Doctor and Patient Share Special Connection — and Big Macs

Medical problems led to more than a year of living on liquid nutrition through a tube for D'Ann Mitchell. After her recovery, her doctor made good on a promise to treat her to lunch.

D'Ann Mitchell was hungry. It had been so long — over a year, in fact — since she'd had anything to eat. Instead, she received liquid nutrition through a tube. It was keeping her alive, but not keeping her from being very, very hangry.

So when her doctor, Geoffrey Thompson, M.D., would stop by D'Ann's room at Mayo Clinic and ask, "What can I do for you?" the answer was often the same: Get me some food! Specifically, two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun. "I'd tell him 'I need a Big Mac. I'm hungry!'" D'Ann tells us. "I'd always joke that he owed me one." Dr. Thompson, a general surgeon, promised her that after she recovered, they'd have Big Macs together. His treat.

"We have a special relationship," D'Ann says of Dr. Thompson, who has removed several rare tumors, called paragangliomas, that have developed in her abdomen. "I've always felt very safe and very comfortable with him."

Dr. Thompson isn't the only physician D'Ann sees at Mayo Clinic. She first came to Rochester for scoliosis surgery. She's also been treated for a rare blood disorder (congenital polycythemia) and undergone a kidney transplant. "There are a lot of special doctors and surgeons at Mayo Clinic," D'Ann says. "But Dr. Thompson and I have a special connection. He really cares, not just about me but about my whole family. He's brilliant and has got a wonderful bedside manner. He's saved my life more than once."

The most recent rescue came after D'Ann had returned home to Montana following a surgery. She had a complication, and local doctors removed her colon. It was the start of "major problems," D'Ann says. "I got really sick." Fearing for D'Ann's life, her family reached out to Dr. Thompson for help. "He arranged for me to fly to Rochester," D'Ann says. She was admitted to Mayo Clinic and stabilized. But it would take close to two years before she recovered. During that time, she also developed an allergy to one of the anti-rejection drugs she had taken since her kidney transplant. "I'm a complicated case," D'Ann says. "I would be dead if Dr. Thompson didn't step in."

But step in he did. Which meant that last month, Dr. Thompson could step in to his office with a bag from McDonald's. That did not go unnoticed by colleagues, who asked about the unusual lunch. He explained that he was making good on a promise to a patient, who soon joined him for what was inside: Two Big Macs.

"It's really nice to see D'Ann back on her feet," Dr. Thompson told us after the lunch date. Seeing people like D'Ann recover is one of the things he says he'll miss most when he retires next year. "I love what I do," Dr. Thompson says. "I love my colleagues and my patients. It's going to be hard to leave."

And hard to see him go. Especially for one Big Mac fan.

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