Medical Miracles

The individuals featured here are living, breathing miracles. And that’s not just according to us. That’s what their doctors said.

The individuals featuredhere are living, breathing miracles. And that’s not just according to us. That’s what their doctors said. There’s a man who lived through a car crash that involved speeds as fast as 140 miles per hour on West Highway 76. There’s a woman who died twice, then came back during a long battle with severe pneumonia. Another woman was thrown more than 300 feet then buried under three trees during the May 2011 Joplin tornado, and a 10-year-old girl who was sucked into a boat propeller on Lake Pomme De Terre. None of these patients were expected to live, but they all did. In some cases, it was the quick actions of doctors that saved them, and in others it was the aid of new technology and experimental treatments. And then there are even a couple of cases that no one can seem to explain. True miracles. Intrigued by medical phenomena? Read on, and be amazed.

Last May’s devastating tornado in Joplin threw Jennifer Donaldson approximately 400 feet and
buried her under three trees, and her doctors are amazed that she lived to talk about it.

       If you’re a 417-lander, you probably remember where you were on May 22, 2011, the day a tornado brought enormous destruction to the city of Joplin.

Jennifer Donaldson, who works in the emergency department at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, can recall the first half of the day quite well. “I had just worked overnight the night before, and then I went to Fayetteville to watch my daughter play in a softball tournament,” Donaldson says. After returning to Joplin, Donaldson actually drove to the hospital and sat in the parking lot debating whether or not to go inside to fill out time cards. “I just decided to go home, and I got home around 4 or 4:30 that afternoon,” Donaldson says. 

At that time, her home was at Dr. Kyle and Jamie Kennedy’s house, where she was living while she searched for a permanent residence. “Dr. Kennedy was out of town, and Jamie was taking their son to get ice cream,” she says. “I was so tired, so I told them I just wanted to stay home and go to bed.”

It was cloudy out when she went to bed. “It had been that way all day, and it hadn’t rained yet,” Donaldson says. “So I was under the assumption that it was about to start raining, and I was going to sleep well and wake up ready and well-rested.” But as she lay in bed, she listened to the wind get stronger. “I could hear the wind coming in around the window, and kind of through it,” Donaldson says. “It seemed strange because the house was built very soundly, and I had never heard that before. But I thought I was maybe just tired.” Not long after this, Donaldson heard the shingles slapping on the top of the roof of the house. She then decided she better get up to check on the weather.

“I got up, put my house shoes on, opened the bedroom door and stepped into the hallway,” Donaldson says. “The first thing I saw was the roof fly off of the house, which was an amazing sight. Then, I remember getting hit with a huge gust of wind. I could feel rocks and debris hitting me, and I remember seeing my feet physically coming off the ground. That’s the last thing I really remember.”

Nearly two-and-a-half hours later, Donaldson was found approximately 400 feet from where she last remembers standing. “I was under three good-sized trees that they had to cut off of me,” she says. “Somebody saw my feet, and that led someone with a chainsaw to come and cut the trees off.” After removing the trees, the rescuers used a door to load Donaldson onto a Gator, and they transported her to the emergency room at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, where she had been an administrative assistant for 10 years. “Nobody recognized me,” Donaldson says. “They saw me every day, but they didn’t recognize me. I was so blue from being oxygen deprived. I don’t know how I even made it there.”

Donaldson’s injuries included a broken vertebrae, a shattered left elbow, broken shoulders, 11 broken ribs and a broken left leg. Her brain was also bleeding. During her time at the hospital, Donaldson was cared for and worked on by several physicians. When she arrived, Dr. Clint Loy and Dr. John Coleman, both emergency department physicians, started caring for her. “Dr. Coleman made a splint for my leg out of cardboard, box materials and sticks and boards the night I came in,” Donaldson says. “Supplies were limited due to the tornado, and he was able to find things to substitute. The creativity used that night amazes me.” Dr. Loy and nurses kept Donaldson awake and talking, and it was Dr. Jason Kent, who lives near Dr. Kennedy’s home and saw her at the scene of the accident, who identified Donaldson. Neurosurgeon Dr. Ellen Nichols helped stabilize Donaldson after she arrived, and general surgeon Dr. David Baker fixed her ribs. “He did an amazing job,” Donaldson says. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Derek Miller put her elbow back together and straightened her leg. And Dr. Miller also sent Donaldson to Dr. Todd Twiss, who helped care for a bone growth that eventually came up on her elbow.

Donaldson returned to work at Freeman Hospital West 90 days after the accident. “Most of the doctors who took care of me that night didn’t even think I’d make it, let alone come back to work,” she says. “I can’t believe I am so blessed to even be alive to tell the story. But to be as doing as well as I am—it’s unbelievable.”

 

Kadie Gossett was born with a laundry list of health problems, including having her esophagus connected to her trachaea and her heart on the wrong side of her body. With the help of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and a team of physicians from CoxSouth, the 7-year-old is able to live and love her life.

    At birth, Kadie Gossett seemed like most other newborn babies. But as soon as the nurses handed Kadie to her dad, Luke, she turned blue. When she was only 2 hours old, they flew her to the Barnes Jewish Children’s Hospital in St. Louis for care. Kadie was born with tracheoesophageal fistula, meaning her trachea was connected to her esophagus, and anything she would eat would go into her lungs. And she also had esophageal atresia, which means her esophagus ends in a blind-ended pouch rather than connecting normally to her stomach.

In St. Louis, her team of doctors did a variety of procedures to help fix Kadie up, including making an esophagus that connected to her stomach. Then Kadie developed a cough. “They thought she had pneumonia, so they took an X-ray,” says Jennifer Gossett, Kadie’s mom. This is when they learned Kadie had dextrocardia mirrored, a congenital defect in which the heart is situated on the right side of the body instead of the left and reversed. And this was also when they learned she had scimitar syndrome. “That means that one of my veins is shaped like a scimitar sword,” Kadie says. “It’s a heart and lung defect where her body tries to make up little vessels and arteries in place of the pulmonary vein that’s not hooked up correctly,” Jennifer says. 

This laundry list of problems is among an even larger collection of health issues that has led Kadie to spend a lot of time in hospitals, such as Barnes–Jewish Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Springfield’s CoxHealth. Kadie just turned 7 in May, and she has already lived through 13 surgeries, including having her esophageal atresia fixed, having her tracheoesophageal fistula fixed, fundoplication, three angiograms, angioplasty, having coils put into her right lung, having her aberrant right subclavian artery rerouted and having her esophagus stretched with bronchoscopes and having biopsies. And her list of doctors is almost as long as her list of surgeries. In addition to the team she works with in St. Louis, Kadie’s Springfield doctors, all from CoxHealth, include pediatric pulmonologist Dr. John Carlile, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Alan Tong and pediatrician Dr. Diana Roe. These doctors help keep a check on several of her disorders, as well as her general health.

But despite living with a long list of illnesses that no child should ever have to face, Kadie has a bubbly personality and charming smile that brightens any room she’s in. As she talks about her health problems, she does so with a slight grin, and she never fails to throw in some witty commentary. She’s not nervous to tell you about the feeding tube in her stomach, and she loves sharing information about her longtime boyfriend, Morgan, who she has dated since preschool. She’ll talk forever about how much she loves cooking, and if you’re lucky, she may even tell you about the very special restaurant she plans to open in the future. Kadie is a kid who loves life.

But Jennifer says that Kadie wasn’t always this way. She didn’t talk much for the first years of her life, and her parents taught her sign language to communicate. She signed for years and still can, but now she prefers chatting it up. Much of this is in thanks to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH). When she was 4 years old, CMNH had her start doing public speaking. Now she’s a CMNH Superhero, just one role the bright and cheery 7-year-old mixes in with her cheerleading, baking and public speaking. “She seems to just love everything,” says Jennifer. “She’s such a happy kid.”

 

After visiting the doctor for what his parents thought was a cold, 10-year-old Mack Best was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and learned he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive.

    Before October 2010, Remington “Mack” Best lived a relatively normal life for a 9-year-old. Mack enjoyed school, and he loved passing time by imagining different plots for the book he planned on writing. He was the oldest of three siblings. Almost everything seemed normal about Mack. Everything, at least, except for a small detail his father observed. “I noticed that he had excessive bruising,” says Mack’s dad, Kevin Best. But since Mack was a little boy, they chalked it up to being a normal, active kid.

A few months later, Mack developed what Kevin and Danielle, Mack’s mother, originally thought was a bad cold. Danielle made an appointment for Mack to see his pediatrician. This appointment ended up being a much more important visit than what they had originally planned. “He woke up with his nose bleeding and his lips bleeding, and he had what looked like a rash,” Kevin says. What they thought was a rash was actually petechiae, small red or purple spots on the body caused by minor hemorrhages. Tests determined that Mack’s white and red blood counts were both extremely low, and he was referred to pediatric oncologist Dr. Remi Fasipe at Mercy Hospital. At Mercy, Mack was immediately taken to the pediatric intensive care unit. “He had blood transfusions and was given platelets that day,” Kevin says. The doctors were concerned he could have leukemia or aplastic anemia.

Next, Mack had a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. A day later they learned he had severe aplastic anemia, meaning his bone marrow doesn’t produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells. He needed a bone marrow transplant.

The hunt for Mack’s donor began. His family members were checked. And his siblings, Eli and Rory, matched each other, but they did not match Mack. As they continued the search, Mercy Hospital also tried a course of anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG), a treatment in which Mack was given an infusion of horse-derived antibodies as a suppression therapy. Mack had a decent initial response to the therapy. In the meantime, the nation-wide search for a bone marrow match continued. Mack was given blood every two weeks and platelets once a week.

There were no matches found in the United States. They started searching in Europe. Finally, on March 17, 2011, they found an absolutely perfect match: a 21-year-old male in Germany. Before getting the transplant, they tried another round of ATG to keep transfusions minimal. This wasn’t successful, and it was what Mack says was perhaps the worst part of his experience. “I got a rash everywhere, and I was over-the-top nauseous all the time,” Mack says. Then, he was also diagnosed with dyskeratosis congenita.

In April 2011, the Best family headed to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for Mack’s care and bone marrow transplant. While there, Mack worked mainly with Dr. David Shook, who they called Dr. Dave. “I was given three different kinds of chemo,” Mack says. This was done before the transplant to knock out what was left of his old immune system. On April 28, Mack received his bone marrow transplant, which his father describes as similar to a slower transfusion. “He slept through most of it,” Kevin says.

Mack spent a total of five weeks inpatient at St. Jude, and he spent more than four months in Memphis. But now he’s back to his Strafford home, and he recently had his monthly trips to Memphis lowered to one every two to three months. He also recently returned to school, and his doctors say he is doing well. And while it’s a lot for a 10-year-old boy to go through, Mack has handled it quite well. He spent his time in the hospital working on developing a plot and writing his book, which is about three brothers who discover a magical world. And although it was a hard time for him, Mack says there was one major perk of his time at St. Jude. “I got to meet Miranda Cosgrove and Ariana Grande,” Mack says. “I will never forget that day.”

 

After a lifetime of battling depression, suffering from bipolar disorder and manic spells and even considering suicide, Lisa Nunn tried TMS therapy. It changed her life.

    For many years, life wasn’t enjoyable for Lisa Nunn, Ph.D. It all started when she was diagnosed with depression at age 15. Since then, she’s had an on-and-off relationship with anti-depressants. At age 30, Nunn was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and during the next 10 years, she was hospitalized for a couple of manic episodes. For the most part, there was nothing in life she enjoyed. She didn’t want to do anything, and she didn’t want to go anywhere.

At age 43, Nunn was hospitalized for thoughts of suicide. But she wasn’t ready to try yet another batch of pills. “I knew I needed to be doing something different,” Nunn says. “I had tried pretty much all the different anti-depressants. I was sleeping more than I was awake. I was unwilling to do things. I wanted to isolate myself.”

Shortly after, Nunn got in touch with Dr. H.J. Bains, now of the TMS Center of the Ozarks. First she continued her traditional therapy with Dr. Bains. But then, in 2011, Dr. Bains returned from a conference where he learned about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy, a noninvasive method that uses electromagnetic induction to induce weak electric currents to focused areas of the brain using a rapidly changing magnetic field. A variant of the therapy, repetitive TMS, had been tested as a treatment tool for some neurological and psychiatric disorders, including depression. Nunn decided to give it a try.

Nunn says the treatment involved something that felt like a tapping on the top of her head. “You’ll hear a tone, then tapping, then it will stop,” Nunn says “It’s not painful at all.”

Nunn noticed a difference after her very first session, and her life improved greatly after six weeks of TMS therapy. She went from taking approximately 15 pills a day to taking only three, with some of those being taken only as needed. And much more importantly, she started to enjoy life. “I’m getting up and wanting to do things again,” Nunn says. “I feel like I did when I was a kid. I have so much more joy in my life.”

 

With the help of Dr. Shachar Tauber, an ophthalmologist at Mercy Hospital, John Summey went from being legally blind to having excellent vision.

    Years ago, John Summey was a quick draw competitor. At a 20-foot range, Summey drew and fired in six one-hundreths of a second with 96 percent accuracy. As you can imagine, he had good vision that helped him complete such a task. But this all changed approximately six years ago. “That’s when I first noticed a change in my vision,” says 77-year-old Summey. “I was declared legally blind three years ago.”

If anyone stood within 3 feet of him, Summey could make out their image, but he couldn’t see details other than a color change in their face when they smiled. “It was kind of like looking through the bottom of a glass with a thin film of milk on it,” Summey says.

Soon, Summey met with Dr. Shachar Tauber and learned he had Fuch’s corneal dystrophy, a bilateral disease in which the cells that keep the window of the eye clear start failing. “The specialized cells of the endothelium stop functioning and fail, and then the front of the eye starts to swell,” Dr. Tauber says. “It becomes so swollen that you can’t get light through it.” But Summey felt confident in his care. “Dr. Tauber told me not to worry, that he knew what it was and how to fix it,” Summey says. And that’s exactly what he did.

In 2001, Summey had a cornea transplant done in his affected eye, but by the time his ophthalmologist in Rogers, Arkansas, referred him to Dr. Tauber in 2007, the transplant had worn out. They replaced it with a technique called descemet stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK) that only replaces part of the cornea. Instead of the old corneal transplation technique, which requires 16 to 24 stitches, the DSEK surgery requires no stitches. “Up until the mid-2000s, we had to do it with stitches,” Dr. Tauber says. They revived an old transplant by energizing it with new endothelial cells, which Dr. Tauber says was miracle No. 1. But then, the Fuch’s corneal dystrophy in Summey’s other eye progressed. They fixed it with another partial transplant. Next the original eye with problems started having complications again, caused by astigmatism that was always there. The team at Mercy fixed this with LASIK surgery. “We needed to perform multiple surgeries on him, and I am tremendously impressed with his courage and faith,” Dr. Tauber says.

Today, Summey is 77 with 20/25 vision in one eye and 20/40 vision in the other eye. He’s able to read with one eye and see distance with the other. He even passed his driver’s test, and he’s more than pleased.

“I remember on the way home from the hospital I could actually read road signs for the first time in five years,” Summey says. “It was simply a miracle. I have a 52-year-old son, and he admits that I can now see better than he can.”

 

After Christina Johnson developed a severe case of bilaterial pneumonia, she died twice and spent 60 days in the hospital. Thanks to experimental treatments at CoxSouth, Johnson lived to tell her story.

    Christina Johnson has four children: two teenagers and 7-year-old twins. For these kids, September and October 2009 were perhaps the hardest months of their lives. “The teenagers said goodbye to their mother five to six times,” says Joanne Wade, the children’s grandmother. Johnson was suffering from a severe case of bilateral pneumonia, among other problems that developed later. Her journey to recovery was anything but smooth. In fact, many of her doctors are still surprised that she is alive and well today.

It all started with what Johnson, who is a nurse, thought was a really bad cold. Johnson is from West Plains, and she visited a local emergency room three times within a week in early September. “I thought, ‘I’m not getting over this,’” she says. “I can’t breathe. Something more has to be wrong.” Johnson’s mom and sisters are also nurses. After two rounds of antibiotics and no improvement, Johnson’s mom took her oxygen reading. It was 74 percent. “The least you ever want is 92 percent. If my family hadn’t been in the medical field, I wouldn’t be alive,” Johnson says.

X-rays determined that Johnson had bilateral pneumonia. She was admitted into the hospital and hooked up to oxygen. After the less-than-pleasant results of a test that read her oxygen level, she was put on a ventilator. “That’s when my family asked, per my wishes, for me to be transferred to CoxSouth,” says Johnson, who had once worked at CoxSouth. She remembers nothing after that. They didn’t think she was going to make it.

After a few complications, Johnson was transferred by ambulance to the ICU at CoxSouth. This is when Dr. Stephen Clum saw Johnson. “He told me that she wouldn’t survive the day,” Wade says. Johnson was then put in neurotrauma ICU, bed four. She made it through that first night, which was a miracle in itself, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet. For the next 60 days, she experienced many ups and downs. Johnson’s family was told that she didn’t have any good lung function, and she probably had brain damage. At one point, they even thought she may have no brain function left. Johnson had also developed ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome), which means her lungs were dysfunctional, hard and crispy.

In addition to Dr. Clum, Johnson worked with Dr. Robin Trotman, an infectious disease physician. Because Johnson was so ill, they couldn’t physically turn her body, so she was put on the RotoRest bed by KCI, a rotating bed that turns the body and makes sure fluid never builds up in the lungs. She was also put on a special oscilating ventilator that breathed for her. These were experimental treatments that were given by CoxSouth, and they are responsible for saving Johnson’s life. “They actually coded her twice; she had died twice,” Wade says. “Finally, after 30 days, they told us they were going to back off on the pain and anxiety medications and let her wake up. If she did wake up, they were going to continue treatment. If she didn’t, they were going to donate her organs.” Less than two hours after her medications were lowered, Johnson opened her eyes. They continued treatment. She was told she would never be able to walk or eat on her own again, but eventually, she underwent physical therapy that helped her learn to talk, swallow and walk again. On January 4, she returned to work as a resource nurse at American Home Care.

 

After driving a car 140 miles per hour down West Highway 76, Jonathan Batcheller crashed and wasn’t expected to live. Four years later, he’s playing college baseball.

In 2008 and only one week after he graduated from Ava High School, Jonathan Batcheller did something that almost ended his life. While hanging out with a group of classmates, one of his friend’s girlfriends showed up in her dad’s car, a 2006 Pontiac GTO that featured an LS2 Corvette engine. Batcheller knew he had to drive it. “I gave her $20 for gas so she would let me,” he says. One of Batcheller’s really good friends, Stephen Wallace, agreed to ride with him, but he insisted Batcheller put on his seatbelt. Today, Batcheller says this saved his life.

“We went down the road about a mile, and we got the car up to 140 miles per hour,” Batcheller says. The two were speeding down the hilly, windy West Highway 76. After turning around, Batcheller started driving back to the house, again at an extremely high speed. “I was going up a hill, and there was a slight corner at the top of it,” Batcheller says. “I didn’t know the road that well to be going so fast on it.” Batcheller overcorrected, and the car went off the left side of West Highway 76. It rolled end-over-end against a tree line several times before  it finally came to a rest on its top.

After he was taken to CoxHealth in Springfield, they soon learned that Batcheller had damage at the cellular level, which is something that most people don’t recover from. He had a traumatic brain injury, and he only had a 25 percent chance to live and a 5 percent chance to not be a vegetable. He was in a coma for 15 days. Being cared for by neurosurgeon Dr. Wade Ceola, trauma surgeon Dr. Thomas Moffe, and a team of other experts at CoxHealth, Batcheller was in good hands, but his situation was one from which most people never regain function. His condition was so poor, in fact, that his family started the very difficult discussions about organ donation. And then the next day, he unexpectedly started to follow commands.

At first, Batcheller couldn’t sit up in bed. He couldn’t even speak, let alone swallow, walk or go to the bathroom on his own. “The doctors told me that I would be lucky to walk again without the assistance of a cane,” Batcheller says. But he had four months of out-patient therapy with Dr. Russell Bond, a rehab physician, and he relearned how to use his body. And as if that’s not enough of a miracle in itself, Batcheller is actually back to playing baseball. At 22 years old, he’s now the pitcher for Northwest Arkansas Community College’s baseball team.

 

BobbieJo Brooker survived falling overboard and getting caught up in a boat propeller.

    Labor Day weekend 2011 started out just as any other for 10-year-old BobbieJo Brooker. That Thursday she piled into the car with her family, and they headed to Pomme de Terre Lake to enjoy a long weekend on the water. “We were going to go boating and tubing,” BobbieJo says. But on Saturday, those plans were brought to a screeching halt.

It was an overcast day, and BobbieJo was out on a pontoon boat with some of her family, including her father, William Brooker, her 16-year-old sister, Tracy, and her uncle. At one point in the day, Tracy decided to ride the tube, so there was a lot of stopping and going. “At the same time her dad deaccelerated, BobbieJo stood up to get a pop out of the cooler,” says Jennifer Pearson, BobbieJo’s mom. “She flipped over the front of the pontoon and went under the boat.”

What happened next isn’t something that BobbieJo remembers. “She got caught up in the propeller,” Pearson says. “It cut up her life jacket. It cut her leg to the muscle, and it cut her chest in three different spots. It went through eight ribs and into her lung, which collapsed. It nicked her liver, and it damaged her diaphragm.”

BobbieJo’s dad immediately stopped the boat, lifted the motor and jumped into the water, and her uncle jumped in with him to help untangle her from the propeller. After getting her body free and on the boat, they called an ambulance, which met them at the dock. BobbieJo was rushed to Citizens Memorial Healthcare in Bolivar, where she received two units of blood. BobbieJo’s family lives in Independence, but they flew her to CoxSouth instead, as it was the nearest trauma care. When they arrived at CoxSouth, trauma nurse Jason Martin, trauma surgeon Dr. Valerie Pruitt and a team of professionals got busy saving BobbieJo’s life.

She had a total of six surgeries within nine days to cleanse her many wounds and prevent infection, put her ribs back together and sew her body up. “They had never heard of a survival in that situation,” says Pearson. “You don’t just get caught up in a propeller like that and survive.” But thanks to the quick actions of Dr. Valerie Pruitt, BobbieJo did, and she just finished up occupational therapy a couple of months ago. “She’s not quite at her full strength again, but one day she’ll be there,” says Pearson.

 

By providing state-of-the-art wound care and hyperbaric services, Citizens Memorial Healthcare’s Wound and Hyperbaric Center is one of the most advanced centers of its kind in 417-land.

Dr. Martin Tyson and Dr. Pedram Zendehrouh are the masterminds behind the Citizens Memorial Healthcare Wound and Hyperbaric Center. It specializes in the treatment of a variety of wounds, including ulcers, failed or failing skin grafts and flaps, dehisced surgical wounds, edema and lymphedema, delayed soft tissue radiation injury and trauma wounds and burns, among others. Many of the chronic, non-healing wounds treated here are caused by common health conditions, including diabetes, poor circulation, trauma, vascular disease and immobility.

The wound and hyperbaric center was built based on need; many patients had to drive to Springfield, Joplin or farther to get treatment. By offering high-tech wound treatment as well as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, it is actually one of the most advanced centers of its type in the state. The hyperbaric portion of the center makes it possible to place patients in air-tight chambers and be treated with pure oxygen, which is transported throughout their body. And the doctors say they’ve had much success with both treatments, including preventing amputation.

Learn about common stroke symptoms and what to do if you experience them.

Elderly individuals are much more likely to have strokes than younger individuals, but they’re not the only ones who can suffer from them. A young mother who was a patient at Mercy Hospital had a completely occluded blood vessel to her brain. After seeing her stroke symptoms, the patient’s sister immediately called 911. Luckily, the patient was treated in time to prevent complications. Dr. Robert Cooney of Mercy Springfield says that the quick actions of the patient’s sister are responsible for preventing severe damage. He shared common signs of strokes that individuals should look out for and what to do, commonly referred to as FAST (F-A-S-T): 

F: Face. Asymmetry of the face, which means the drooping of one side of the face

A: Arm. Weakness in the arms or legs

S: Speech. Difficulty speaking

T: Time. If you have any of these symptoms, time is of the essence. You should call 911 and get yourself to the ER immediately.

 

Doug Baldner went from being an active golfer to almost having his leg amputated. But he still has it, thanks to a local doctor.

     For 30 years, Doug Baldner had very few visits to the doctor. Things changed in 2006 when he started experiencing pain in his foot. “I’m a realtor, and I’m on my feet a lot,” Baldner says. “It got to the point where it was so painful I could barely even walk.”

The doctor said Baldner’s pains could be caused by a variety of illnesses, including gout. Medication did nothing, and Baldner’s family doctor referred him to Dr. Randy Mullins of Ferrell Duncan Clinic.

“Doug started out with claudication,” Dr. Mullins says. “That’s pain in the legs while walking due to a lack of arterial blood flow.” Essentially, Baldner had blockage in the arteries of his legs brought on by years of smoking. In March 2007, they performed an atherectomy on Baldner, putting a catheter inside the artery to remove plaque. Initially they had a good result, but in a few weeks, the symptoms returned. This time they tried a femoral tibial bypass. But a few more weeks later, the pain returned again. “He came into the hospital with acute onset left leg pain,” Dr. Mullins says. “It was because of lack of blood flow. The graft had clotted it off due to Doug having a blood clotting disorder. We had about six hours or so to get it reestablished and working.” If they didn’t get the graft open, irreversible muscle damage would have occurred. Baldner’s leg would have been gone.

“We put a catheter into the graft and infused tPA (tissue plasminogen activator, a protein involved in the breakdown of blood clots) to dissolve the clot,” Dr. Mullins says. Today Baldner is doing well. He takes coumadin, a medication that keeps him from forming blood clots. He’s doesn’t have trouble walking, and he’s even back to playing golf. And he gives Dr. Mullins all the credit. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Baldner says.

 

Learn a few facts about food allergies, and what to do if you think your child has had a bad reaction to a new food.

When Jaxon Adams was 7 months old, his mother, Kirsten Adams, gave him a bite of ice cream. “I heard him smacking his lips and I thought, ‘Wow, he must really like that,’ but then I looked at him and his face was completely swollen,” Kirsten says. She took him to the emergency room, and they learned Jaxon was allergic to milk. Six months later, he had a much worse reaction to orange roughy and stopped breathing. When he got to the emergency room, he was pumped with epinephrine and saved, but it was quite a scare for the family. “That’s when we decided we had to figure out what food allergies were all about,” Kirsten says.

They had Jaxon tested and learned he was allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, corn, wheat, soy, poultry, beef and pork. By the time he turned 2, he had outgrown six of those food allergies, but he’s still allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and fish. This presents many challenges for this now 13-year-old.

Dr. Gregory Lux, a board-certified allergist at Mercy Clinic who works with Jaxon, shared a few noteworthy things about food allergies. “An important thing to know is that any food can trigger an allergic reaction,” Lux says. You can become allergic to something after eating it for many years. And it’s important to talk to an allergist. “If you think you have a food allergy, talk to a doctor,” Lux says. “If you do have one, you really need to have epinephrine with you at all times.”

Lux also shares a few things for parents who think or fear that their child may have allergies. “For years, the Academy of Pediatrics said that if food allergies are a common problem, don’t give the kids [the foods you suspect they may be allergic to] until they’re 1 or 2,” Lux says. This isn’t the norm anymore, and children can be introduced to foods at 6 months. Also, there’s a myth that says to withhold from high-risk foods while pregnant. There is no benefit to this.

If the child has eaten something and you think he or she is having a reaction, Dr. Lux says to gauge the reaction accordingly. If the child develops something like hives, administer Benadryl, and wait 10 to 20 minutes to see if the hives go away. If not, head to the hospital. If the child develops more serious reactions than hives, such as a combination of coughing, vomiting, wheezing or other severe symptoms, you should rush to the emergency room. And lastly, if your child does have known allergies, there’s a 50-percent chance that he or she can outgrow it. 

 

Dr. Robert Merritt of Mercy Hospital shares a few common signs of heart attacks, and what to do if you have them.

    Wanda Cole has had four heart attacks, and during the last one, she died three times. Her symptoms included sharp pains on the right side of her head that went to her neck, jaw and chest, among other things.

“Wanda was having a heart attack that’s usually associated with a high risk of arrhythmia—a heart rhythm that doesn’t support blood pressure—and death,” says Dr. Robert Merritt, an interventional cardiologist at Mercy Hospital. “Many patients with this often don’t make it to the hospital.” Once Cole arrived at Mercy Hospital, she had two life-threatening arrhythmias, but they were able to resuscitate her and open the responsible artery with a balloon and a coronary artery stent.

Warning signs for heart attacks can vary between men and women. Dr. Merritt says that women often present with a shortness of breath and a weakness that is hard to relate to one anatomic part. Men more often complain of chest discomfort alone. Mostly, however, signs vary from person to person rather than men versus women. Common warning signs for heart attacks include chest pain, pain radiating into the jaws and arms, sweating, shortness of breath and back and arm discomfort. Dr. Merritt warns that if you’re having something like chest pains and have never had heart symptoms before, don’t take long to decide what to do. For example, if you think it’s indigestion, treat it quickly with an antacid. If the pain doesn’t resolve, know it could be your heart, and act on it. And this means go to the hospital. “Up to 30 percent of patients experiencing their first heart attack die before they reach the hospital,” Dr. Merritt says. “There’s a large discrepancy between recognition and treatment, and many people wait too long.” And it’s better to be safe than sorry, Dr. Merritt says. “It’s okay to have a false alarm, we can usually sort it out quickly.”

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