My Dad’s Story “The Wonderful Mayo Clinic”

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The Wonderful Mayo Clinic

Originally appeared at my Dad’s website:


Pōt·pöur·rï´- a confused collection; a miscellaneous mixture; a medley; a hotchpotch (Webster’s Unabridged)

Updated:  August 27, 2018

When one of our daughters was seven years old she suddenly developed a problem with her kidneys that had us become very concerned. Our family physician, and other doctors at our local hospital, began treating her for acute glomerulonephritis but, as things did not improve and we asked our doctor what the prognosis was, we were told that the worst that could happen is that her kidneys could shut down. But, he didn’t think things would get that bad. When I asked him if that were to happen, did we have the know-how and equipment locally to respond adequately and he said “No” and suggested that, if we were uncomfortable with this, we should try to have her admitted to the Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN.  I called the clinic and was advised that I could bring Vicki to them the next day which is what we did after a four and one-half hour drive over to them. A day or two later, her kidneys did shut down and the clinic sprang into action.  At one time I counted seventeen various types of doctors that had been involved with her treatment.  Her primary doctor was the head of the pediatric unit, Dr. Finkelstein, but the doctor determining her treatment, we were told, was, at that time the leading pediatric surgeon from Austria who specialized in the problem Vicki had.

Instead of using kidney dialysis they decided to use a new procedure, peritoneal dialysis. Although she was in very serious condition the procedure worked and, after a couple of weeks of treatment, she was totally cured. Throughout this ordeal Jane and I were continually impressed with the attention and treatment given us by the clinic personnel and, it was at this time we made the decision that, if any member of our family ever again suffered a life threatening medical problem, we would take them nowhere else but to Mayo.

Now, a few things to understand about the Mayo Clinic.

The clinic was established in Rochester, MN by two doctors, the Mayo brothers, and their father, and grew to be one of the best clinics in the U.S.  As a patient there you may find yourself in close contact with former presidents, the richest people in the world, chief executives of major corporations and also with farmers from Iowa and truck drivers from Wisconsin. Whichever of these you may belong to, as a patient you will be treated the same. By all their employees, from doctors who head up departments to the lowest ranking staff members, you are respected, listened to and treated in a manner that leaves you feeling you are probably the most important person they have met that day.

I don’t know if it is a historical fact but I understand when the Mayo brothers got started and their new clinic was becoming important to, at that time, the small city of Rochester. They called a town meeting and informed all attendees that henceforth all patients at the clinic were to be treated with care and special attention and, to this day, that seems to be the way the residents of Rochester treat their visitors.  During the course of the many years my wife and I have visited the clinic we have experienced the following:

The cost of temporary living near the clinic is very reasonable. Expensive housing and eating can be found if you are so inclined but more than adequate low priced facilities are available and moderately priced food services predominate.

You may be rubbing elbows with important and wealthy people; and celebrities, One day Jane and I were having lunch at an adjacent restaurant and sitting at a table next to us was former president George W. Bush and one of his sons.  Sitting next to them were four secret service guys and a fifth was standing at the restaurant’s entrance. Another time two floors of the hotel we were in was occupied by a Saudi Arabian sheik accompanied by his three wives and a bunch of children plus a large staff all of whom traveled to and fro in seven stretch limousines, We were in the hotel’s jewelry store when the three wives dressed all in black entered accompanied by a couple of guards and an American woman. They meandered through the store for a while and after leaving I asked the manager what they were doing. “Oh, they were shopping.” She said. “All they would do is point at something they wanted and the American woman, who is from our State Department, would make a note of the items and then arrange for them to be paid for by their husband.”

On the other hand, there were many times I would be sitting in the clinic’s huge cafeteria and be joined by a farmer from Idaho or a mill worker from Michigan.

The Clinic itself is composed of a number of large buildings and a hospital all of which are connected.  A system of tunnels is available connecting them underground so you don’t have to go outside in winter. Also accessible by the tunnels are some hotels and motels. In the tunnels are numerous shops and eating places. There are also some enclosed overhead bridges that connect a number of the buildings and a small mall.

Wherever you go in the clinic you will see volunteers stationed ready to help you find your way around. The hallways are lined with a large collection of valuable art by world known artists. One of my favorites is a statue of a man created by Rodin. It stands in a side corridor and, I’ve been told, it is the only one of Rodin’s sculptures that is displayed totally unprotected, not behind glass or out of reach of the spectator, and that the doctors Mayo wanted it that way so that people could run their hands over it.  When you have free time you can join tours of the buildings and docents will identify the art works.

The main clinic building has an immense entry hall in which stands a single grand piano. At various times throughout the day local people will sit at it and play, sometimes joined by singers.

But the biggest impression is the way patients are treated.  A good example was my first experience.   In 2003 a local ENT doctor who I had gone to in order to have my hearing checked noticed I had some swollen glands in my neck.  This led to a series of tests and examinations by my doctor and others including biopsies with no definite diagnosis being obtained.  My patience was finally lost when one more biopsy was scheduled but postponed for a week because the pathologist wanted to be present for the biopsy but was going on vacation for a week first.

Later that day I called Mayo’s and asked if I could have an appointment without a reference. A lady told me that could be done but I might have to wait a day or two for an opening to see the proper specialist. But then she asked me why I was calling and, after explaining my experience to date, she told me to wait a minute and returned with the question, “Can you be here tomorrow at 2:00 P.M.?” “Absolutely,” was my answer.

The next day Jane and I drove to Rochester through beautiful country scenery. My 2 o’clock started with a short visit with Dr. Cynthia X. Ma, an absolutely delightful young Chinese lady who was in the Fellowship program at the clinic. She set me up with a number of tests including a full body CAT scan. At 5:00 we were back in the hotel for a very pleasant and low priced dinner.  My morning appointment with the same Dr. Ma was at 8:00. Jane and I sat in her office and she had me sit next to her at the computer monitor while she gave me a tour through my entire body in great detail and revealed the results of all the tests. She had identified my problem as being Chronic Lymphocytic Lymphoma, (in later years it was changed to Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia), an incurable form of cancer.

She could see that both Jane and I were shocked and quickly informed us that I was not in any immediate danger and, although not curable, they had a number of ways it could be treated.  She then said she would have her “Boss” talk to us and left to return with Dr. Thomas Witzig who seated himself next to me and, at some length, began to describe to me the course that the rest of my life would take. With a pad of blank paper in his hand he said, “Most other people’s lives will take this course.” Then he drew a straight diagonal line dropping from left to right. “Yours will take a different course,” he continued and drew a line from left to right that descended in a series of steps. “Your life will also descend over time in a steeper path but, we will then bring it back when it’s time to do so.” Needless to say, Jane and I were both much relieved and that is exactly what happened. It wasn’t until later that I learned Dr. Witzig was the head of the Hematology Dept. and one of the most noted specialists in that field in the country

Over the years of my visits to the clinic I was shuffled through a number of doctors in the hematology department as its membership changed.  All were great, but the one that made the most impression on me was the last one before we retired permanently to Florida and that was Deborah Bowen, C-FNP, Nurse Practioner. One couldn’t help but feel during a visit with her that her time and attention were totally focused on and available to you.

When my cancer had proceeded too far, a course of chemo treatment would bring me back to almost normal which has continued for the past 13 years until the chemo treatments were replaced with a “miracle” drug, Imbruvica.

In all my visits to the clinic I have never had a bad experience.  I also discovered over time that, although one would expect the opposite, their charges are less than almost all other medical providers I’ve used around the country. At one time, when part of my chemo treatment was given by the Moffet Cancer center in Tampa, I found their charges were almost double those of Mayo’s.  Once they have diagnosed your problem and established a program of treatment they are also amenable and helpful in transferring that course to a site that is more convenient to you.

Another example of Mayo’s superior service was when Jane also had numerous tests performed without local doctors being able to identify her problem.  In accordance with our family pact to run to the clinic under such circumstances we did so and, in a couple of days they had diagnosed her as having Charcot Marie Tooth disease, a rather rare neurologic disorder.

Over the years I have experienced many of the services of many medical facilities. Some give excellent service. One of these is the Florida Cancer Specialists here in Bradenton, Florida. However,  as far as I’m concerned, there is no one better than the Mayo Clinic.

Additional Resources

If you’d like to read more about my Dad, his website, and how that came about, you might enjoy the story I wrote about him last year called  “I Love My Dad’s Website | He’s Written a Legacy for Family & Friends.”   That story was my most popular post of all time, gaining more readers in it’s first day than most of my posts had (at that point) in 6 month’s time!

If you’d like to read more about Mayo Clinic in Rochester and my experiences there as well as my advice about scheduling a first appointment, please refer to my post entitled A PATIENT’S GUIDE TO MAYO CLINIC IN ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA | DEBUNKING MYTHS ABOUT MAYO’S


You can leave comments or ask me questions by scrolling a little further down this page.


2 thoughts on “My Dad’s Story “The Wonderful Mayo Clinic”

    • My experiences have been the exact opposite. If it was simply a matter of misinformation that would be one thing. But my first time as a patient I was 7 and my family wasn’t well endowed financially. Through the years we’ve had many subsequent encounters under varying financial conditions. I’ve never personally experienced any kind of financial discrimination. Almost the opposite if you consider their financial counseling services offered and how much less our total costs were when receiving treatment at Mayo’s versus locally.

      Your comment sounds like you’re also speaking from experience. I’d like to encourage you to share more about your experience since I think people would benefit from hearing a different perspective and I know would too. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave us your insight..


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