End-of-life Care at Mayo Clinic: The needs of the patient come first

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The following letter was sent to Mayo Clinic leaders by two Mayo employees, Don and Sharon Gabrielson, about the care Don’s mother received from Mayo Clinic during her last days.

Dear Colleagues,

On March 13, 2009 we brought our 81 year old mother, Ruth Gabrielson, to St. Marys Emergency Room. In a few short hours we learned that she had a perforated bowel and bilateral pulmonary embolisms. She was alert and oriented, and capable of making decisions about her care and next steps. Given her age and the high risk of surgery, as well as the diminished quality of life that she would have afterward, she courageously made the decision to decline the surgery and let nature take its course. This meant that within a matter of days, she would die from infection.

She was admitted to Domitilla 6 and from that point on, we focused on the plan for palliative care. Dr. Siddarth Singh was kind and caring, and spent a significant amount of time with all of us discussing options, and being truly transparent about what we could expect. He was a godsend in helping us to begin to formulate a plan knowing that Mom’s primary goal was to be kept comfortable.

The next morning we met the entire team of GI physicians: Drs. Chang, Oxentenko, and Loftus who provided more information in the most compassionate and empathetic manner we have ever witnessed. Mom made the decision to remain in the hospital and receive hospice care on Joseph 3 where she was then transferred later that morning. The hospice room was a blessing, it was decorated beautifully, and had a warm, homelike feel with all the amenities we needed. We were so grateful that mom could spend her final days in such a beautiful environment with plenty of room to accommodate her family.


Every day while she was there, the GI physician team led by Dr. Chang, would come and kneel on the floor by her bedside and ask if there was anything more they could do for her, ask if she was comfortable, etc. They would then turn to us as a family and ask the same. Dr. Chang’s compassion, warmth, and genuine caring was the hallmark of each visit. The nursing staff made sure that a plan for Mom’s care was developed with us for every shift, and provided compassionate care while respecting the individual needs of our family.

Every Mayo employee that we came in contact with during this journey be they the nursing staff, the housekeeping staff, the physicians, or the unit secretaries truly exemplified “the needs of the patient come first”. They were the bright spots in our days, and made us feel like we were their primary focus. Our difficult journey was made easier by the people who cared for and interacted with us.

During this time of economic downturn and the challenges of preparing Mayo for the future we wanted to share this story with you. Our journey is an example of the hallmark of Mayo, and what sets this organization apart from other health care institutions. Please don’t ever loose sight of that! Many other things can, and will, change as we prepare for the Mayo of tomorrow, but if we continue to insure that needs of the patient come first, all of the other metrics will fall into place.

We are both proud to be Mayo employees. Please share this story with others so that they will know that whatever their role at Mayo, the care they provide does not go unnoticed, and does make a difference in the lives of those they serve.

Sincerely,
Don and Sharon Gabrielson

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One Response to “End-of-life Care at Mayo Clinic: The needs of the patient come first”

  1. Pat Odean Says:

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. My condolences on the loss of your mother, who, it seems, was a muched loved and courageous woman. It sounds like she ended her life as she lived it, with those who loved her around her.

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