Nancy Dunlap Gives Back to UPMC for Care She Received

When Nancy Dunlap talks about her late mother, Mary, she describes a woman with a wonderful sense of humor. Mary's motto was to “do what you have to” when the going gets tough.

It’s clear this is a trait that followed suit in Nancy, herself.

It’s in memory of her mother Mary and late sister, Mary Ann Dunlap Mahoney, that Nancy donated to UPMC.

She wanted to give back for the care she received on two different occasions. So, she made a split bequest to the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Neurosurgery at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh.

“There were just a series of situations where UPMC was always the one to stand me back up,” Nancy recalled.

Nancy's Brain Tumor Treatment at UPMC

In 2005 — just a day after Christmas — Nancy received the news that she had an acoustic neuroma. An acoustic neuroma is a rare, noncancerous — but potentially debilitating — tumor found on the nerve involved with hearing and balance.

After discussing her treatment options with doctors at UPMC, she put her trust in L. Dade Lunsford, MD.

Dr. Lunsford is the director of the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery (IGN). He has international recognition in the use of Gamma Knife® as a non-invasive option to surgery.

Although the procedure went well and Nancy had no further problems, the brain tumor was not the only bump in the road for her. 

Orthopaedic Care After a Water Skiing Accident

Nancy is a competitive water skier who holds state and regional records, as well as seven medals nationally. She began water skiing in her late twenties and has been passionate about it ever since.

While water skiing in central Florida, Nancy had an accident that left her with a tibial plateau fracture, which affects:

  • Knee alignment
  • Stability
  • Motion

So, she flew back to Pittsburgh for treatment by Ivan Tarkin, MD and Volker Musahl, MD in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Having one of the worst leg fractures possible, Nancy began to think water skiing would no longer be a possibility for her. But — after two surgeries and a grueling year of physical therapy — it was possible thanks to the outstanding treatment from Drs. Tarkin and Musahl.

As Nancy says, her accidents were not “run-of-the-mill ‘I broke my arm’ situations.” But, following advice she had heard all her life from her mother, she did what she had to and pulled through.

Nancy still follows up with Dr. Lunsford to track her medical progress since her acoustic neuroma. She was recently approved to return to water skiing and is taking baby steps toward competing again.

Grateful to Be Back in the Water

For now, Nancy maintains that she is “as responsible as the doctor” in helping her leg fully heal. And, she's simply grateful that UPMC has given her the gift to keep pursuing her favorite pastime. 

Nancy knows how truly life changing a benevolent person can be. She felt the impact personally when she needed donor tissue to fix her medial collateral ligament (MCL).

After the passing of her mother and sister set in, Nancy decided she needed to leave her legacy by thanking someone.

Right away, she thought of her UPMC doctors and their teams. Without them, she wouldn't be able to do what she loves most.

“They always treat me with respect and as an individual, with the most expert care that I could possibly be given. All I want to do is just say thank you to UPMC through my contribution,” Nancy said.

The doctors, researchers, and staff at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh are as grateful for Nancy as she is for them.

The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Center for IGN will split her generous gift. They will use the funds to support research and training far into the future.

Thinking About Giving to Life-Changing Medicine?

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Our patient stories profile a number of patients who have had surgery at UPMC. Although everyone's care experience is unique, we hope that sharing these stories will help other prospective patients and their families better understand these procedures and their potential benefits.

Nancy's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.


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