Patient Stories

Pat, a real patient.


Age: 69

Family: Married for 41 years with a son and granddaughter

Career: Collegiate athletics and YMCA

Medical History: Heart attack, kidney disease

Treatment History: Medication for symptoms, heart and kidney medications, kidney removal surgery, hospitalization for fluid retention

Pat's Journey:

“My doctors kept chiding me to lose weight and exercise. I couldn't convince them that I WAS trying to eat healthy and exercise. Finally, my doctor agreed to hospitalize me and pursue all avenues to find out what was wrong with me.”

Pat was always active, an athlete, and very involved in sports. He even decided to make athletics his career, working with different programs at the University of Cincinnati and the YMCA. He considered himself to be a gregarious, outgoing person for most of his life.

About 15 years ago, Pat's health and behavior began to change for no apparent reason. He noticed he was suddenly gaining weight, although his eating and exercise habits had not changed. He experienced mood swings and lost interest in social events, which was very unlike him. His usual active, upbeat lifestyle began to deteriorate as he struggled with several serious health issues, including kidney disease, a heart attack, and excess fluid retention, resulting in multiple hospital stays. Pat's life took a drastic turn when he eventually required the use of a walker to get around, forcing him to leave his job and collect disability.

During one of his many cardiologist visits, Pat was frustrated to see that he had gained weight since his last visit. Hearing this news was the last straw. Concerned for his health, he broke down to his doctor. Agreeing with Pat's concerns, the doctor recommended that Pat be hospitalized until all possibilities causing his current state had been evaluated.

While he was in the hospital, an endocrinologist recognized Pat's symptoms, evaluated him, and diagnosed him with Cushing syndrome. Shockingly, the doctor also warned Pat that his condition could be life-threatening if left untreated. For years, Pat unknowingly had hypercortisolism. Could this have been the underlying cause of his heart attack and kidney disease? With his diagnosis confirmed, Pat is now working with his endocrinologist to find the best course of treatment.

"I continued to live and battle with this disease—which took 15 years to diagnose. My advice to others perhaps suffering from a severe illness is this: Be relentless in seeking medical attention. Be an aggressive self-advocate in pursuing the doctors who will listen to you and who have the willingness to look again at your symptoms. Keep on top of your symptoms by documenting them. You can then show the list to your doctor at your next visit."

– Pat