Pat henneberry knew the Mayo clinic was the place she wanted to go to help her get back on her feet.
One day in the spring of 2018, back at her home in Austin, Texas, pat henneberry walked in, dropped to her knees without warning, and was in agony. "Basically, my back and the lower part of my spine are away from each other," she said.
Single and living alone, pat said a neighbor took her to the local emergency room, where she had an mri and was told she needed surgery. She was then discharged and sent home. Pat was given painkillers, but they did nothing to relieve the pain. It gets worse. "Eventually, it became too much," she said. "I couldn't walk, stand or move."
When pat's neighbors checked on her, she found pat overwhelmed with pain and took her to the hospital a second time. "I had two epidurals," pat said. "I spent the next two weeks in the hospital wondering what was going on."
Looking for repair
Before the injury, pat had been the definition of an active adult. She plays tennis, rides mountain bikes and water skis. She was a trotter and an accomplished triathlete. Pat is also a swimmer, using his free time away from his career as chief coach and founder by volunteering as a swimming coach. "This is my passion," pat said. "My special Olympics swimming team has 35 athletes. I am a very active person. It all got me into trouble."
That was especially surprising, pat said, because her body didn't indicate anything was wrong. "I had no symptoms, no warning signs," she said. "I'm not a person with chronic back pain. I didn't know it was a shambles behind me."
However, as she lay in a hospital room in Texas, pat learned that her medical condition was very serious. "I was told I had broken multiple disks," she said. "I lost a lot of use of my left leg immediately after I fell. I could hardly move it. It feels like it's going to explode."
Pat underwent minimally invasive surgery to relieve some of the severe pain. "The surgeon wants to remove some of the ruptured disc material. After the surgery, he said it was the most he'd ever pulled out of someone's back, "pat said. "That's when I knew I was going to have what's called 'big kahuna' – a larger, two-stage spinal fusion with rods and screws and all that to permanently stabilize my spine."
Provide honesty and transparency
Still in great pain, pat set out to find the best spinal surgeon she could find. Her research brought her back to places pat knew well. "I grew up in Iowa, and the Mayo clinic has always been a magical three-hour place in the north. If you can go there to take care of you, you are really lucky. It's a big problem where I come from, "pat said. "I sent my paperwork to Mayo and got a reply that I was a candidate for spinal fusion surgery. I fly direct to rochester in November. '
When she arrived at the Mayo clinic in rochester, pat met spine surgeon Paul hudelston, m.d. "If you study his credentials like I did, you'll find that he gets almost every honor in the book."
Pat says another asset of Dr. Hudelston's is a straightforward, honest approach about how to help her. "I've been to a lot of different hospitals and talked to a lot of different doctors and surgeons up to that point, but there are some unique differences between the Mayo clinic and Dr. Huddleston," she said. "He was very detailed and transparent about the way he took care of me and was very honest in saying that I might need a second operation in the next few years. At first I was disappointed to hear this. But I appreciate that honesty, which is why I chose Dr. Huddleston for the operation. "
The decision is significant, especially considering the time of year. "I live in Texas and can have surgery in many different places, but I chose to go to northern Minnesota in January," pat said. "I mean, who chose to have spinal fusion surgery in rochester, Minnesota, in January? But I chose Dr. Huddleston and the Mayo clinic because he was so transparent with me."
Another factor that convinced pat to select the Mayo clinic was the technique Dr. Huddleston will use for spinal fusion. He assured her that he could operate only if there was an incision in his back. Other surgeons told her they needed to cut through her body and the front of her back to complete the operation.
Although it took longer than expected, pat says Dr. Huddleston did everything he said he would. "It takes six and a half hours," she said. "I had to clean out a lot of arthritis at first – probably from the days of water skiing and mountain biking."
During her spinal surgery and hospital stay, pat had to face one of her biggest post-operative fears: the three-hour ride to her mother's home in Iowa. However, Dr. Huddleston and pat's other nursing teams were quick to allay those concerns. "They all said it would be fine, and their patients did it all the time," pat said. "They put me safely in the car and really prepared me. It's not bad at all."
Once in des moines, Iowa, pat's recovery continued. "We went back to Iowa, and after I went through the initial rehab, I asked my care team to go back to Mayo: 'what can I do? Can I swim? Can I ride a bike?" They said, 'no, you can only walk, walk, walk. "
That's what pat did. "Using crutches and a walker, I started walking around my mom's house because it was the middle of winter," she said. "I walked 44 steps from the kitchen to the living room, from one end of the house to the other. Whenever someone calls me, I force myself to stand up and walk a little while I'm talking. Walking is all I can do, and I know how important it is to my recovery. "
All this effort has paid off. "I eventually graduated and was able to walk to the basement without my cane or walker," she said. "Then, I graduated from walking around the local mall and using a trekking stick to maintain stability."
Five months later, pat felt strong enough to say goodbye to her mother and return to her home in Austin, where she said the daily walk continued to lengthen. "I'm running six miles a day now," she said. "I'm walking up the hill, I'm walking. I've recently started more physical therapy, so I'm also trying to build up my strength. "
Pat is also looking forward to returning to rochester for follow-up care, to see Dr. Hudelston and her other nursing teams. "My nursing team told me it would take me about four months to recover for two years," pat said. "Psychologically, it's hard to hear at first. But it has become a state of mind and I am now focused on being strong the whole time. Most of my pain is gone now, and I really look forward to whenever I return to rochester because it is a great city with great talent and great healthcare providers. "
Because of her concern, pat says she now has no doubt in her mind that she will meet all her health care needs. "That's where I always start, no matter where I live," she said. "Interdepartmental communication, transparency, honesty, employee care and compassion, results – all of these are second to none."
Translated by enomecan