Woman Beats Medical Odds

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 2, 2010 | Go to article overview

Woman Beats Medical Odds


Byline: Elisabeth Mistretta emistretta@dailyherald.com

When Mary Cipolla, age 89, stepped into Loyola University Hospital with jaundice, weight loss and a tumor near her pancreas, Dr. Gerard Aranha knew he had a choice.

He could perform one of the most extensive operations in surgery, known as the Whipple procedure. The operation would treat Cipolla's cancer by removing parts of four organs to reconstruct her digestive tract. The Roselle woman would be the oldest of Aranha's almost 400 surgery patients.

Or he could deem the operation too risky due to her age and let Cipolla's cancer win.

"The rule of surgery is simple: The risks must never outweigh the benefits," Aranha said. "We use physiological age and not chronological age, and Mary passed all her cardiac and pulmonary tests.

"Even at 89, she was traveling to New York by herself, and she was living the life of somebody much younger," he said.

Not much has changed almost 11 years later, as Cipolla celebrated her 100th birthday Friday. And on Sunday, about 50 friends and family celebrated near the Roselle townhouse she shares with her 83-year-old sister, Jean Pipilo.

The centenarian still makes sure to dress up and wear jewelry for visitors and outings. And after almost five decades of working for companies like Andes Candies, Brach's and Turano Bakery in Roselle, she still adores chocolate.

Yes, she uses a walker, stopped driving five years ago and her thoughts occasionally lapse. …

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