When Luke Bryan took the stage at Country Jam USA in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on Saturday night, the best seats in the house weren't in front of the stage. They were on it. Just ask Jennie Geurts, who watched the concert from there. "It was the best time of my life," Jennie tells us of seeing her favorite performer up close and personal. That's music to the ears of staff in the Urology Department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, who helped Jennie get there.
It all started back in April, when those staff members decided to do something special for Jennie. Many of them have come to care deeply for the 38-year-old Eau Claire resident, who lives with multiple serious health conditions including spina bifida, congestive heart failure and lymphedema.
Staff members who work with her "truly see Jennie as a whole person, not just her clinical condition and medical needs," Sue Sivertson, clinical nurse director, tells us. "They developed a relationship of trust with her that allowed Jennie to share her story and the important ways she copes," Sivertson says.
They learned one of those ways is through music. Especially the music of Luke Bryan, who they knew Jennie dreamed of meeting someday. So when staff heard the country crooner would be headlining this year's Country Jam USA music festival, they decided to try to make that dream come true.
Jennie "has weekly visits in the clinic and has been in and out of the hospital," Sivertson wrote in a letter to event organizers. And at those visits, she often "talks about her love of music and how music has helped her through many tough treatments and hospital stays." In spite of her health challenges, Jennie has a "caring spirit and positive attitude" and is "a ray of sunshine to all," Sivertson wrote. Would it be possible, she wondered, for the festival to arrange a meet-and-greet opportunity with Bryan? When the answer came, it was a resounding yes.
To surprise Jennie with the news, staff called her in for an "appointment." But instead of an exam room, this one took place in a conference room, where around 20 staff members (and Jennie's parents) were waiting. "They starting reading the letter and I burst out crying," Jennie tells us. She wasn't the only one reaching for tissues. A friend of In the Loop reports there were tears all around.
When asked why she's such a fan of Bryan's, Jennie tells us it's about more than the music. She also admires how he’s handled his own challenges in life, including the deaths of his brother, sister, brother-in-law and niece. "He always stays positive," Jennie tells us. (Sounds like someone we just met.)
That positivity was on full display on July 22, when Jennie got to spend a few precious moments with her musical hero. They chatted, shared a hug and snapped some selfies. And when the meet-and-greet ended, there was one more surprise in store. "Luke invited me to sit on stage during the concert," Jennie tells us. "It was amazing."
That's a word she uses to describe her care team, too. "It means the world to me that they would do something like that for me," she says. "It really made me feel special. I have a lot of love for them."
We think it's safe to say the feeling is mutual.
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