Long day’s journey into light


From my office window where I work in Education at Mayo Clinic, I see the massive Gonda Building.  And from nine in the morning until noon, the sunlight reflects off the windows, revealing the scene inside, and I watch it unfold before me. 

Patients sit and doze in the sunlight, people walk to their appointments, doctors bustle through the hallways, and an elderly man paces back and forth, waiting for something….or someone.  Through those windows, you see it all – the desperation, the joy, the hope and the fear of our patients.  Once you’re here, you’re here for a reason.

I spent a few days recently inside those windows, as parent to a patient, not an employee.  What began as a routine dermatology appointment took an unexpected turn.  My son had several patches on his skin, and his pediatrician referred us to Dermatology.  The resident came in, and instantly I could see the concern in his eyes.  It’s hard to hide, even for the best trained physician. 

The dermatologist arrived, and with her quick inspection and pace informed me that we needed to do two skin biopsies, right now.  She told me that what she saw could signal an auto-immune disorder that was potentially life-threatening, or could be benign.  Her comments washed over me, crushing me like a tidal wave.  I tried to keep my composure for the sake of my little boy.  I knew I couldn’t do this alone. 

I called my husband, who also works at Mayo, and they waited patiently for him to arrive.  The doctors explained the procedure to my son, and the biopsy was done quickly, and with little pain.  Still, I had to watch the blood run down my son’s side and pool on the crisp white sheet.  And then, we had to wait.  Like so many patients here at Mayo, we had to endure what seemed like years waiting for results.  Was he going to be alright?

I am not a patient person, and less patient when my son’s life is hanging in the balance.  The biopsy was on a Friday.  By Tuesday, I had reached my limit.  The dermatologist was out of the office.  I knew at least the bloodwork had to be back.  I sent an email to his primary care pediatrician, who was on hospital service that week.  Within minutes, I received a call.

“It’s funny you should email me right now.  I was just reading the results, and thinking you must be terrified by now.  He’s fine.  It’s a benign condition.”

I was standing in a hallway.  I wept with relief.  I recognized from a patient’s perspective the beauty in what we do here, and why the multi-disciplinary team approach serves our patients so well.  I looked around after that phone call and found my strength again. 

This place has hidden miracles – I just hope that our Mayo team can help us all find them.

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2 Responses to “Long day’s journey into light”

  1. Bethany Says:

    Thanks for telling your story, Melanie. My Mayo experience as a mother, daughter, sister and patient have made me a greatful Mayo beneficiary and a passionate Mayo employee, so I can give back for the wonderful care we have received.

  2. HEATHER Says:

    I know exactly how you feel. My mother has had a long history with Mayo and St. mary’s Hospital in Rochester, MN. They’ve spent the last 22 years fixing a mixtake a local hosptial did but this is not related to her ongoing GI problems. Back in 2006 she fell one night and pinched a spinal chord and she went from standing 5’2″ with impeccable handwriting to looking like an elderly woman in sever late stage osteoprosis and not even being able to print her name in less than a weeks time. She had to use one hand to uncurl the other hand off her walker. We went in and her doc was very straigth forward, to some it would have come off as unfeeling but to us. He did the surgery in less than a week giving her the ususal percentage that she could end up completely paralzyed but we knew something had to be done and even though the next 24 weeks of thereapy including 12 weeks in a halo brace (the kind they screw into your temple) but her strength came back immediatly as did her handwriting. I thank that doctor everyday for what he did. It’s probably something he preforms with somewhat regularity but to me it was a miracle. One of many that my mother has witnessed and been a part of first hand at her time connected to Mayo and St. Mary’s Hospital. Thank YOu.

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