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From Tumor to Toddler: A Montana Man’s Path to Fatherhood

As a newlywed couple trying to have a baby, Derin and Sandra Gebhardt were anxious and worried when they failed to conceive. But Mayo Clinic surgeons provided new hope after successfully removing a tumor near Derin's brain that was the cause of their infertility and the root of his other health problems.

As a newlywed couple trying to have a baby, Derin and Sandra Gebhardt were anxious and worried when they failed to conceive. But Mayo Clinic surgeons provided new hope after successfully removing a tumor near Derin’s brain that was the cause of their infertility and the root of his other health problems.


When
Derin and Sandra Gebhardt got
married in 2016, they were eager to start a family. That dream wasn’t easy to
achieve, however. When they had difficulty getting pregnant, the couple searched
for answers. Sandra wondered if the problem could be rooted in hormones. That
insight led not only to a solution for their infertility, but also to renewed
health for Derin, who had been battling a host of puzzling medical problems.

In his 30s when the couple wed, Derin’s
health had become a growing concern. “I
was not sleeping well,” he says. “I had terribly high blood pressure.
I was 465 pounds.” Although he was eating healthy and exercising, Derin
couldn’t lose weight.

“I just was scared to death that he was going to die.”

Sandra Gebhardt

“I remember talking to my mom, and I was like,
‘There’s something wrong, but we can’t find it,'” Sandra says. “I
just was scared to death that he was going to die.”

It was when Derin and Sandra tried, to not avail, to have a baby, that Sandra began suspecting that a hormone problem could be at work. She was right. A local doctor confirmed Derin had low testosterone. But there was more. The cause of the hormone imbalance was a benign tumor on Derin’s pituitary gland near his brain.

“I kind of had a sense of opening a
new door and not knowing where that’s going to lead,” Derin says. “But
also a little bit of relief to say, ‘OK, it’s not my fault.'”

Treatment began with medication to reduce the size of the tumor. Then Derin traveled to Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where he would undergo surgery to remove the tumor. His Mayo care team confirmed the nature of the tumor and the effect it was having on Derin.

“His hormones were out of whack because of this
tumor pushing on the pituitary gland,” says Bernard
Bendok, M.D.
, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon.

“This particular tumor, called a prolactinoma, produces a hormone called prolactin,” says Devyani Lal, M.D., a Mayo Clinic otorhinolaryngologist. “The function of prolactin is to inhibit fertility.”

“When Sandra told me she was pregnant, it was an answered prayer. It was wonderful when (Gage) was born, and he was healthy.”

Derin Gebhardt

To take out the tumor, a team of Mayo experts from Neurosurgery and Otorhinolaryngology used a minimally invasive procedure that involved two surgeons. Using small instruments inserted through the nostrils, the surgeons successfully removed the entire mass.

After the surgery, Derin’s testosterone and prolactin
levels went back to normal. Less than nine months later, little Gage Gebhardt
arrived six weeks early. “When Sandra told me she was pregnant, it was an answered
prayer,” Derin says. “It was wonderful when he was born, and he was
healthy.

That’s the kind of heartwarming news Dr. Bendok is happy to hear.
“We often think of endpoints in terms of
just the patient’s health,” she says. “But when you also allow a
family to create life together, that is a very meaningful thing.”

Watch this video for more about Derin’s story:


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