For many years, those lucky enough to share a work space with Ruth Tibesar, a lab technician at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, had come to expect to hear at least one thing when they came to work every day: Laughter. Because that's just the kind of person Ruth Tibesar is -- she enjoys making those around her smile. But a little more than two years ago, that laughter disappeared soon after Ruth's mother passed away. Soon after that, Ruth suffered a mild stroke while at work, and it was while she was in the hospital recovering that she says she began to feel herself change into a person she and those around her no longer knew.
"I was angry," Ruth says. "I wasn't talking to anyone. Something had changed. But then I just went on like nothing was wrong."
Once she left the hospital, however, Ruth began to realize something was, in fact, very wrong. "I started to withdraw from things and stopped talking altogether, which is odd for me," she says. "I began to isolate myself. That was a real trigger that something wasn't right." As were the sleepless nights. "Insomnia was another huge trigger for me," she says. "It gave me too much time to think."
Still, she didn't feel like she needed help. Instead, Ruth says she went on living this way until she reached a point where she eventually just "went numb" inside. "I got to a point where I felt nothing," she says. "I had no emotions. I just stopped caring. I felt like a piece of mud -- like nothing. There was no spunk. No drive for the next day."
When I arrived at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., that September day almost five years ago, my care for colon cancer was fractured and really a mess. I had suffered through a second bout of the disease, when the cancer jumped from the colon to the lung. After surgery to bisect the upper lobe of the left lung, I had just embarked on a six-month program of chemotherapy.
A local hospital had bungled the pathology from the original colon surgery in February 2008, discovered only when I went to a facility in Texas for a second opinion. As it turned out, at the time of the original colon resection, a trace of cancer was evident in a lymph node, doctors there discovered. Had my oncologist at the time possessed that information, he would have immediately placed me on a course of chemo. He didn't, and suddenly I had become a Stage IV cancer patient for the worst of reasons: medical error.
Just as bad, the surgeon who performed the original colon surgery did such a poor job sewing up my abdomen that it created an incision hernia. When she fixed the hernia, she told me she had inserted some mesh to pull the area together. That turned out to be false. The hernia surgery had to performed again. This time she demurred and sent me to another surgeon, who did the job properly.
No apology from the doctor or the local hospital has ever been forthcoming.
In the late summer of 2009, the second opinion confirming the spot on my lung, the biopsy, the surgery itself, and my first chemo sessions were reminded me of the times I was given flu shots in the pharmacy of a Safeway. My anxiety was at an untenable level, and as now the CEO of my own health care, I had learned an important lesson: the more doctors, clinics and hospitals involved without access to the same computer records, the greater chance for something to go wrong.
That's when Mayo Clinic became involved.
Written by Sara Jacobsen
Everyone who visits the Mayo Clinic has a story. Though my story may be a lot like all of the other patients who have come and gone through the Mayo Clinic system, I want to share my gratitude for the organization, facility and clinic that Mayo is.
The year 2013 proved to be a bit of a roller coaster for me. I started out with bowel and bladder difficulty that ultimately spread to affect my neurological system and breathing. I had seen every specialist and had more tests done than I ever knew were possible. In August, I started worsening. I was having difficulty taking a deep breath in, while having increased right sided weakness, fatigue and numbness. The whole array of diagnoses were thrown at me (ALS, MS, Cancer, Myasthenia Gravis, and everything in between). I was placed on oxygen at night and it was becoming difficult to have enough energy to care for my two young boys (ages 3 and 5). I continued to work as a nurse, but I wasn't as effective as I had been.
In October, things continued to worsen. I had to stop running because my right foot was becoming numb, and I had to limit my activity because it was becoming more and more difficult to breathe. By the time I decided to come to the Mayo Clinic (the best place in the world for medicine) in November, it was hard for me to drive home at night because of the numbness in my right foot, it was getting difficult to make it through a day of work, and I had no energy for my kids. The quality of life I had was diminishing quickly.
Frances Shaw’s health and career mixed together in a muffin batter. With her perseverance and answers from Mayo Clinic, both her health and career as a baker and entrepreneur, are turning out golden.
Frances Shaw didn’t set out to be a baker. Her career essentially found her as she tried to find ways to manage her health and dietary restrictions, while still enjoying food.
In her senior year of college, while studying film, Shaw, now 25, suddenly found herself dealing with ongoing stomach and pain symptoms that had worsened dramatically. “I was really, really tired,” she says. And that wasn’t all. “I had bone pain and was instantly bedridden.”
Finding out what was wrong was not as instant, however. In fact, it was an odyssey that dragged out for seven years. “I saw every kind of doctor,” she says. Eventually, Shaw learned she had Celiac disease and an intolerance of dairy products.
After her diagnosis, Shaw eliminated gluten and dairy from her diet. “I did notice a big difference in how I felt,” she says. “But I was so hungry. It was hard to find the combination of gluten-free, dairy-free that tasted good.”