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Patient Stories

Cancer Care
Tom Sinton: On the road again

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: 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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Reyne Mitchell: Positive long-term benefits

Reyne Mitchell: Positive long-term benefits

Oncoplastic breast surgery is a compassionate and innovative approach to breast cancer that considers the whole woman, beyond the cancer diagnosis, with an eye to her total well-being and long-term recovery. Reyne Mitchell, 57, of South Fayette, had oncoplastic surgery in January 2019 and she is grateful that her St. Clair Hospital physicians were always cognizant of the broader, lifelong impact of her experience. “I just wanted the cancer to be gone,” she says. “Thankfully, my doctors were looking at the big picture and wanted more for me. They wanted to give me an outcome that would truly put the cancer behind me in a more complete way. They didn’t simply treat me, they healed me because they saw me as a person, with life ahead of me.”

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Stacy Carr: Staying positive

Stacy Carr: Staying positive

Grace is one of those qualities that is difficult to define, yet we know it when we see it. It can mean many things, including elegance, dignity and poise. Some people simply personify grace, and Stacy Carr is one of those people.

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John Hvizda: Back on the farm

John Hvizda: Back on the farm

One day not long after John Hvizda, 72, of Waynesburg, Greene County, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a neighbor pulled up to his house unexpectedly. Jesse wasn’t a close friend, but more of an acquaintance, and John invited him in, wondering what this visit was about. It was about cancer: Jesse had heard about John’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer and he thought he might be of some help. Jesse himself was recovering from the same cancer and had undergone the exact procedure and treatment that John was facing. John says that Jesse told him what to expect and gave him pointers about how to manage his recovery. It was, John says, enormously reassuring to hear from someone who could speak from experience, and he is grateful that Jesse took the initiative to approach him.

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Cardiac Care
Henry Barr: A life-changing difference

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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Barbara Wilson: Cancer Survivor and Cardiac Patient

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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John Lieberman: A superhero makes a comeback

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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Josephine Schultz: Mending a kind heart

Josephine Schultz: Mending a kind heart

Compassion and kindness flow freely from the heart of Josephine “Josie” Schultz. She is an active 83-year-old retiree who keeps busy caring for her husband Thomas, her expanding family, and her community. Her volunteer activities are never-ending: she volunteers with Thomas at the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carnegie twice a week and has been doing so for 18 years. She helps run the bingo program at the senior living community where she and Thomas live. She is a member of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Christian Mothers chapter and helps out with the annual Lenten Fish Fry. Wherever there is a need in her community, Josie is likely to be there, eager to help. In 2002, she retired from a longtime job with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, but she never slowed down.

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Kathy Reveille: Out and about, again

Kathy Reveille: Out and about, again

Kathryn (Kathy) Reveille, 64, of Baldwin Township, has been looking forward to the warm weather of spring, so she will finally be able to take her two dogs, Ollie and Barney, for a walk. It’s been a long time since she was able to do that, but thanks to a life-changing procedure performed at St. Clair in February, she can look forward with confidence to a renewed, healthier way of life.

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Critical Care
Michael Bayens: The fight of his life

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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Scott Marshall: Family Matters

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: 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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Mental Health Care
John: Overcoming severe depression

John: Overcoming severe depression

For John, mornings used to begin with the cheery sounds of his little daughter awakening and bounding down the hall to greet the day and her parents. It was a daily, joyful ritual that gave each day an upbeat beginning, and John looked forward to it. But when he began falling into a deep depression, and his days became dark and difficult, those sounds took on a different meaning and he found himself dreading them. Another day meant facing more pain and anguish, trying to function, and feeling hopeless.

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Jane: Treating bipolar depression with ECT.

Jane: Treating bipolar depression with ECT.

Hollywood has given the world a false and frightening image of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), once known as shock treatments, in movies such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Snake Pit.” These inaccurate depictions, says St. Clair Hospital psychiatrist Kenneth von der Porten, M.D., have done a disservice to psychiatric treatment and to patients who may benefit from ECT.

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Family Birth Center Pre- and Postnatal Care
Michal Roup: Things can get complicated

Michal Roup: Things can get complicated

Michal Roup had been planning her pregnancy for five years. She was on medication for bipolar depression, and she wanted to be sure she could have a pregnancy that would be safe for her and her baby.

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Heather McNamara: A delicate situation

Heather McNamara: A delicate situation

Heather and Ryan McNamara already had two beautiful girls — Ellie who was four and Abby who was two. Both children were born at St. Clair Hospital, and both times, labor and delivery were normal. When Heather became pregnant with a third child, the couple was excited. The new baby was going to be a little boy. They decided to name him Patrick.

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Jennifer Boal: A challenging three days

Jennifer Boal: A challenging three days

When Jennifer “Jenn” Boal wanted to have a second child, she knew exactly who she wanted her doctor to be and where she wanted to deliver. Jenn and her husband, Ryan, had had their first child, Conner, with St. Clair Hospital OB/GYN Paul M. Zubritzky, M.D. The Mt. Lebanon couple had struggled with fertility and Dr. Zubritzky had helped them conceive through medication. “You’re not just a patient with Dr. Zubritzky. You’re like part of his family,” says Jenn. “He listens to what you have to say. His medical knowledge and skill give you the confidence you need as a patient struggling with a medical issue.”

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Urologic Care
Tom Ferrante: Enjoying every single day

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

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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