When Scott and Carol Van Dyke arrived in Ireland, they followed an itinerary created by an unusual travel agent: Carol's doctor, Conor Loftus, M.D. "Dr. Loftus kept telling us to go to Ireland," Scott says. "When we finally decided to go, he plotted every bed and breakfast, every pub — including one owned by his cousin. We ended up at his parents' house for tea and cookies, looking at pictures of Conor when he was a baby."
The path to Ma and Pa Loftus' home was laid years earlier, during Carol's first visit to Mayo Clinic. She'd contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion after a hysterectomy, and the Van Dykes were "not that pleased" with the care she'd received in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. "Some friends said, 'Why don't you go to Mayo Clinic?'" Scott recalls. "So we did." Among the first physicians they saw was a young man from Ireland who was completing a fellowship in gastroenterology. "We ended up kind of liking that Dr. Loftus," Scott says.
They also liked the care Carol received, which revealed much more than they expected. After three days of testing, Dr. Loftus and his colleagues discovered that in addition to hepatitis, Carol had a tumor on her liver. She was immediately scheduled for surgery to remove it. During the procedure, a second tumor was discovered and removed as well. When she recovered, Carol's care team recommended a plan for treating her hepatitis. After six months of following that grueling regimen, tests showed no evidence of the disease. "Mayo Clinic saved her life," Scott says.
Since that first appointment in 2002, the Van Dykes have returned to Mayo Clinic — and to Dr. Loftus — 46 times. When asked what drives them to make the 10-hour drive, Carol offers a simple answer: "I trust them." She also appreciates that "everything is done at once. I have tests in the morning and Dr. Loftus will often text us the results even before we see him that afternoon."
While most of those tests have revealed a clean bill of health, two years ago doctors discovered another tumor in Carol's liver. The tumor was treated with radiofrequency ablation, and Carol is once again cancer-free.
That's good news for the Van Dykes, of course. But it's also meaningful to Dr. Loftus, who we're told refers to Carol and Scott as his American parents. "They've been absolutely wonderful to work with," Dr. Loftus says. "This relationship has truly brought joy to my work. It's relationships like these that keep our engines firing as physicians. When Carol and Scott visited my tiny hometown of Ballingarry and spent time with my parents, it was a really special experience and gift for all. I look forward to visiting with Carol and Scott for years to come."
He doesn't have long to wait. The Van Dykes tell us they'll be making their 48th trip to Mayo Clinic next spring.
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