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Love + Medicine

Staff practiced Love+Medicine for over three decades of son's care

doctor comforting patient

Born with Down Syndrome and a heart murmur, Matt Tichenor underwent his first heart surgery at just 14 months old. Surgeons repaired leaking heart valves when he was 8 years old and replaced two when he was 25.

Throughout his childhood, Matt suffered repeated bouts of pneumonia, says his father, Larry Tichenor.

"I can't tell you how many times I jumped in the car with him and took him to the Emergency Room and they took care of him," he says. "But today he's doing so awesome."

Matt, now 34 and living in Sparta, is active in the community. He enjoys time with his father in his woodshop, camping and socializing.

"Everyone knows Matt," his father says, laughing.

Each of the Gundersen Health System surgeons, providers, nurses and others who saw Matt through 17 surgeries and hundreds of appointments in his lifetime treated him as a person – not just a patient, Larry says.

"It was almost fun to go to appointments," he says. "They go out of their way to make us feel special."

And each sought a connection with Matt – from the Gundersen doctors who crawled on the floor to play with him in his infancy to those who continue to see Matt for ongoing care related to Down Syndrome, respiratory therapy and possible early onset dementia.

"They take care of him like he is their own child," Larry says. "They go out of their way to make sure that they take care of anything we haven't thought of. It's comprehensive medical care."

Matt is thriving today, Larry says, because of a devoted father and Gundersen staff who care.

"I always tell them, ‘Thank you for keeping him alive,'" Larry says.

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