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Patient Stories

Tom Ferrante: Enjoying every single day

Tom Ferrante, 67, of Bethel Park, and his best friend, John, are former co-workers and golf buddies, with a solid, comfortable friendship that has lasted 40-plus years. When Ferrante learned earlier this year that he had prostate cancer, he turned to John, who had been successfully treated for the exact same type of prostate cancer not long ago. John provided advice and support, and most importantly, a referral to an exceptional surgeon: Kevin P. Bordeau, M.D., a board-certified urologist at St. Clair Hospital.

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Jaicey Stegena: Forever grateful

For her 21st birthday, Jaicey Stegena received the gift of a lifetime – a gift that transformed her body and her life. Since the age of 2, Stegena, now 27, of Munhall, lived with a rare condition called neurogenic bladder, which prevented her from being able to urinate naturally. Stegena did not experience the sensation of a full bladder and could not empty her bladder in the normal way. As a result, she had to be catheterized by her parents several times a day, to remove accumulated urine. Remarkably, Stegena learned to do this by herself at the tender age of 5. Her parents, Jay and Winnie Stegena, wanted their daughter, the last of their four children, to have as much normalcy and independence as possible. Stegena was healthy in every other way, and every bit as active as her siblings. Her mother taught her to perform a procedure known as “clean intermittent catheterization,” inserting a catheter into her bladder several times a day. Stegena became proficient at this, but it was never easy, and she endured years – 19 years, to be exact – of frequent urinary tract infections and prolonged courses of antibiotics.

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Henry Barr: A life-changing difference

Henry Barr, 77, was struggling through the physical therapy sessions that were part of his rehabilitation following a series of complicated leg surgeries. He was not progressing as expected and found himself becoming breathless as he performed the prescribed exercises. “I was short of breath, and I assumed that this was a normal aspect of the intense therapy. I thought it would start to improve as my therapy progressed, but instead it got worse. I thought there might be something wrong with my lungs, so I made an appointment to see a pulmonologist. He found that my lungs were healthy and recommended that I see a cardiologist.”

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Michael Bayens: The fight of his life

Michael “Mike” Bayens has sparred with Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, and he will never forget the power and speed that these two formidable athletes possessed. Bayens, of Dormont, is a former amateur boxer who fought in the Golden Gloves in 2002 and once won a match in 32 seconds. He is also a boxing coach for the Pittsburgh Boxing Club, the founder of the Brookline Boxing Club, and well known among local boxing fans. He loves boxing, has expert knowledge of it, and possesses a rather surprising view of it. “Boxing is an art form — it’s the purest form of the martial arts. It’s actually human chess at its finest. It isn’t just about throwing punches; it’s a problem-solving sport and a thinking man’s game, just as chess is. In boxing and in chess, you have to study your opponent and calculate every move. It’s one-on-one competition.”

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Tom Sinton: On the road again

For Tom Sinton, 45, of South Fayette, the diagnosis of rectal cancer came as a complete surprise. A software developer, Virginia Tech graduate and husband of 19 years to Amanda and the father of three (Nate, 15; Emily, 14; and Luke, 12), Sinton was living a fulfilling life, with work he enjoyed and a thriving family. His cancer journey began with subtle changes in his bowel habits, in the spring of 2019. “It was just a change in frequency, not a big deal at all,” he recalls. “Then I saw blood in August. I had a colonoscopy which revealed a tumor in my colon.”

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Christopher Babirad: Back on patrol

Christopher Babirad, 49, is a strong and athletic man who has served as a Pennsylvania State Trooper for 21 years. A former college football star at Washington and Jefferson College and a father of three (Ryan, 26; Alex 23; and Noah, 18), Babirad lives in McDonald. He is attentive to his health and fitness, so it was a bit out of character for him when he delayed telling his primary care physician, Kamlesh B. Gosai, M.D., that he was passing blood with bowel movements. “At first it was just occasionally, but it became more consistent,” he recalls. “I was worried: I knew it might mean cancer, but I kept looking for other explanations. I did a lot of Internet research – maybe it’s this condition or that one. It was nearly a year before I finally told Dr. Gosai. His physician assistant ordered a colonoscopy and when I woke up in recovery they told me I had a mass the size of a lemon right at the bottom of my colon. The gastroenterologist, Nicholas A. Bellicini, D.O., said it’s most likely cancer and then the pathology confirmed that. This happened last year on Christmas Eve.”

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Barbara Wilson: Cancer Survivor and Cardiac Patient

An alternative way of treating large blood clots in the chest is making it possible for patients to avoid the ordeal of open heart surgery. At St. Clair, Andy C. Kiser, M.D., FACS, FACC, FCCP, Chief of Cardiac Surgery, uses a sophisticated device called an AngioVac to safely remove not only blood clots, but also tumors and infectious material from the heart and blood vessels without major surgery. The minimally invasive new procedure, called aspiration thrombectomy, is an important advance in the treatment of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a serious condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs and pelvis. A clot can become free and travel through the blood vessels to the lungs, where it is known as a pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening situation.

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Scott Marshall: Family Matters

A human voice is like a fingerprint; no two are exactly alike. Voices are so distinct that we can immediately identify others by voice alone. Medical professionals who care for unconscious patients have long believed that these patients can hear sounds in the room, and so they often talk to them while providing care, and encourage families to do the same. Recent research tells us that hearing a familiar voice can actually help a comatose patient awaken and even lead to a faster recovery.

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Jim Kauffman: It Takes a Village

Jim Kauffman, 62, resides in a Mount Washington neighborhood, but he has a village of his very own. He lives there with his wife, Wendy, 55, and their two Great Danes, Diesel and Lexie. Many others — family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow musicians — make up the population of Jim’s personal village, and although they don’t all know each other, they all know Jim and are linked by their great love and affection for him. He’s an easy guy to like — gregarious, energetic, witty and warm.

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John Lieberman: A superhero makes a comeback

For John Lieberman, 84, of Bridgeville, the spring of 2019 was a period of heartbreak, illness and pain. In March, he lost his beloved wife of 64 years, Mary Ann; he developed near-fatal gastrointestinal bleeding; and he struggled with worsening aortic stenosis that left him weak and short of breath. A plumbing contractor who has never quite retired, John could no longer drive, had no appetite and was barely able to walk. He needed help, but his advanced age and a previous open heart procedure meant that he was not a candidate for surgery.

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