His job title within the Department of Public Affairs may be "Intern," but Justin McClanahan has many years of experience at Mayo Clinic. "I was born at Mayo," he tells us. And because he was diagnosed with hemophilia, a rare blood-clotting disorder, he's been back a few times. "I've been a patient for 30 years," he says.
In addition to causing Justin to take "the long road" to finishing college, hemophilia has done its share of damage to his body. "I had a lot of internal bleeding when I was younger," he says. "That led to joint damage in my right knee that eventually led to arthritis by the time I was 8."
By age 19, Justin needed a total knee replacement. Eight years later, he had surgery to fuse his left ankle, which also had developed arthritis. While the damage to his body has been tough to handle at times, Justin says the toughest part has been coming to terms with the restrictions hemophilia has placed on him. "Growing up, I didn't get to play a lot of sports," he says. "It was hard to give that up."
Shortly after his ankle fusion procedure, he found an adaptive sports outlet in the Rochester Mustangs Sled Hockey Team. Today, Justin not only plays for the team, but also manages its public relations work. "I'm part of a team now with people who have spinal cord injuries, people who were born with muscular dystrophy, spina bifida … everyone kind of has their own unique story," he tells us. "But the great thing about this team is nobody complains about it. Once we get on the ice, everyone just has fun."
That's a feeling Justin and his teammates are hoping to give to others in the region, thanks to some recent help from the Minnesota Wild Foundation. "They just gave us a $5,000 grant to buy a new trailer to help us take our show on the road, if you will, to hopefully get more people and more communities interested in sled hockey," Justin says.
The Wild Foundation presented the grant to the Mustangs last month at the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center in Rochester. "They gave us one of those ceremonial giant checks and then interviewed us on camera about what sled hockey means to us," Justin says.
Joining Justin for the presentation and interview was Mustangs team president and Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon Michael Stuart, M.D., and Mayo physical therapist Meegan van Straaten, who's also very active with the team. "Dr. Stuart and Meegan are great," Justin says. "They're very invested in the success of the team and work closely with all of us."
You can watch Justin, Meegan and Dr. Stuart talk more about what the grant and sled hockey mean to them here. Then, be sure to share your comments below. You can use the social media tools to share this story with others.