The Phenomenal 15: Patient Stories That Inspired Us in 2023
Dec 20, 2023
Sutter Health
Collage of patient photos

By Vitals editorial staff

Evan Hines is a piano prodigy who can play a song after just hearing it just once. But one morning, he woke up and couldn’t play at all. He was taken to the Sutter Children’s Center, where a physician specialist diagnosed him with a rare virus. After eight days of treatment, Evan was back playing the piano.

For healthcare providers, that is music to their ears. Doctors and nurses often cite the reason they got into the healthcare field was to help others and even save lives.

Here are 15 of Northern California “medical miracles” from 2023 that will send goosebumps down the spine. Click on the headings to read the stories and view photos and videos. And return often to Vitals in 2024 for more inspiring patient stories.

1. Gabby gets a new kidney from a family member who isn’t even related to her

A Hispanic woman in her late 20s sits up in a hospital bed wearing a hospital gown. She is smiling and is wearing black glasses. Her hair is in two braids.

Gabby Rojas smiles post kidney transplant at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center.

2. Little Graison needed surgery, but what he really wanted was a hug

A young Caucasian boy sits in a hospital bed playing with Play-Doh and various Play-Doh molds

Graison Corbell sits in a hospital bed at inside the Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento Children’s Center playing with Play-Doh.

3. Shaniya was part of a 2023 trend: Millennials having more heart attacks

Portrait of patient Shaniya Peterson

Shaniya Peterson was just 30 years old when she had a heart attack.

4. Leticia lost both legs, but it couldn’t keep her from dancing

Dr. Mahazarin Ginwalla with Leticia Boykin-Owens

Dr. Mahazarin Ginwalla with Leticia Boykin-Owens.

5. Mick’s been living with a new heart for 30 years and says it’s more than Irish luck

CEO, patient and doc with heart certificate.

Mick Doughty is flanked by Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento CEO Rachael McKinney and Dr. David Roberts, medical director of the Sutter Heart and Vascular Institute.

6. Mother and son battle cancer together and get comforting assistance to help their healing

A split picture of Shawna Majerus and Elec Majerus on their separate cancer battles.

Shawna Majerus and son Elec on their separate cancer battles.

7. Modesto family finds a new ‘home’ at an unlikely place: An infusion center

Four adults pose for picture while at social event honoring new clinic space

Shelly Andersen, right, celebrates the new Infusion Center at an after-hours reception with the Whitecottons, from left, Tom, Scotty and Kim.

8. He died on the battlefield, but miracle survivals continue for Vic

Vic Patkowski as Vietnam soldier and a plaque with the bullet that pierced his heart and lungs

The bullet that was removed from Vic Patkowski pierced his heart and lungs. He was miraculously brought back to life by a military doctor.

9. Heart transplant recipient Ted to honor donor as he walks in Rose Parade

A group of former patients and surgeons gather together for a picture with roses.

Dr. Ranjan Ray, left, Leslie Barratt, heart transplant patient Ted Jung, Nancy Jung and Dr. Brett Sheridan at Sutter’s CPMC.

10. ICU room is turned into wedding chapel for Ed and Lucy

Ed and Lucy Dugan were married in Sutter Eden Medical Center's ICU.

Ed and Lucy Dugan were married in Sutter Eden Medical Center’s ICU.

11. Born as micro-preemies, NICU miracle babies Loriellen and Jilyn celebrate 40th birthdays

Two women open presents

Loriellen and Jilyn were both born just over 1 pound. They celebrated their 40th birthdays at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.

12. As Pamela battles multiple sclerosis, she advocates for more research and clinical trials

Pamela Swint at the Sutter Research Symposium

Patient Pamela Swint spoke at the 2023 Sutter Research Symposium.

13. How a phone call from a mammogram scheduler helped save Malaka’s life

Malaka Thompson photographed with her family

Malaka Thompson, right, with her family. A persistent scheduler got Malaka the mammogram that caught her breast cancer.

14. After throat cancer, CT scan reveals a “spot,” leading to life-saving surgery for Stefan

Caucasian male holding up a fish he caught on a boat deck

Stefan Walczak got a chest CT after surviving throat cancer, and it revealed a cancerous spot on his lung, which was caught early.

15. Piano prodigy Evan gets his chops back after forgetting how to play

Teen plays a portable keyboard in a hospital room.

Piano prodigy Evan Hines, 15, was taken to the Sutter Children’s Center in Sacramento after entirely forgetting how to play the piano. His diagnosis was rare and life-threatening. After eight days in a pediatric ICU room, he was well enough to play for his care team.



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