Hear From Our Patients

We can tell you all the wonderful reasons you should come to University Health System. But the best way to know if University Health System is the right place for you is to hear from our patients. People just like you share inspiring personal stories of hope and healing.


Cooper – Liver Cancer Survivor

Cooper, a liver cancer survivor, sitting on a tractorWhen Cooper's parents found out their son had liver cancer, they worried about his future. Watch his story.

Paige – Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program (AYA)

PaigeAt just 17 years old Paige was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma or ALCL. Four years later, she’s feeling better than she ever has, thanks to the only adolescent and young adult cancer program in South Texas. Learn her story.

Valeria Garcia – Liver Tumor Survivor

Valeria Garcia Despite being active in sports, 13-year-old Valeria had been noticing her stomach getting larger. When the pain became so intense and unbearable, she texted her mom to come get her. Turns out, she had a five-pound tumor in her ovary. She had surgery at another hospital to have the tumor removed, but when she went home to recover, "the worst" was just beginning. Watch her story.

Larry Price – Cancer Survivor

Mark Akerman - Brain Aneurysm SurvivorUniversity Hospital is often the place where officers are brought after being injured in the line of duty. San Antonio Police Officer Larry Price's journey back to health, after having most of his esophagus surgically removed due to cancer, is inspiring. Learn his story.

Drew Rice – Ewing’s Sarcoma Survivor

Drew on the pitcher's mound.Six-year-old Drew was in the backyard jumping on the trampoline when he injured his knee. What his parents thought was just a minor injury turned out to be the "unthinkable." A cancer tumor had been "hiding" behind his knee. And it was bad – Ewing's sarcoma, a very rare form of bone cancer. Learn his story.

Damon Billeck – Osteosarcoma

Damon Billeck - Cancer SurvivorEleven-year-old Damon might not be an expert on osteosarcoma, but he’s become a professional at beating the odds. A rare bone cancer rapidly developed in Damon’s arm. His parents couldn’t believe the words they heard from an orthopedic surgeon in Austin: “amputation or he’ll die.” Hoping for another option, Damon’s family found the world-renowned UT Health San Antonio pediatric oncologists at University Hospital’s South Texas Pediatric Blood & Cancer Center. There, they received the reassuring advice to hang on to hope. Doctors went to work to not only save Damon’s life, but also his arm. Watch his story.


John – Type 2 Diabetes

John, a Unviersity Health System patient, leaning on table and smilingJohn had developed heart disease from his Type 2 diabetes. With the help of our Fitness Center, John lost 67 pounds and is now living medication-free. Watch his story.

Heart & Vascular

Laurel – Heart Defect Survivor: Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)

Laurel smiling and holding a toy cupMinutes after her birth, Laurel was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart defect known as transposition of the great arteries (TGA). The blood vessels taking blood away from her heart were in the wrong place. Laurel’s delivery hospital wasn’t equipped to handle the complexities of her case, and her little heart needed surgery – fast. Watch her story.

A'Vayah Creighton – Congenital Heart Defect Survivor

A'Vayah Creighton - Congenital Heart DefectOne hundred and fifty miles away from San Antonio, Asha was expecting her first baby. At 28 weeks, she got the news – her baby had a serious heart defect. As her due date got closer, she was sent to a larger hospital in San Antonio, where she delivered her baby. But doctors discovered A’Vayah’s heart conditions were much worse than expected. “We need to send you to University Hospital,” they told her. With only a 30 percent chance for her baby’s survival, Asha put her trust and faith in a group of specialists she had just met. Watch her story.

Jennifer Cardenas – Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

Jennifer Cardenas kicks a soccer ball with her mom and sisterJennifer Cardenas was 27 and expecting her first child when her heart began beating out of control. It was atrial fibrillation – Afib – a condition where the heart’s natural rhythms spin wildly out of sync. It was a scary episode that returned during her second pregnancy and took over her life. The slightest thing could set off her irregular heart beat. A doorbell. A dropped dish. A barking dog. Watch her story.

Dr. Kristen Plastino – Heart Attack Survivor

Kristen Plastino with her sonDoctor, wife, and mother of four, Kristen is used to caring for others. But in February 2011, a massive heart attack left her needing lifesaving care. Now, thanks to the quick action at University Hospital, she’s back to doing all the things she loves. Watch her story.

Gilbert Hernandez III – Pulmonary Valve Replacement Survivor

Gilbert Hernandez III reads a books while smilingGilbert had no idea he was making history 22 years ago. He was just 2 days old when Dr. John Calhoon repaired his heart. This complicated procedure had never been performed on such a tiny baby. He was given a 50-50 chance to live. Watch his story.

Gastroenterology/Digestive Disorders

Linda – POEM Procedure

Linda, a Unviersity Health System patient, smilingLinda had a difficult time eating due to achalasia. The POEM procedure changed her life. Now that eating is no longer a chore, she can enjoy every meal. Watch her story.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Alina & Zachar – Prematurity

Alina and Zachary, NICU patients, being heldAlina was born at 1lb. 11oz. and Zachary was born at 1lb. 15oz. Their moms were scared that they weren’t going to make it. After receiving care from our Level IV NICU team, Zachary and Alina are now home with their family. Watch their story.

Amber Zepeda – Extreme Prematurity

Amber ZepedaBorn at only 24 weeks and weighing 1.3 pounds, little Amber Zepeda survived a host of life-threatening medical problems related to extreme prematurity thanks to the advanced care and research available at an academic health center’s Level IV NICU. Watch her story.


Rebecca – Stroke Survivor

Rebecca, a stroke survivorWhen Rebecca Queseda had a devastating stroke, her local doctors in Corpus Christi knew she needed more advanced care and rushed her via helicopter to University Hospital. Learn her story.

Sebastian – Epilepsy Patient

Sebastian preparing to pitch the baseballSebi was only 2 months old when he had his first seizure. At the time, doctors told Sebi’s parents that it was a type of seizure caused by a high fever. Sebi’s parents thought it was a one-time occurrence and that he was in the clear – and for many years, he was. Active and into baseball, Sebi was like any other kid, having fun and enjoying life. But when Sebi was 9, his parents’ worst nightmare came true. He had another seizure. Watch his story.

Anthony Redzierez – Epilepsy Patient

Anthony Redzierez holds a bowling ballSix hours after Anthony Redzierez was born, a massive stroke destroyed the entire right side of his brain. Against all odds, the left side of his brain took over, and Anthony gained the motor control that would let him live a normal life. Then, at age five, he was struck by the first of many grand mal epileptic seizures. Medications controlled the seizures for a while. But after Anthony graduated from high school, the seizures returned with disabling frequency. He was told, “There’s nothing more we can do.” Hear his story.

Dr. Ronald Stewart – Stroke Survivor

Dr. Ronald Stewart - Stroke SurvivorAs a trauma surgeon, Dr. Ronald Stewart never expected to be leading a community-wide effort to build a stroke system. But in 2008, that’s exactly what happened as San Antonio was the only major city in Texas without a stroke center. As chair of STRAC, the region’s advisory council on emergency care, he found himself partnered with community advocate Suzanne Hildebrand to make the case - this community deserved best-in-class stroke care. At one point Dr. Stewart told a room full of doctors and hospital leaders: "You know what? I have atrial fibrillation. I could have a stroke and need you guys someday."  In 2011, he did. Watch his story.

Lourdes Lopez – Spine Cyst Survivor

Lourdes Lopez - Neurology PatientA very rare cyst in Lourdes’ spine was causing her so much pain, she began to pray she would die. She was unable to walk and did not know what to do or where to turn for treatment. Luckily, Lourdes’ daughter brought her to University Hospital. Watch her story.

Mark Ackerman – Brain Aneurysm Survivor

Mark Akerman - Brain Aneurysm SurvivorAfter his brain aneurysm, Mark was worried he would never be able to play the oboe again. Thanks to the excellent care he received at University Hospital and the Reeves Rehabilitation Center, his music sounds better than ever. Watch his story.

Reeves Rehabilitation Center

Jane Swanson – Shooting Survivor

Jane Swanson - 2007 Medical Miracles GalaJane was critically injured in a tragic workplace shooting. Jane was flown to the trauma center at University Hospital. She remained in critical condition in the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit for a month, then spent another month in the Reeves Rehabilitation Center at University Hospital. When Jane left the hospital two months after the shooting, she promised to educate the community about the importance of supporting University Hospital's Level I trauma program. Learn her story.

Angela – Stroke Survivor

Angela a stroke survivorWhile on her way to work one morning, Angela had a stroke. Angela was able to start her recovery as part of the Reeves Rehabilitation Outpatient Brain Injury Day Program. Just eight months later, she was back to an active lifestyle.

Angela graduated from the program and has volunteered at University Hospital, giving back to the program that gave her so much. Learn more about our Rehabilitation Services.

Albert – Motorcycle Crash Survivor

Albert- motorcycle crash survivorAlbert was hit by two cars while riding his motorcycle. He suffered many traumatic injuries, including the loss of his right arm. He was in a coma for two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital and then transferred to the Reeves Rehabilitation Inpatient Unit to begin his long road to recovery.

Once Albert went home from the hospital, he started the Outpatient Brain Injury Day Program. He graduated less than a year later. Just five years later, he graduated again; this time with his Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Learn more about our Rehabilitation Services.

Stephanie – Horseback Riding Accident Survivor

Stephanie- horseback riding accident survivorStephanie, a high school German teacher, was badly injured in a horseback riding accident. After three surgeries and several weeks in Intensive Care at University Hospital, Stephanie began treatment in the Reeves Rehabilitation Inpatient Unit. She continued her therapy in the Outpatient Brain Injury Day Program.

Her recovery was remarkable. Thanks to her hard work and motivated therapists, Stephanie returned to teaching and completed her first full year back in the classroom just two years after her accident. Learn more about our Rehabilitation Services.


Janet Wannamaker & Sonja Reeves – Living Donor Liver Transplant Recipient & Donor

JanetJanet Wannamaker hadn’t felt well for years and the extreme fatigue along with other symptoms only got worse over time. She eventually sought medical attention, but no one could figure out the root of the problem. Finally, a friend suggested that she get a consult with one of the doctors practicing at the Transplant Center at University Hospital. Janet was told she needed a liver transplant. In a gesture of great significance, her friend’s daughter Sonja Reeves volunteered to donate a small part of her healthy liver to Janet through our Living Donor Liver Transplant Program. Learn more about Janet’s Journey.

Jeremy – Living Liver Transplant Recipient

Jeremy and his his father walking with thier bikesAs a teenager, the only things that should have been on Jeremy’s mind were doing well in high school, playing sports and spending time with friends. But after increasing fatigue and constant illness, Jeremy was diagnosed with advanced liver disease. Jeremy’s parents, Michael and April, took him to a number of hospitals across the country, and they all offered the same grim news: Jeremy had few options and even less time to get the lifesaving liver transplant he desperately needed. Watch his story.

Sandra Haggray – Living Lung Transplant Recipient

Sandra Haggray belts out a song in front of a microphoneTwenty years ago, Sandra Haggray, a singer with a master’s in vocal performance was singing a hymn on the radio when she began to cough. So started her long battle with life-threatening lung issues. Over the years she went through batteries of tests. No one could find the reason for her lung problems. This talented singer was reduced to living on oxygen 24 hours a day. Watch her story.

Teresa Hendon – Living Liver transplant Recipient

Teresa Hendon prunes roses in her gardenAn active duty army nurse in Germany, Debra found it difficult to complete her work because she was struggling to breathe. In the summer of 2002, she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and doctors gave her just two years to live. Hear her story.

Tammy Miranda & Miranda Bennett - Living Donor Liver Transplant Recipient & Donor

Tammy Miranda & Miranda Bennett"It was very easy to make the decision, because it was the right thing to do. That doesn't mean it wasn't the scariest thing in the world." That's how 26-year-old Miranda Bennett reflects on her decision to donate a portion of her healthy liver to save her dying mother. Her mom Tammy Miranda, who was first diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease in 1996, didn't want her daughter, or anyone, to be a living donor. But in 2014, her disease had progressed to the point where the increased toxins in her blood were causing serious problems, including a loss of brain function. Watch their story.

Debra Aparicio – Pulmonary Fibrosis Survivor

Debra Aparicio - Lung transplant patientAn active duty army nurse in Germany, Debra found it difficult to complete her work because she was struggling to breathe. In the summer of 2002, she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and doctors gave her just two years to live. Watch her story.

Kevin King – Pulmonary Fibrosis Survivor

In the spring of 2008, Kevin was rapidly losing his battle with pulmonary fibrosis and was completely reliant on a portable oxygen tank. Today, Kevin is alive and breathing easier because a generous family allowed their deceased loved one to donate a lung to a complete stranger. Kevin’s story is also a testament to a team of transplant professionals who saw him through the complicated operation and the terrifying touch-and-go days that followed. Watch his story.


Brooke – Dog Attack Survivor

Brooke, Trauma PatientTraumatic events can change our lives and those of our loved ones in an instant. The parents of Brooke Brady were shocked when they received a call from their babysitter informing them that their toddler had been viciously attacked by a dog. Doctors from our Level I Pediatric Trauma Center were there for the Brady family when it mattered most. Learn more about Brooke’s recovery.

Monica – Car Crash Survivor

Monica and her familyMonica was on her way to work when she was hit by a drunk driver. Monica didn't know what had happened and woke up, finding herself at University Hospital. The Neurosurgery team and Trauma team, with their combined efforts, saved Monica's life. Watch her story. Watch her story.

Addison Arabia – All-terrain Vehicle Accident Survivor

Addison ArabiaWhen an all-terrain vehicle accident crushed Addison Arabia’s leg, a trauma team at University Hospital replaced dying tissue with skin grafts, then helped the 11-year old learn to walk again. As a teenager Addison wanted to give back. She created a club at her high school that continues to bring joy to other injured children. Learn her story.

Caden Arnold – 4-wheeler Accident Survivor

Caden Arnold - 4-wheeler Accident Caden was driving a 4-wheeler on his family’s ranch when he cut a corner too sharply. It flipped and landed on top of him, crushing his leg. AirLIFE flew Caden to University Hospital, where the trauma team immediately went to work to stabilize him. After several surgeries, doctors knew saving Caden’s life meant amputating his leg. Losing a leg would be hard for any 13-year-old boy, especially one who loves sports as much as Caden. “You probably won’t be able to play again,” he was told. But Caden likes to prove people wrong – and that’s exactly what he’s doing. Watch his story.

Jonathan Esquivel – Car Crash Survivor

Jonathan Esquivel - Trauma SurvivorWhile working a collision on Loop 410, San Antonio officer Jonathan Esquivel was struck by a distracted driver. The impact caused extensive injuries, including a broken neck, shattered pelvis, crushed ankle, ruptured bladder, and some brain damage. Through years of hard work and recovery, he hopes to return to duty one day and possibly run a marathon. Watch his story.

Leana Mendoza – Car Crash Survivor

Leana Mendoza - Pediatric Trauma PateintSix-year-old Leana Mendoza and her family couldn't have imagined a trip to the circus would result in Leana being airlifted to University Hospital to fight the greatest battle of her young life. It happened so quickly. They didn’t even see the other car jump the curb and plow into them. The Pediatric Trauma team knew Leana was in critical condition, but they knew what needed to be done to try and save her life. Watch her story.

Abby Jack – Brain Injury Survivor

AbbyJack - Brain Injury SurvivorSix-month-old Abby was buckled in her car seat and on her way to Grandma's house. The last thing Rachel remembers was being stopped at a traffic light. She learned later that a seizure, related to those migraines, had caused her foot to hit the gas and sent her car straight into a large tree. Abby suffered a brain injury, and she spent the next three weeks in a medically induced coma in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital. Watch her story.

Nicholas Velasquez – Car Crash Survivor

Nicholas proved many wrong when he stood on his own and took a first step several months after a car crash when he was six years old. It was a miraculous survival. Today, Nick is back at school, and he's not just walking – he’s running! Watch his story.