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Why I Admire the Mayo Clinic

Last September I had my annual physical with my personal physician of 30 years, Dr. Dean Kahoi, and he noted that I had an abnormal gait in my walk. He suggested that I make an appointment with a neurologist which I did. I met with Daniel J. Kuyper, MD and he did some basic tests and ordered up MRIs of my brain and neck. The outcome of the MRIs was my brain was happily all right but I did have spinal stenosis.


In November, I met with a neurosurgeon from Minneapolis-St. Paul. My wife, Corrine Foley, was in attendance with me. The doctor showed me where I was having some strength difficulties and some muscle loss and proceeded to show me from my MRIs where the stenosis was occurring. He recommended that I have a couple of discs removed and then a couple of weeks later have additional surgery to scrape bone away from my spine. The discs would be removed from the front by opening my throat and then the scraping would occur from the back of my neck by cutting through muscle. In other words it would be a two surgery procedure.


Later, Corrine and I discussed this and neither felt comfortable with the procedure. The question was where else should I look?


Fortunately, one of my best and life-long friends from high school, Mark Julsrud, was married to a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and has always sworn that I could never go wrong by going to Mayo. I called Mark and asked him what he thought about it and he got excited and said I should do it!


I then made an appointment with Dr. Kaihoi to find out if he might be upset if I made an appointment with the Mayo Clinic. He enthusiastically suggested that I see if they would accept my case.


I contacted the spine department at Mayo and they asked me to send all of my health files including x-rays and MRIs from the previous several months. Now here’s the incredible part, the man I talked with asked me if I had anything my name like Jr. and I told him I do. He found a name like mine and then asked me where I had lived previously. He found my city La Crosse, Wisconsin, and asked me what address I’d been at so I told him. He said “we have your records .” They had my records from decades before! That was before there was computer record-keeping!


I have been in the computer and communications industry for my whole working life. Media over those years has changed and transferring records among different media a daunting task. It seems impossible but, Mayo Clinic was able to maintain those records from when I was 17 years old. That was the first moment I became in awe of the Mayo Brothers.  There were and are many more to come.


I called the Park Nicollet records department and they faxed everything to the Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Clinic logo

Mayo Clinic


By that time it was getting into the holidays with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up as well as the new year.


On December 1, I received a call from Brian Glen of the Mayo Clinic, with the questionnaire for possible admission to the Spine Center. I soon received a call to set up an appointment with Dr. Benjamin Elder, MD Phd. and Mimie Chalinda – Salter, PA for January 04, 2018. I was thrilled.


I will tell you more about Dr. Elder and Mimie in future blogs. Just let me say that I immediately agree to surgery for January 24. That was after Dr. Elder told me in full disclosure about the potential difficulties that could set in from the surgery.


Corrine and I drove the 88 miles from Eden Prairie to Rochester with Corrine driving. There had been freezing rain and snow earlier in the day. It felt like she was driving on a washboard. It only took about 2 1/4 hours so she did darned well.


The way Mayo Clinic sets it up for your surgery time, you call in the night before. We did that and found out our surgery time was 8:15 in the morning. That was our first experience of pure medical efficiency. The line started in St. Mary’s Hospital. What we realized was there were separate lines for 8:15, 8:30, 8:45, 9:00, and 9:15 AM with approximately 50 patients per line. What we were seeing was about 250 surgeries being organized right then.


I really do not remember anything for the rest of that day. Corrine told me that the surgery preparation, actual surgery, and recovery took about 10 hours. The anaesthesia took away any short-term memory that I had for the rest of that day.


I spent the next 21 days on the sixth floor of St. Mary’s Hospital. I was effectively restricted to my bed except during toilet activities and occupational and physical therapy sessions. I had expected to have excruciating pain considering that the surgeon cut away sections of my cervical and thoracic bones as well as scraped calcium away from my spinal cord. For those of you want to look it up it covered the areas of C2 to T2. Instead, I had moderate to low level pain. I don’t know what dose if any of opioids they may have used but it is my impression that it was pretty low-level. I attribute it to Dr. Elders fine surgical skills.


The personnel assigned to me in my area of the hospital were kind and professional. I have learned that is normal for the Mayo Clinic. I will provide more information about the Mayo people and my therapy sessions as well as general activities in separate posts. They all deserve special attention and praise.