Patient Stories

Diabetic since age 16, Brian Seaman longed to be a carefree kid. But when he passed out at work, dizzy and disoriented from low blood sugar, reality caught up with him. Taking insulin every day and monitoring his blood sugar had to be his new normal.
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Photo: Birgit Siceloff, transplant coordinator at NYP/Columbia in 1993 and now at NYP/Weill Cornell; Richard Welti, Sean’s uncle; Chelsea Kunzli Fennelly, Sean’s daughter; Deborah Songailo-Cottrill, Sean’s cousin; Dr. Craig Smith; Sean Kunzli
A congenital heart condition didn’t stand in the way of Sean and his thirst for life and devotion to his family.
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Fibro is short for Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma, a wily and unpredictable disease that behaves differently from any other liver cancer. It’s ultra-rare, with only 200 new cases diagnosed in the world each year, and is devastating for teens and young adults. When Jackson Hendrix was diagnosed as an eighth-grader in 2015, a complex surgery saved his life. Now he wants to study medicine.
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May of 2016 was an exciting time for Tony Rafaniello. Now retired as an assistant principal and basketball coach, Tony and his wife Dale were preparing for a trip to Italy and a cruise around the Isle of Sicily. His mind often drifted to all he would do, see and eat in the weeks ahead. Two days before departure, he woke up with terrible stomach pain. “I was nauseous and throwing up,” Tony says. “My wife’s a nurse at a New Jersey hospital, so we drove there right away.” In the ER, Tony was given some pain medication. Then, suddenly, he passed out. For the next ten days, he was unconscious, breathing with the aid of a ventilator.
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Sylvia George was first diagnosed with advanced localized pancreatic cancer in May of 2017. It started with unexplained back pain, a vague symptom that led Sylvia to make an appointment with her GP. After a CT scan found a spot on her pancreas, the biopsy then confirmed the diagnosis.
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Sick from the age of 4, Daniel had endured 24 operations for Crohn’s disease and recurring hernias, before he found relief thanks to the innovative surgical repairs done by Dr. Yuri Novitsky, director of the Comprehensive Hernia Center. Now in his early 40s, Daniel is making up for lost time.
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Larry Grunfeld was enjoying an active retirement until he was stopped by a large and painful hernia. After minimally invasive surgery pioneered by Dr. Yuri Novitsky, director of the Comprehensive Hernia Center, Larry is back on the golf course and hiking and swimming to his heart’s content.
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Dr. Mark Ginsburg, director of Columbia’s Diaphragm Center and the world’s leading authority on minimally-invasive procedures to restore the function of the phrenic nerve, was able to tighten Charlie’s diaphragm, leaving his lungs more room to expand.
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Thirty-year old Orla Tinsley had already revolutionized care for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) in Ireland when she came to NYP/Columbia for a lung transplant in 2017.
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Since I was a child, I remember my parents bringing me to a series of doctors to try and find out the cause of my relentless abdominal pain. Unfortunately, no doctor could accurately identify the condition that was causing my symptoms, thus prescribing me wrong and unnecessary medications. This situation went on for years.
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