Read time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds
Last week, Erin Konkle, a Mayo patient wrote us to talk about the “success stories” we share in these pages. Her note was not what we expected. It was much, much more. There’s not a lot we can add, so we’ll let her words do the talking. (With her permission, of course.)
I spend a lot of time at the Mayo Clinic. When I moved to Minneapolis four years ago, I did not know the Mayo name, and I could not have placed Rochester on a map. I was an always-healthy 28-year-old with no real need to think about my health beyond fruits, veggies and a daily run. That changed quickly. I started at a health care system in the Cities, and after four biopsies in as many weeks, three independent doctors told me in kind tones that they could not help. A friend told me that Rochester was an hour away and that I needed to go to Mayo.
I did my homework. As a millennial and a researcher, I Google everything before I show up. I knew what I was getting myself into. Reading the stories set a clear expectation and path to success. Mayo would know what was wrong and fix it. I could soon go back to my life of blissful ignorance of the medical world.
Fast forward to a waiting room on Gonda 2 South two and half years later. All around me, people are being poked, scanned, consoled and congratulated, but I’m still just right here in the waiting room ... still waiting. I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms. And wandering the subways. And checking out the art collections. All of those are just different ways of waiting, I suppose.
In two and half years, I think I have had every test imaginable. These tests often produce strange results, but they have never offered the one thing that I thought would be my measure of success -- a conclusive diagnosis. It turns out my instrument was wrong.
In two and half years, no one has suggested giving up (except occasionally me). Dr. Nicole Sandhu has spent time and mental energy that are beyond anything I expected, and, if possible, has provided even more care, compassion, and often laughter. In reflecting on this whole process, I am fairly certain that her office was the first place where someone recognized that there was a person attached to a malfunctioning body, and not just a malfunctioning body out and about on its own.
I have been able to keep going through all of this because Dr. Sandhu has never given me a reason to think that I could not or should not do exactly that while she has worked continuously to figure this out. There is something that feels inherently successful about being treated as a whole person by someone who simply will not quit.
While this process has been frustrating for me, I have had the advantage of not having anyone expect that I come up with any answers. I recognize that is a luxury Dr. Sandhu has not had. Despite that challenge, she has never even hinted that she would not continue to give this 100 percent. She is nothing short of a magician in a white lab coat.
I am not a Mayo success story because you tried a new procedure, or a new scan, or even came up with a diagnosis. If health care brings out the worst in people – and I know that, for me, it can and sometimes does – that is offset because your people bring out the best in people. We will not all get the diagnosis or cure that we are hoping for, but that does not mean our foray into the health care world was not successful, just that our instrument for measuring success was wrong.
I appreciate reading your success stories, but please don’t make the mistake of thinking that success is only measured in a cure or a diagnosis. Success is in the care you provide, the effort you put forth, and in a scope of human generosity that I did not know existed until I met your teams. I do not have a diagnosis, or a cure, but I am a Mayo success story. Thank you!
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