Donor Spotlight: Mercedes and George Kurth

Mercedes and George KurthIt's been quite a tour of major medical centers for the Kurths in recent years, covering a stage-four tumor to a double bypass, with a diabetes scare and painful tendonitis thrown in. No wonder they're so cheerful!

At an excellent lunch with Mercedes and George in the busy Thornton Hospital cafeteria, the two couldn't have been more upbeat. The gratitude they feel for the medical professionals across the UC San Diego Health system is based on their absolute certainty that George would not be tucking away a big sandwich today if not for their care here. This is why they've remembered UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center in their estate plans. (Plus, George adds, "The new food service in the UCSD hospitals is really over the top!")

After examining George for shortness of breath in October 2011, his primary doctor in Murrieta discovered that he was bleeding internally. A subsequent test by a gastroenterologist found a tumor in his duodenum, and the specialist referred him outside of his local health system to see Dr. Andrew Lowy, chief of surgical oncology at UC San Diego. Dr. Lowy scheduled surgery immediately following additional tests by the UC San Diego team. "The reason why I ended up at UCSD is because I took charge of the situation," says George, who underwent a complex pancreatoduodenectomy surgery, aka Whipple procedure, and eight rounds of chemotherapy. The stage-four tumor was removed and has not reappeared.

George says, "A month after my initial diagnosis, I got a call from a gastroenterologist in Murrieta who said, 'We have a referral from your doctor. Would you like to schedule an appointment?'" At the time of that call, George was already scheduled for surgery at UC San Diego, and feels that he would not have survived the duodenal cancer if he had waited for the referral.

The Kurths switched health care systems because, as Mercedes says, "When you have a place like UC San Diego, with the best surgeons, such professional people and so kind, I will drive 45 minutes for a doctor's appointment" (which she does for her tendonitis). They moved over to UC San Diego in time for George to take advantage of another world-class UC San Diego facility, when chest pains recently landed him at the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center for a double bypass. "All of our medical care is seamless now," says George.

"We aren't wealthy people," he notes, referring to their estate gift to UC San Diego, "but we're just so grateful to God and to the UCSD team for what these people have done for us. The additional time and life I've been given is why we wanted to give back to UC San Diego."