Lessons I Learned At Mayo Clinic

For years Terry has encouraged me to go to Mayo Clinic for annual health checks. I have laughingly refused. I love my health care providers and I am generally healthy. But this year, aware that it is the last year I would be eligible to enter the program, I agreed.  “Okay” I said, “Lets go.”

We made appointments for April, filled out mountains of paperwork and carried our medical records with us.  It was to be a two-day visit packed with physical exams and tests covering me pretty much from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.  I had consultations with an ophthalmologist, an ear, nose and throat doctor, a gastroenterologist and a cardiologist.

Mayo Clinic is a complex of buildings.  Hotels ring the complex. While financially beneficial to the hotels, it is extremely beneficial to visitors to the clinic.  For Terry and me it meant that we didn’t have to walk or drive through snow and ice before our 6:30 a.m. start time.  It also meant we could walk through the underground tunnel to get from our hotel to the clinic.  It was only seven minutes at the most from our hotel room to our first appointment in the Hilton Building.

With our schedules in hand, we quickly became familiar with the layout.  We moved from the Hilton Bldg to the Mayo Bldg. to the Gondo Bldg and from the lower level to the 17th floor.  We found the cafeteria, which serves employees, visitors and patients–at least those whose tests didn’t require fasting.

By 9:15 a.m. on Thursday I had given my blood, sacrificed my urine, and had an electrocardiogram and a chest x-ray.  Other tests were to follow. My general physical exam was scheduled for 10:45.  Due to the weather, the patient immediately before me cancelled.  My appointment began 30 minutes early and continued through almost the end of my scheduled hour.

I just had to take this photograph of myself in one of many hospital gowns. Unattractive, but very functional.

I just had to take this photograph of myself in one of many hospital gowns. Unattractive, but very functional.

Like all of the professional and paraprofessional staff with whom I interacted, my doctor was caring and informative.  He talked about my blood tests, explained what each of the results meant.  He cancelled one scheduled test to make room for another test he considered more important.  He encouraged me to email him if I had any questions about my test results that had not been answered by the end of the day Friday.

Each doctor described in detail the meaning of the test results pertinent to his/her specialty.  While much of the advice was applicable to every patient, there was also discussion concerning specific foods and vitamins that might be deficient in my diet: (zinc, vitamin E, AREDS) and books that I should read. [1]  The attentiveness to me as a person, and as a patient, suggests to me that the medical staff are hired, and retained, based not only on the quality of their medical skills, but also for their caring natures.

Mayo is not just about diagnosing and treating disease, it is also about wellness. While I was given one new prescription during my visit, much of the discussion was about prevention: diet, exercise and sleep. And of course, about the importance of eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables.  Not surprisingly, there was encouragement to exercise regularly and not to smoke.

I do not want to forget the patient services that surround the clinic.  There are hospital shops and national retail chain stores.  Clothing stores give patients what they call “shopping therapy” while they await appointments or test results.  But there were also wig shops and bra shops, IMG_2474shops that sold sleep apnea products and other medical equipment for those whose illnesses required/or benefitted by those products.  There is a library that provides patients, free of charge, information on virtually any disease that might have brought them to Mayo.  The Mayo Store also sold information about healthy diets.[2]

Seminars are held in the auditorium, live music is performed outside the cafeteria and the physical environment of the campus encourages optimism.

Terry and I consider ourselves very fortunate that we are generally quite healthy despite challenges that remind us that we are advancing in age.  But many visitors to the clinic are fighting serious, often terminal, diseases.  The environment throughout Mayo instills confidence in the quality of care available as well as a belief that the health care staff care about the people who come to them for healing and relief of pain.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend two days giving myself the gift of knowledge. Knowledge about my body’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as an understanding of how I can protect my own health to the extent that it is within my power to do so.


[1] Including “No More Sleepless Nights” by Dr. Peter J. Hauri, PhD, former director of the Mayo Clinic Insomnia Program, and Shirley Linde, a well-known medical author.    Did you know 100 million people in the U.S., including most of my friends, have trouble sleeping?

[2]  When I saw this display in the Mayo Store, focused on the Mayo Diet, I could not help but reflect on our friend’s blog, “Livliga” that focuses on healthy  meals, recipes, heart healthy activities, inspirational poems and activities and even dinnerware designed to encourage us to eat healthy, low calorie (right sized) meals.


2 responses to “Lessons I Learned At Mayo Clinic

  1. My best understanding of Mayo ever, in spite of having a number of friends who have gone there for special care. I’m glad you went, and your report is one of your best.

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