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Started by Melanie Ryan (@melanie ryan) · Mar 25, 2009

Long day's journey into light

From my office window where I work in Education at Mayo Clinic, I see the massive Gonda Building.  And from nine in the morning until noon, the sunlight reflects off the windows, revealing the scene inside, and I watch it unfold before me.

Patients sit and doze in the sunlight, people walk to their appointments, doctors bustle through the hallways, and an elderly man paces back and forth, waiting for something....or someone.  Through those windows, you see it all - the desperation, the joy, the hope and the fear of our patients.  Once you're here, you're here for a reason.

I spent a few days recently inside those windows, as parent to a patient, not an employee.  What began as a routine dermatology appointment took an unexpected turn.  My son had several patches on his skin, and his pediatrician referred us to Dermatology.  The resident came in, and instantly I could see the concern in his eyes.  It's hard to hide, even for the best trained physician.

The dermatologist arrived, and with her quick inspection and pace informed me that we needed to do two skin biopsies, right now.  She told me that what she saw could signal an auto-immune disorder that was potentially life-threatening, or could be benign.  Her comments washed over me, crushing me like a tidal wave.  I tried to keep my composure for the sake of my little boy.  I knew I couldn't do this alone.

I called my husband, who also works at Mayo, and they waited patiently for him to arrive.  The doctors explained the procedure to my son, and the biopsy was done quickly, and with little pain.  Still, I had to watch the blood run down my son's side and pool on the crisp white sheet.  And then, we had to wait.  Like so many patients here at Mayo, we had to endure what seemed like years waiting for results.  Was he going to be alright?

I am not a patient person, and less patient when my son's life is hanging in the balance.  The biopsy was on a Friday.  By Tuesday, I had reached my limit.  The dermatologist was out of the office.  I knew at least the bloodwork had to be back.  I sent an email to his primary care pediatrician, who was on hospital service that week.  Within minutes, I received a call.

"It's funny you should email me right now.  I was just reading the results, and thinking you must be terrified by now.  He's fine.  It's a benign condition."

I was standing in a hallway.  I wept with relief.  I recognized from a patient's perspective the beauty in what we do here, and why the multi-disciplinary team approach serves our patients so well.  I looked around after that phone call and found my strength again.

This place has hidden miracles - I just hope that our Mayo team can help us all find them.

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