Utah Man’s Bladder Rebuilt After Cancer Diagnosis

Feb 8, 2019, 5:40 PM | Updated: Feb 10, 2019, 5:35 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Advances in cancer treatment have led to life-saving options in even the worst cases. For a Utah man, a critical organ ravaged by cancer was totally re-engineered to save him.

Tom Ramsey loves life, the outdoors, and adventure, but Ramsey took a journey he’d never imagined.

“My lower back started to hurt,” said Ramsey, who lives in Salt Lake City. It began a year and a half ago. A scan led to a devastating diagnosis. “That’s when they said, ‘Wow, you’ve got the worst tumors we have ever seen. What would you like to do?’”

Dr. Chris Dechet, co-director of the Multidisciplinary Urologic Oncology Group at the Huntsman Cancer Institute said, “Almost 90 percent of his bladder was full of bladder cancer.”

Bladder cancer is one of the top six types of cancer. According to Dechet, 82,000 people are diagnosed with it in the United States every year, and 18,000 people die from it annually. He said that 50 percent of the time it’s caused by smoking.

Ramsey was not a smoker, but he was exposed to second-hand smoke growing up. Genetics and the environment also play a factor in bladder cancer, Dechet said.

After his diagnosis, Ramsey said, “It all happened very fast.”

Doctors needed to remove his bladder. They explained they could build him a new one called a “neobladder.”

Dechet said, “It’s essentially a segment of bowel that we take from the patient’s small intestine and we reconfigure it into a reservoir and hook it down to where the bladder used to be.”

“I was like, ‘Can that really happen? Can you really take my intestine and build me a bladder?’” Ramsey said.

It was a difficult operation that took four to five hours. First, doctors removed the bladder. Then, they took a segment of the small bowel. They created a neobladder, shaping intestine into a sphere that can hold urine. Finally, they stitched it to the urethra.

“They took me apart, basically, and re-plumbed me, and put me back together,” Ramsey said.

The neobladder has been tricky. Tom said he has felt pressure but not urgency, so he has to set a timer to go every four hours.

“We have to get him to kind of retrain his new bladder so that it expands and not over-expands,” Dechet said.

He soon resumed his active life, with no need for external bags or appliances.

“It’s amazing. I’m back to normal,” Ramsey said.

“He’s out skiing and doing all his regular activities again,” Dechet said.

Other than occasional, minor pain, his future looks bright, defying the odds, and maintaining a lifestyle he loves.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


A woman is pushing a patient bed through a hospital hallway....
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Hospitals in the US are the fullest they’ve been throughout the pandemic — but it’s not just COVID-19

(CNN) — Hospitals are more full than they’ve been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. But as respiratory virus season surges across the US, it’s much more than Covid that’s filling beds this year. More than 80% of hospital beds are […]
14 hours ago
Ann and Russell Gleave...
Peter Rosen

Losing weight: Setting the wheels in motion

When it comes to shedding pounds, it’s not just about the patient. It’s usually a family affair.
14 hours ago
2022 FLU SHOT...
Brenda Goodman, CNN

2022 Flu vaccine appears to be a very good match, CDC says

(CNN) — This year’s flu shot appears to be “a very good match” to the circulating strains, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a news briefing Monday. However, she noted that flu vaccinations are lagging behind the pace of previous years. Through the end of October, CDC data showed […]
3 days ago
Ultraprocessed foods, like burgers and fries, could raise your risk for cognitive decline if it's m...
Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Dementia risk may increase if you’re eating these foods, study says

If more than 20% of your daily calorie intake is ultraprocessed foods, however, you may be raising your risk for cognitive decline, a new study found.
4 days ago
Michael Locklear

With so many kids sick, some Utah pharmacies run out of liquid Tylenol, ibuprofen

As parents deal with sick children, some are also facing another challenge. Some common medications can be hard to find, including liquid Tylenol and ibuprofen.
7 days ago
FILE: This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Pre...
AMANDA SEITZ, Associated Press

US plans end to mpox public health emergency in January

The federal government plans to end in January the public health emergency it declared earlier this year after an outbreak of mpox left more than 29,000 people across the U.S. infected.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Utah Man’s Bladder Rebuilt After Cancer Diagnosis