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October 18th, 2016

A Shot in the Dark: Reuniting a Patient With His Publication

By In the Loop

A stack of publications. It was 1942, and 11-year-old Eldon Miller and his brother had a job to do: shoot the rats in the corn crib on the family farm. Eldon had just climbed onto a ledge in the corn crib when he accidentally dropped his shotgun, which landed bottom first and discharged. Eldon was in a seated position, and the shot hit him from less than a foot away. His brother ran to the house for help, and among the first to arrive was his grandfather. "I told him, 'I'm going to die,'" Eldon remembers. But his grandfather wasn't so sure. "He told me, 'It takes more than one shot to kill a Miller.'"

Turns out, his grandfather was right. Miraculously, Eldon not only survived but had no lingering problems related to the shot that tore through his bladder and sections of his colon. His survival was so impressive that his surgeon, Mayo Clinic's M. Marden Black, M.D., wrote an article about Eldon's treatment and recovery. That article — "Surgical Treatment With Recovery in a Case of Perineo-Abdominal Shotgun Wounds From Close Range with Multiple Injuries to Viscera," for those keeping track at home — was published shortly after Eldon's accident.

In the years since, Eldon shared the article with his children and grandchildren. But when it came time to show the article to his great-grandchildren, he realized he no longer had a copy. So he called the place that had helped him once before: Mayo Clinic.

Nancy Kieffer in Media Support Services took the call. "When Mr. Miller first started talking to me, I thought he had been directed to the wrong place," Kieffer tells us. But she listened to his story, and told him she'd do what she could to help. "I felt that we should at least make an attempt to see what we could find," she says. "If in the end that wasn't anything, we would have at least tried." She reached out to Mayo's Scientific Publications office, where Marge Sherman picked up the case.

Sherman tells us that "it's not unusual" to receive similar requests from Mayo Clinic physicians. So just as she does in those cases, Sherman used the few pieces of information she had — a doctor's name, a condition and a timeframe — to search Mayo's microfiche records. She found nothing in 1942 (the year of the accident) or 1943. But when she searched the 1944 records, she found a match. The journal was pulled from storage, and a copy was made and sent to Eldon, who is once again able to share it with his family. "I tell them I was lucky to survive, and that makes them lucky, too," he says.

Getting the article back to Eldon represents "a full circle of events," Sherman tells us. "Mr. Miller is alive because of the care he received from Dr. Black; Scientific Publications helped to get Dr. Black's article published; and as a member of Scientific Publications, I helped Mr. Miller reunite with the article 72 years after it was published," she says. It's a reunion that meant a lot to him — and to her as well. "I have worked at Mayo Clinic for 35 years, and this is by far the most rewarding experience I have been a part of," Sherman tells us.

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Tags: Employee Stories, Margaret Sherman, Media Support Services, Nancy Kieffer, Patient Stories, Publications

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