Tim Fairclough lay in a bed at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, watching a happy reunion between a recent lung-transplant patient and the staff who'd cared for him before surgery. Just a day earlier, Tim had been admitted to the hospital to wait for a lung transplant himself. He didn't know when — or if — compatible lungs would become available. As he watched the joyous celebration outside his room, Tim wondered, Will that ever be me? As if she could hear his thoughts, one of Tim's nurses, Mary, whispered to him: "We'll get you there, too."
That message was among the many "moments and memories" that assured Tim he was in "a special place." It's something he tells us he already knew at some level. Tim, a senior software analyst, has logged close to 10 years as a Mayo Clinic staffer. His wife, Kari, worked at Mayo for many years, and their son, Ted, and daughter, Heather, work at Mayo, too. But receiving new lungs at Mayo helped the whole family see the institution with new eyes. "I always knew the needs of the patient come first at Mayo," he says. "But this experience has helped me to see all the little things that go into that. From the person who greets you at the front door to the surgeon who did my transplant, everyone has an incredible compassion for patients."
That compassion was evidenced in big and small ways throughout the months Tim waited for new lungs. He saw it in Lisa, the first nurse who made the "incredible effort" to take Tim outside the hospital for fresh air, managing the many tubes and oxygen tanks that allowed him to breathe. And in Elaine, the nurse practitioner who brought Tim a fishing game she'd created at home to help keep his spirits up during the long days waiting and worrying. "She brought in a bottle of root beer, a hook and pole she'd made," Tim, an avid fisherman, tells us. "She'd done that on her own time."
Tim experienced caring from staff outside his direct care team as well. He tells us about Blair, a patient escort and fellow fishing enthusiast who often transported Tim to appointments. "Blair stopped up to my room one day after his shift and showed me muskie lures that he had made," Tim tells us. "You develop an amazing rapport with these people that you see every day."
Kari has her own stories of kindnesses shown. She recalls the compassion of the parking attendants, the last people she'd see at night as she left the hospital after a dozen hours at her husband's bedside. "I'd leave around 8 or 9 most evenings, and every night there was a friendly face there asking how my day was," she says. "It was so genuine, and such a comforting way to end the day."
She also found comfort in another unexpected place. The day after Tim's surgery, Kari stopped in the patient cafeteria and was moved to tears as she watched staff cleaning tables. "I just stood there and cried," she says. "At that point I felt so frail, and so grateful to the people making sure things were clean. It made me appreciate all the cogs in the wheel that Mayo is."
Two years after Tim's transplant, that appreciation remains. "There are so many unsung heroes at Mayo," Tim tells us. He wanted to share his story to shine a light on some of them. "The Mayo culture is a result of everybody working together and doing their best every day."
You can read about more of Tim's unsung heroes on the July 29, 2016, entry on his CaringBridge page. Then be our hero by leaving a comment below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.