotid artery screening at TMC two years ago. At 81 years old, the retired automotive engineer exercised three times a week at the gym, saw his doctor twice a year for checkups, took medication to keep his cholesterol in check – and his blood work always came back great.

He and his wife, Mary Louise, were stunned at his results of a preventative screening.

A scan of his carotid artery showed a blockage of more than 70 percent on the left side.

“I was shocked. There had been no symptoms and nothing to indicate this was a problem,” Norman recalled. “It was serendipity that we went that day, because I would never have known otherwise about the great risk I was facing.”

The carotid artery screening, part of the vascular wellness screening, uses an instrument called a transducer to scan the carotid artery in your neck. The transducer scans the carotid artery to check the flow of blood and can identify plaques and blockages that put you at risk for an ischemic stroke.

A stroke on the left side of Norman’s brain would have impacted the right side of his body, possibly impacting his mobility on the right side of the body, as well as speech and language problems, and memory loss.

Following the screening results, Norman’s doctor cleared the calendar to bring him in on a Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon he was having a scan of his arteries. The news was even worse than he had learned initially: the blockage was 90 percent.

Instead of being on a plane to Michigan, where the Clarke’s spend six months of the year, Norman was scheduled for surgery. The 90-minute surgery, known as a carotid endarterectomy, required one night of hospitalization and a week of good behavior at home: no lifting or dragging of heavy objects and listening to every instruction from Mary Louise, a former medical-surgical nurse and retired nursing professor.

Fast forward to 2017, Norman and Mary Louise are planning their return to their Tucson home from Michigan, to the magical pink mountains, the town and the network of Tucson friends, to volunteering at TMC, and to see Norman’s Tucson doctor.

Norman’s doctor monitors both the left and right carotid arteries every six months. The initial screening alerted the Clarke’s to the danger lurking in Norman’s left carotid artery. A subsequent screening has revealed a growing plaque in Norman’s right carotid artery. At this time there is no surgery planned, but monitoring is critical. Norman’s advice: “Be your own health advocate … get screened. Everything looked rosy for me, but just because your blood work is OK, it doesn’t mean everything is.”

 

Lucille Luna: Grateful and giving despite health crises

Lucille Luna 4A stroke. Vision loss. A serious ulcer. Congenital arthritis. Knee and hip replacements. The past few years have not been a bed of roses for Lucille Luna. But, the series of wearing health challenges have only invigorated the exuberant spirit of the 76-year-old, who makes time to show her appreciation for the medical professionals who helped her.

“I’ll always be thankful for the people at TMC,” Luna said. “I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

Several times throughout the year, you’ll find Luna making her way across the TMC campus to personally thank doctors, nurses and the entire staff.

“When I had my surgeries here there wasn’t a single person without a smile,” she explained. “They helped me with everything I needed – even in the middle of the night.”

Luna has certainly experienced her share of health problems. Among many challenges, BDP39412_Style004_Sunlightshe’s survived a stroke and a very serious lower-abdomen ulcer. “Dr. Kisso said my ulcer was the size of a football.”

Even as she shared her difficulties, a grin never left her face and a hearty laugh was never far off. The arthritis that causes her constant pain has not dimmed her spirit; not in the least.

“I’m alive!” she said. “I want to be involved – I help my family almost every day, no matter what they need.”

A statement confirmed by her 13-year-old granddaughter Karah. “She helps with everything – cooking, cleaning, everything…and she’s really nice to my friends.”

While her hip and knee replacements were successes, the arthritis hinders Luna’s mobility, and she walks with the assistance of a cane. This obstacle, however, doesn’t interfere with her constant movement or cheerful outlook.

Tom Bergeron“If someone does a good deed for me, I want to do a good deed for them, and TMC did so much for me,” Luna said.

When asked what she valued most at TMC, the quality of care, convenience, compassion – Luna replied, “Compassion? They go beyond that! I can’t even think of a word powerful enough to describe how much they care.”

“The medical staff at TMC offer a most sincere thank you to Lucille Luna,” said Julia Strange, vice president or TMC Community Benefit. “We appreciate her grateful and giving attitude that inspires all around her.”

Wound Care Awareness Week – celebrating treatments that are changing lives

Tucson Medical Center is honoring Wound Care Awareness Week by celebrating the treatments and therapies that are improving the quality of life for patients.

WoundCare 1Healing can be taken for granted – and many are unaware that a wound, sore or infection can be a significant challenge for seniors, diabetics and individuals experiencing illnesses that impede healing.

Several years ago, Carolyn Herman began noticing small red bumps that looked like insect bites – but each bump grew into a painful sore that would not heal.

As the sores grew in number and severity, Herman sought help from dermatologists who diagnosed her with Pyoderma Gangrenosum, a rare autoimmune disease whose cause is unknown. It began taking over her life, until she found the TMC Wound Care Center and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“It’s so frustrating because treating it is so hard,” Herman said. “Any small cut or skin rupture can turn into a very painful lesion.”

Wound Center Lavor“I just felt like things were always going to get worse,” Herman explained. “I saw specialists and wound centers, but it wasn’t getting better. I had tens of lesions on my body.”

In early 2016, Herman’s dermatologist referred her to the TMC Wound Clinic. “Everyone from the desk clerk to the nurses did a wonderful job of making me feel comfortable and at ease.”

Herman saw Dr. Michael A. Lavor, the medical director at the TMC Wound Clinic. Lavor performed surgery to address infections and prescribed ongoing hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy.

“With HBO, the patient enters a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber that looks like a wide hospital gurney with a large, clear acrylic cover – like a tube,” said Heather Jankowski, the director of outpatient services at the TMC Wound Care Center.

Woundcare4“The chamber is filled with 100 percent oxygen, and the air pressure in the chamber is raised– which allows the lungs to safely absorb greater amounts of oxygen,” Jankowski continued. “HBO strengthens oxygen absorption, helping tissue heal more quickly and completely by stimulating growth factors and inhibiting toxins.”

Herman engaged more than 100 treatments, every day for two hours. HBO is not painful and many patients sleep through it. Still, engaging so many treatments can take its toll. “The staff was so good to me, they were always compassionate and thoughtful – it made 117 treatments doable.”

The HBO provided great relief and sped healing. “I’m doing wonderful now – my infections are gone and I’m managing my condition much more easily,” Herman said enthusiastically.

The TMC Wound Care Center has been serving Southern Arizona for five years and treats a wide variety of patients with healing challenges such as diabetic foot ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, failed flaps, and ORN of the jaw.

For further information about the TMC Wound Care Center, please visit the webpage or call (520) 324-4220. Call (520) 324-2075 for scheduling.

 

TMC celebrates 200 TAVR procedures – Tucson visitor thankful for life-saving technique

Furman 2Pennsylvania residents Frank and Jan Furman travel to Tucson every winter. This year, the couple was also visiting to attend an award ceremony for their daughter.

While in Tucson, a cardiac emergency put Frank Furman’s life in jeopardy. Thanks to a minimally invasive heart procedure known as TAVR, Furman has a new lease on life and was able to attend his daughter’s ceremony only a few days after the procedure.

Tucson Medical Center is celebrating the completion of 200 TAVR heart procedures. TAVR stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a technique used to replace the aortic heart valve with less scarring, pain and recovery time than traditional open-chest surgery.

Furman had been experiencing some heart challenges, but received the OK to travel. Still, Jan worried for her husband as they made their way from Erie, Pennsylvania to Tucson. “He’s such a trooper and never complains, but I could tell he was more winded than usual.”

TMC Cardiovascular CenterThe couple enjoys southwest culture, and visited one of their favorite Tucson spots. “I couldn’t miss the Sons of the Pioneers show at Old Tucson Studios,” Furman said with a smile. But it was during the performance that things took a turn. Furman became so faint and winded after walking just 15 feet that he had to stop to catch his breath. The frightening experience motivated him to seek a cardiologist at Tucson Medical Center.

The structural heart team at TMC completed a number of advanced diagnostics and determined Furman’s aortic valve needed to be replaced immediately. While his family was concerned for his health, Furman had something else on his mind. “My daughter’s award ceremony was five days away – she’s worked so hard and I didn’t want to miss it,” Furman said.

waggonerThe close-knit family received some relief when Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Thomas Waggoner explained Furman was a strong candidate for TAVR.

With TAVR, an interventional cardiologist (or surgeon) guides the new heart valve through a catheter inserted in the upper thigh. The cardiologist then maneuvers into the heart and expands the new valve over the damaged valve, effectively replacing it with a tight seal.

The minimally-invasive procedure is an effective option for patients who are an intermediate/high surgery risk. In addition, patients experience minimal discomfort and a three-day average hospital stay – with patients returning to their normal activity after discharge.

“I felt better almost instantly,” Furman said. “The next day I was walking so fast that the physical therapist told me to slow down.”

Two days later, Furman left the hospital feeling great. “He looked so good! His face was full of color again and he had no trouble getting around,” said Furman’s wife, Jan. As for pain, “He didn’t even fill the prescription for pain meds,” she said happily.

Frank Furman’s life has changed; he’s no longer winded, has a strong prognosis and looks forward to rounding up the golf clubs again. “It’s the best thing that happened,” his wife of 57 years said.

TAVR Frank FurmanFurman wasn’t shy about sharing what he thought the greatest advantage of TAVR was. “I recovered fast enough to see my daughter Cheryl receive the Most Inspirational Mentor of the Year award; it was fantastic.”

TAVR is one of many procedures performed through TMC’s structural heart program, featuring advanced technologies, a specially-trained staff and a team of physicians who work with patients to evaluate and determine the best treatment plan.

The Furman family will soon be returning to Pennsylvania, where a new schedule for the patriarch includes walking, golf, cardiac rehabilitation and maybe a little more golf. When asked what he’d say to patients who are candidates for TAVR, Furman didn’t mince any words. “Go do it!”

During National Donate Life Month, organ donation impacted TMC family

National Donate Life 4.jpgThe Spohn family had a special reason to celebrate this year’s National Donate Life Month – a kidney donation that has made a meaningful difference in their lives, providing great relief and renewed freedom.

When it comes to doing things together, the Spohns are a close-knit family who share every triumph and every challenge. Ed Spohn credits the support of his wife, Michelle and son, Phillip for helping him brave the extraordinary challenges of polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

The Spohns are also a part of the Tucson Medical Center family – Michelle has been a member of the TMC nursing-staff for more than 20 years, and Philip will soon be moving from transportation into patient safety.

Now in his late 50s, Ed has been coping with the disease since age 17. “They told me I’d probably have to go on dialysis in my 50s.” Unfortunately the genetic disease took grip far sooner, and dangerously enlarged Ed’s kidneys before he turned 40. In 1997, Ed received a kidney from his wife, Michelle.

Ed’s life changed and he could resume most activities. After the transplant, Ed says he felt “wonderful.” Gone was the chronic pain in his back, the swelling in his feet, the nausea, and the intense headaches and shortness of breath. Ed’s family experienced the challenges with him – and Michelle knows she did the right thing.

National Donate Life“It’s so gratifying to do something like this,” said Michelle. “It is so hard to see a loved one suffer and It made all the difference. I’d do it again if I had another to give.”

Michelle said she has not experienced any medical issues as a result of her donation, and she encourages others to donate. “I tell people to get tested for a tissue-match if they have a family member or loved one with kidney failure – it will change everything for them.”

Receiving a kidney transplant requires constant care and monitoring. While the rewards change lives, there is a risk of rejection and the recipient will need to take anti-rejection medications that have additional risks and side effects.

Unfortunately, transplant kidneys do not last as long as our own organs. Ed’s periodic blood tests revealed the transplant kidney was failing in 2013. He soon began dialysis – a process in which a machine called a hemodialyzer performs the function of the kidneys. The process is life-saving, but strenuous – often causing anemia, fluid overload, constant itching, trouble sleeping, and other taxing symptoms.

Ed received dialysis treatment three times a week, for several hours at a time. The process also involves frequent testing. “You have to adhere to a strict diet, and get fluids and blood checked all the time,” Ed said. “It was never easy, but we did what we had to do.”

Dialysis also requires frequent sessions, restricting any travel. “I missed a lot of things,” Ed stated. “I couldn’t go to so many family gatherings, like my niece’s wedding – I even missed my mother’s special birthday party when she turned 80.”

National Donate Life 3.jpgAfter a year, the Spohns also provided hemodialysis for ED at home – a very difficult task that was understandably stressful and overwhelming for the family. “We experienced a roller coaster of emotions,” Michelle said. “Ed was on the donation list and we answered every phone call with such hope.”

Those hopes came to fruition last week, when the Spohn family received the call they had been waiting for. The transplant was a success – and the Spohns are overjoyed to be sharing a triumph. Michelle attended a ceremonial flag-raising on the TMC campus last week to bring awareness to the need for organ donation.

“I’m so thankful,” Ed said, with a grateful smile. Transplant recipients can write an appreciative letter to the family of the deceased donor through the Donor Network of Arizona. Ed said he wants to take it a step further. “I really hope I get to meet them, so I can tell them how much it helps our family – I’m forever grateful.”

What’s next for the Spohns? The family will spend the next few months ensuring Ed’s body accepts the new kidney – after that, they hope to travel and celebrate Ed’s restored health. “I’m already feeling so much better!”

For further information about organ donation, visit the website for the Donor Network of Arizona.

National Donate Life 5

 

Local fire captain on the mend after catastrophic aneurysm

IMG_0612On March 26, Rural/Metro Fire Captain Eric Cline was celebrating his fourth wedding anniversary with his wife, Risa, when he complained about his head hurting and suddenly collapsed. Cline suffered a brain aneurysm that then caused a stroke. He was rushed to Tucson Medical Center where Kurt Schroeder, M.D., a neurosurgeon from the Center for Neurosciences, helped save his life.

Stephanie Innes from The Arizona Daily Star wrote this story about Cline, the incredible camaraderie displayed by his firefighting family and just how rare this diagnosis is in a young person. Cline, a father of three, is only 40-years-old.

Sam Salzwedel from KVOA News 4 Tucson also aired this story about Captain Cline.

As a Neuroscience Center of Excellence, TMC is nationally recognized for its neurological and stroke care.

From devastating diagnosis to full recovery

Renee Sowards recovers after a tumor was removed from her spine. Her Akita, Keigo, stayed with her during her stay at TMC.

Renee Sowards recovers after a tumor was removed from her spine. Her Akita, Keigo, stayed with her during her stay at TMC.

For Tucson resident Renee Sowards, life took a 180-degree turn in three short months.  Last January, she was diagnosed with a tumor in her spine. It was serious enough that it was causing her to lose mobility in her legs and it required surgery.

Once she was diagnosed, Sowards did some research on which neurosurgeon she would literally trust her life with.  She decided to go with TMC’s Dr. Abhay Sanan from the Center for Neurosciences.  She called his office to get the new patient process started and hadn’t even made an appointment yet when she received a phone call that confirmed she had made the right choice.

“My phone rang at eight o’clock on a Sunday night.  It was Dr. Sanan.  He said he needed to see me right away, and I told him I had jury duty the next day.  He paused and asked, ‘So I take it you’re still ambulatory?’  I knew right then that my situation was very serious,” she said.  “Because of where the tumor was located, I stood a great chance of losing my legs.”

Renee Sowards enjoying the Sonoran desert more than a year after a tumor was removed from her spine.

Sowards enjoys the desert more than a year after a  tumor was removed at TMC.

Two weeks later, Sowards was in the operating room.  After several hours, she emerged from surgery and was told that it was a success.  When she learned she would spend the next five days at TMC recovering, Sowards had a unique request for hospital staff.  “I asked if Keigo, our 140-pound well-behaved Akita could stay with me in my room.”  To her surprise, the answer was yes.  “It was so comfortable to be able to sit in my chair and just rub my toes on him as he lay at my feet.  Having him there really helped me heal,” she said.  “My husband had a hard time leaving my side when I was going through this.  Knowing that I was receiving the best care and had Keigo with me gave him the peace of mind he needed to go home at night.”

Since her surgery and stay, Sowards has made a complete recovery and eventually headed back to work. “I had such excellent care at TMC, and Dr. Sanan was so wonderful,” said Sowers.

 

 

Rosemary Duschene: Bariatric surgery and hard work lead to a new life

RosemaryRosemary Duschene had grown weary of her diabetes – and along with it, her daily regimen of multiple pills, multiple shots and multiple complications.

“I happened to catch a commercial that said bariatric surgery improves the diabetic condition,” she said.  “I had been a diabetic for 25 years, and it was just becoming totally unbearable.”

With support from her physicians and loved ones, she underwent the surgery just over a year ago, and now reports her diabetic regimen is down to just one pill per day – with the hope that even that one last pill could become unnecessary.

“Within one year’s time I lost 65-70 pounds,” Duschene recalled, noting the lifestyle change was “really not so difficult!  TMC made certain everything was perfect before I became a candidate for surgery.”

After the bariatric surgery to assist her weight loss, she was quickly back on her feet and active. “I wasn’t used to sitting around, and now I had all this added energy and less weight to carry around, so it was easy to get up and move.”

She had a dog to walk, so that was a great motivator – but the biggest energy stimulus has to be Duschene’s 2-year-old grandson, always ready for a trip to the park.

“I let him run, and he chases me, and I chase him…I want so much to be a part of his life.  It’s hard to keep up with a 2-year-old, but it isn’t so bad any more!  I don’t get so tired. It’s just really great to feel so good.”


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461