John Mitchell was a healthy 48-year-old man. Well, pretty healthy… except for one “little” thing, said his doctor. During a routine physical, John’s blood work showed an elevated PSA number. As it turned out, that one little thing meant prostate cancer, and it would change John’s life forever.
He recounts the phone call like it was yesterday. “Cancer,” the doctor said, and a heat wave came over his entire body. Surgery, radiation therapy and recovery made for a tough journey, but it came and went. What remains with John is a positive attitude, and his passion for reaching out to others facing the same challenge. With the support of his family, community and UNC REX Care team, John found an inner strength he didn’t know he had, and now he is encouraging others to do the same.
With that positive attitude and infectious laugh, John is not only lending encouragement and support to those going through cancer treatment. He is also spreading the word about screening. He works with UNC REX on the Real Men Get Screened campaign to teach others that sometimes those “little” things can not only change your life, but also save it.
At only 29 years old, Kelly Flaviani has learned a lot of valuable life lessons that she otherwise may not have discovered had she not been diagnosed with breast cancer. Listen to her story as she reflects back on the warm, family-friendly care she received at the REX Cancer Center, as well as the progressive approach that she and her doctors took through the latest technology and clinical trials at UNC REX.
We have battled our weight for most of their lives – forever attempting to lose but inevitably just adding more. Ronnie started developing chronic health conditions related to his weight including sleep apnea, hypertension, elevated blood sugars, high cholesterol, and degenerative joints. I had not been diagnosed with any of these chronic conditions associated with obesity yet. But I was already experiencing elevating cholesterol, blood pressures, blood sugars, and achy joints. We knew that the only long-term solution to these conditions was to get the weight off and keep it off.
Since all attempts had been to no avail before, we began to look toward long term tools for weight loss. Bariatric surgery was suggested to us and at first we were leery from hearing all of the horror stories that people love to share. We decided to do our own research into the programs since this seemed the most promising tool that could be offered to us. We reviewed programs across the state and choose Dr. Peter Ng and Dr. Lindsey Sharp with Rex Surgical Associates. That has been the best decision we have made. Their program is superior to any other that we looked at or have heard about. The biggest plus we have seen is the outstanding personal care and support we received from the moment we decided to pursue bariatric surgery and it continues now with Ronnie being two years out. We do not anticipate this personal care will change over the next 20 years as well. The wonderful care and compassion was also experienced throughout the hospital stays.
Ronnie is two years out and I am one year out and between us we have successfully lost 280 pounds! It has changed our lives in ways we never imagined. The health conditions have all resolved. Our energy level is unbelievable. We now run a flight a stairs at the drop of a hat! We no longer have to worry if the seat belt will fit, the chair will be large enough, or if we are going to be the largest people there. We have even acquired a new hobby that would have never been possible before. We both love to ride our motorcycle through the beautiful roads of North Carolina.
We highly recommend this surgical tool to anyone who has struggled losing their weight by traditional means. We do caution that Bariatric surgery is only a tool to weight loss. Permanent weight loss is totally dependent upon a concentrated effort in changing your lifestyle, eating healthy and exercising. But this tool has definitely been a gift of a lifetime for Ronnie and me. We are truly grateful to Dr. Ng and Sharp and the excellent staff at Rex for allowing us to have this tool to give us a second chance at truly living.
Overall, John Kavanagh felt pretty good but in the back of his mind, he knew something wasn’t right. He said, ‘I was getting tired and didn’t feel like doing a lot of things, but I thought that was age.’ He went to REX Heart & Vascular and immediately they found blockages in his heart and arteries. Like many people, he was concerned about having open surgery to repair the blockages. He was greatly surprised and relieved when he was told he had options. ‘I thought it was amazing’, he said.
By implementing the latest in medical advancements, Rex Heart & Vascular Specialists were able to utilize new technologies that meant he didn’t have to have open surgery; this also meant he wouldn’t have any scarring on his neck or have a long recovery from open surgery. Two separate procedures had been performed with minimal recovery time. As John says, ‘The procedures were flawless and the care was outstanding.’
After the procedures, he began a regular exercise program at REX Wellness Center and feels like he has regained his strength and more stamina. Earlier in his life, he and his wife had traveled quite a bit. Since his medical treatments, John said, ‘I feel so much better and now my wife and I are going to start to travel again.’
My journey began on Dec. 24. 2012. I was getting ready for work (I am a nurse working nightshift). While I was getting ready I saw my “TRUE” reflection in the mirror for the first time in a long time. This was something I had not paid any attention to for years, but something was different this night. I saw the truth staring back at me and it was a jolt to reality. I was going to turn 50 next June and I knew my metabolism was going to take another hit.
I was extremely overweight and very unhealthy as well. I had been diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic in 2010 and was on medication to control it. Instead of seeing improvement in my HgbA1C numbers they kept creeping up. I was the reason for this. I started off taking my medication as prescribed and following the diet recommendations set forth by the nutritionist at my Primary doctor’s office, but then I found myself slipping back into my old ways of eating and “thinking.” I would be the one that would stop and get 4 cupcakes on my way home, all the while rationalizing that I can eat this and just take my medication to cover it. My mind controlled what my body did. I started eating the wrong foods again, using food as a means of comfort. I turned to food for everything. Whether I was stressed, sad, happy or just plain bored, food was there as my constant companion. I was in a constant state of what I now know is called “mindless eating.”
I slowly gained up to 285 lbs and continued to buy clothing one size larger without batting an eye. It was the norm for me. My highest clothing size was a tight 24. No one around me ever said anything about my weight gain as it was gradual, but once I made my decision to do something about it for good, I started hearing the support for the journey I was about to embark on. My family always supported me no matter what, but they were quietly concerned as they watched me gain over 100 lbs and saw my unhappiness rise. When I discussed with them that I had decided to seek out information on Weight loss surgery through Rex Surgical Specialists, they were so excited for me.
I signed up for the first information seminar I could get into on Jan 8, 2013 and I was on my way. As I listened to Dr Sharp and Dr Ng discussed the different options, I knew, based on the amount of weight I needed to lose that Gastric Bypass was the route for me. I also knew I that I was going to be their “Poster Child” for compliance and told them so at my first Doctor visit. I was so motivated for the first time in my life. It’s hard to explain, but I was finally doing this for ME. Not some “event” I was planning on attending for someone else, but for ME! I also knew that the surgery was not the Be All to End All. It was only a tool to help me in my weight loss journey. I still had to put in the time and effort and all the hard work to make it successful. I knew this was a lifetime change decision, and for the first time in my life…I was READY!
I attended all the nutrition classes, preoperative support groups, counseling sessions and required procedures needed for my upcoming surgery. I was prepared both mentally and physically. This is what impressed me the most about Rex Surgical Specialists. Even though they have a very busy practice, they make you feel as if you are the only patient they have. The time and attention they give to ensure you have a successful outcome is beyond amazing. They are gifted individuals whom I consider my extended family. I took every piece of advice and ran with it…literally. I decided that while I was preparing for my surgery I needed to get my exercise level up to speed so that I could carry on into the post-operative phase. I started walking (hard as it was in the beginning) a little at a time. I would advance my sessions each time. Do a little more. I would pick something to focus on in my route and say to myself, I can make it to that fence post, or next big rock. And each time I would progress a little further.
I started to read Jeff Galloway’s book on introduction to running. I followed his advice and training and still do. It made the transition from walking to running easy for me. I love to run and found this was the best form of exercise for me. On my day of surgery I had already lost 32 lbs and was so motivated to keep it going. Through the nutritional classes, my eating habits had changed for the better. I felt completely different on the inside, both mentally and physically. I was ready to see what was in store on the other side for me. My recovery time from surgery was a breeze. They instilled that the healthier you are going into surgery, the easier the recovery. I was all about getting up and moving on. It started in the hospital soon after the surgery, as I was walking the halls as often as they would let me. I had no issues with my fluid/food intake in the days and months that followed because I followed their instructions to a “T”. I did not want to rush the eating part because food was not the important factor here. I was!
I was in control for the first time in my life and it is paying off each and every day. My Type 2 Diabetes disappeared and medication was a thing of the past. All my lab levels were headed in the right direction and for the first time in my life I literally FELT healthy! I ran my first race in October 2013, the Color Me Rad 5K. It was awesome! The best experience of my life to date. The sense of accomplishment that I had compared to no other! I knew from there it was on to more adventures. I am signed up to do the Disney Princess Half Marathon and I cannot wait for that! This life changing experience has made me the person I am today. The person with a future full of wonder and excitement. I strive to help anyone I come in contact with who is looking for encouragement and motivation in their weight loss struggles. I can literally say “I have been there and done that” and so can you!
Having your first child brings a great deal of both excitement and anxiety. When my first child, Jay, was born, I experienced all of that excitement, coupled with a healthy dose of nervousness. I spent a lot of time wondering “What will this be like?” He arrived after a normal pregnancy and normal delivery – a big 10 pound 4 oz bundle of joy. I tried nursing him throughout his first day of life, but wasn’t having much success. Being a first time mom, I didn’t know how much of our struggle to attribute to me not knowing what I was doing as a first-time mom.
That afternoon, we asked for assistance from a lactation consultant, and Moira Griffin came to our rescue. She was so comforting and reassuring, and immediately made me feel less anxious about our unsuccessful attempts at breastfeeding. But while she was working with us, she noticed some subtle cues that something wasn’t right with baby Jay. His nostrils were flaring, and he seemed to be working really hard to breathe while nursing. She very calmly decided that he needed a pulse oximetry screen – a simple, non-invasive test that measures the level of oxygenation in the blood. She took him to the nursery and pretty quickly realized that his oxygen saturations were well below normal. He was taken to the Rex Special Care Nursery where he could get additional care. She followed him all the way there, making notes of who would be caring for him in the nursery and what I might expect. And perhaps most importantly for me, she came back and spent time with me to ensure I understood all that was happening.
After additional testing, we learned that Jay had a congenital heart defect, coarctation of the aorta. The main vessel that takes oxygenated blood to the body was constricted and he wasn’t getting the oxygen that he needed. He was transferred via Life Flight to a children’s hospital with a special cardiac unit and underwent heart surgery when he was a mere 5 days old.
I absolutely credit Moira for saving his life. She was not only attentive to those subtle cues that something was wrong, but she felt empowered to act on her concerns. She noticed the small signs and her quick action to investigate further made for a huge change in his outcome. Had he gone home with an undiagnosed heart defect, he might not be with us today.
It’s so scary as a new parent to learn that your child has a heart defect. But the care that we got from the moment Moira realized there could be a problem through the transfer of care to a specialized children’s cardiac center was incredibly smooth. Everyone was absolutely focused on keeping us as parents involved and informed about his care. I am so grateful that we can look back now, years later, and see a beautiful, perfectly healthy outcome.
Post by Cheryl Wheelock. Cheryl is a wellness instructor at Rex Wellness Center of Knightdale. She teaches Sunrise Stretch, Aqua Yoga, Low Impact, Cycle and H20 Fitness.
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Of all the medical specialties, emergency medicine may be the most demanding. Emergency physicians work any time of the day or night. In a single shift, they may see dozens of patients in a hospital emergency department. And while other specialists are expert in one field of medicine, emergency physicians are highly trained to treat all manner of diseases and injuries. Read more…
Triangle Redskins fans’ worst nightmare has come true. After watching Robert Griffin III (RGIII) leave the field on Sunday, speculations regarding the extent of his knee injury have been confirmed. Redskins’ team physician, Dr. James Andrews, reports that RGIII has torn his LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) and his ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). Tests regarding the integrity of his previously repaired ACL were inconclusive until now. Read more…
The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for the professional consultation of a physician or qualified healthcare provider. If you have specific questions or concerns regarding a health or medical condition, please contact your physician or appropriately licensed health care professional.