Ray's Story

When Ray Zofcin developed back pain last winter, he assumed it was due to a work-related injury; he’s a foreman in the construction industry, and has known his share of muscle aches. But this felt different, in a vague way, and his usual chiropractic treatment did not ease the pain. As his pain intensified, he saw his primary care physician, Nicolette E. Chiesa, M.D., FACP, who practices with Preferred Primary Care Physicians, Inc. The test she ordered found blood in his urine, so she immediately referred him to urologist Arnold J. Sholder, M.D. of Sholder and Bordeau Urology Associates.

“Dr. Sholder ordered a CT scan and my wife Chris and I went to the St. Clair Outpatient Center at Peters Township to have it done,” Ray says. “But I unexpectedly passed out in the changing room and was transported to St. Clair’s Emergency Room, where they gave me pain medication and completed the CT scan. The result was a complete shock: I had a tumor on my right kidney.”

It turned out to be a complicated tumor. Ray, who is 50 and lives in Carnegie with Chris and their two children, Zachary and Courtney, also had swelling in his legs, and an ultrasound revealed the presence of multiple blood clots. He was admitted to the Hospital and placed on blood thinners, while undergoing a series of scans. The news grew worse: the tumor had spread to a major blood vessel, the inferior vena cava, and was obstructing the flow of blood returning to the heart from the legs, causing the swelling and clots. Ray needed surgery, but first he needed to be in optimum condition and that meant a two-week delay while the clots resolved.

According to Dr. Sholder, “Ray had a large tumor that had invaded the inferior vena cava, so I consulted two St. Clair vascular surgeons, Dr. Samuel Simone and his son and partner, Dr. Thomas Simone. We devised a treatment plan for him and decided to obtain a Mayo Clinic eConsult to confirm that it was the right plan and the best plan. Ray liked the idea of a second opinion. We sent the information to Mayo Clinic and within 24 hours we received a complete, concisely written response that validated our plan. The Mayo Clinic urologist, Dr. Stephen A. Boorjian, agreed with everything that we were going to do.”

The six-hour procedure in early March was a joint effort involving four surgeons: Dr. Sholder and his partner, Kevin Bordeau, M.D., and the two Drs. Simone. It was an intricate operation that removed the entire right kidney and disentangled the tumor from the inferior vena cava. The surgery was performed on a Friday and Ray went home five days later. He is being followed by Vincent E. Reyes, Jr., M.D., an oncologist/ hematologist. “Dr. Reyes says that right now, I am cancer free and there is no need for chemotherapy or radiation. I’ll have scans every few months for several years, to monitor me because there is a risk of recurrence. All my symptoms are gone and I feel great; I have returned to work.

“I had complete trust in my doctors and in St. Clair Hospital, but it was great to get Mayo Clinic’s opinion. It gave me peace of mind when Mayo Clinic experts said that our plan was exactly what they would do. I knew of the reputation of Mayo Clinic, so getting their opinion about my case meant a lot. The process was smooth and efficient.”

“The way the staff of St. Clair treated me, with care and compassion, had a lot to do with my ability to stay positive, and I believe that a positive attitude helps you heal. The nurse at Peters Township who was going to do my CT scan in Peters came to the Hospital to see how I was. That’s the kind of person who works at St. Clair: she didn’t have to do that. All of my doctors — the four surgeons, Dr. Chiesa and my oncologist, Dr. Reyes, were unbelievable. The care was superb. We’re fortunate to have this great Hospital right in our backyard. I would not hesitate to go to St. Clair for anything. Having Mayo Clinic as an added resource makes it even better.”

For Dr. Sholder, the Mayo Clinic eConsult was a highly positive experience. “It’s wonderful to have this asset at St. Clair,” he says. “The process is straightforward and easy; the consult itself is concise and totally on point —not only the clinical portion but the report itself — and it is presented so well.”