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Carnival of Medicine: My Mayo Clinic Experience

by Maggie Jones
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Our two days at the Mayo were an amazing experience. I really wish I’d taken more pictures.

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

It all started shortly after my diagnosis when my company’s CEO took Brad out for beers to commiserate. He introduced Brad to a friend whose wife was battling Stage II breast cancer and was being treated at the Mayo. This friend had the resources to visit any hospital in the world and believed his wife’s excellent progress could be partly attributed to the excellent care she was receiving. In fact, he’d recently made a “substantial gift” out of gratitude. The friend offered to make an introduction and so we were able to coordinate our trip through their development office which helped coordinate three days of appointments across multiple specialists.

The weather was crazy at the time of our scheduled appointment and over 1000 flights out of Chicago were canceled the day before we left. Our flight nevertheless left on time through Chicago even though another 600 flights were canceled that day.

It was brisk in Rochester during our appointments.

When we finally arrived ,registration at the International Desk was a breeze. After a short tour we kicked off 10 hours of tests including:

  • Ophthalmology
    • Eye tests (20/20, thanks!)
    • Pressure tests
    • Pupil dilation followed by retina photography
  • Brain MRI
  • Oncology RN Meeting – Just an overview of the oncology department
  • Blood Test 1
  • PET-CT
  • Chest CT

I was supposed to have an abdomen MRI later that evening but the contrast would conflict with the contrast from the Brain MRI and PET-CT. Luckily, they were able to reschedule it for Day 2.

My eyes stayed dilated for over 24 hours.

Day 2 started at 8am and included:

  • Blood Test 2
  • Ophthalmology 2
    • Another eye test (still 20/20)
    • Another pressure test
    • Pupil dilation followed by more retina photographs with IV contrast this time
    • Ultrasound of eyeball. Like, they put the gel on my eyeball and the probe ON MY EYEBALL
  • Ophthalmology Consult – confirmed no more eye tumor – yay! With this info, we were able to cancel a few later appointments.
  • Abdomen MRI
  • Oncology Consult

The Oncology Consult was the main thing for us. While I was originally scheduled to meet with four different oncologists, they all agreed on the approach and so we were able to cancel two more appointments. Of course, this is the approach I ultimately decided not to follow but I know I’ll take that path soon and the opportunity to consult was wonderful.

What impressed me most was the time the doctors took to talk with Brad and me. They were incredibly personable and we never felt rushed. A few times I rushed through my symptoms out of habit and the oncologists paused to dig in to how I was really feeling. They even touched on our emotional and mental health in the face of a terminal diagnosis which is something that the Hong Kong hospital would never hint at.

I’m interested to see the final bill for this visit. I confirmed with insurance that my COBRA would provide coverage but we’ll be paying at least the $6,800 deductible. Long term, however, there will be opportunities for cost savings on my prescription through the US.

In a small way I’ve passed a point of no return: my diagnosis is documented in the US. I’ll never get life insurance – except maybe through an employer. Not that I need to worry much – I intend to stay with SCMP for as long as they’ll have me.

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