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Apr 24, 2014 · Leave a Reply

Reflecting on 43 years of coming to Mayo Clinic

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Jeremy Fryberger photo It's been said, sometimes even by us, that there are so many great stories around Mayo Clinic, it can be hard to know where to start. We learned about one of those great stories recently, when Gloria Petersen, Ph.D., Health Sciences Research, wrote to us about a chance meeting she had with one Jeremy Fryberger, during one of his trips to Rochester. Dr. Petersen says Mr. Fryberger's enthusiasm for Mayo Clinic and its patient-centered model of care is nothing short of infectious. "He could not say enough good things about how Mayo takes care of people," Dr. Petersen tells us. And he gladly obliged when she asked if he'd share some of his observations with us.

Fryberger's first exposure to Mayo Clinic came during the fall of 1971, after a young family member fell down in pain while playing at the family's home in Duluth, Minn. Doctors in Duluth initially thought she had a urinary tract infection, but it turned out she was actually suffering from osteomyelitis in her left leg. The infection was in such a hard-to-reach place that doctors in Duluth told Fryberger and his wife they didn't have the medical expertise to treat it, so they sent the family to Mayo Clinic.

"We went down there, and they set us up with Dr. Tony Bianco, whose family was also from Duluth. He told us, 'Well, you have two choices. We're going to have to do surgery in the morning … or if you don't want that, you're going to have a short left leg, and you're going to have to go to my home country of Italy and keep that leg on the upper side of the landscape so you're standing up straight," Fryberger says with a laugh. "And we said, 'Doc, we have no choice.' And he said, 'Yes, I would suggest the surgery.'" The conversation put the family at ease, and the surgery came off without a hitch.

A few years later, another family member became a Mayo Clinic patient when she came to Rochester for a partial knee replacement. "She was in a lot of pain prior to that," Fryberger says. "But now she plays golf, she walks. She has no more pain. It's absolutely amazing."

So amazing, in fact, that Fryberger says it was then that he, too, decided to join the rest of his family by driving the four hours from Duluth to Rochester for medical care, even though he says friends and family have questioned that decision on more than one occasion. "People say, 'Why don't you just stay in Duluth?' Well, I could stay in Duluth … but the level of excellence at Mayo Clinic absolutely blows my mind," Fryberger says. "It's just so unbelievably efficient. And so I've now said, 'If I just need to have my toenails clipped, I'm going to Mayo Clinic!' My family and I have just received that level of care."

But Fryberger tells us there's a more personal connection to Mayo Clinic that also keeps him coming back. "My grandfather was a country doctor from North Dakota, but he practiced in Minnesota," he says. "And back then, all those country doctors from North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa would come to Mayo Clinic to watch surgeries. And during that time, my grandfather got to know the Mayo brothers pretty well -- so much so that he named his son, my uncle, 'Mayo.'"

Now that's a true believer.

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Tags: Gloria Petersen, osteomyelitis, Patient Stories, research, Research News

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