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Navigating the Maze: My Journey with Seeking Care at the Mayo Clinic

April 3rd, 2024 by Audrey Weidman

Many of you are fellow travelers on the winding road to improved health. Today, I want to share with you a little piece of my story – my condition, my hesitation, hopes, and insights after seeking care at one of the most esteemed medical institutions in the world: the Mayo Clinic.

Those of you that know me personally or follow me on social media, know that I’m very proactive with my health.  I eat right, exercise, meditate, and still …. I had a second heart attack called SCAD – spontaneous coronary artery dissection.  Don’t get me wrong, every doctor who I’ve met with has said that the outcome would’ve been worse if I had not been living a healthy lifestyle.

But SCAD is rare and affects mostly women under that age of 55.  My local cardiologist told me I had won the lottery twice.  In each event, the damage to the heart was minimal.

I went through a battery of tests at home.  Those results indicated an underlying genetic condition making SCAD more likely.  And it looked like it was affecting one of my kidneys. I am choosing not to name it because I don’t want to give energy to it.

I’m kind of a unicorn – I have 2 rare conditions and am a 2 time survivor of a SCAD.  The idea of seeking care at the Mayo Clinic loomed large – a beacon of hope amidst the storm. But here’s the kicker: I hesitated and delayed.  Why? 

Well, let me tell you a little secret…

I didn’t think I was “sick enough” to be a patient there.

Yep, you heard that right. Despite the seriousness of my condition, despite the countless hours spent navigating the healthcare maze, I still thought of myself as “healthy”. Somehow I convinced myself that my condition didn’t quite measure up to the standard of “patient-worthy” at the Mayo Clinic.

It sounds absurd now, even though I know many other SCAD survivors who have sought help at Mayo and raved about it afterwards.  I had participated in and done fundraising for The Mayo Clinic SCAD research at the annual 5K Scaddadle.  I even met the Mayo docs who research SCAD and listened to their yearly updates on the research.

But you know what they say about hindsight? It’s 20/20. And looking back, I realize how silly my hesitation was.  

What makes the Mayo clinic so special is the doctors’ focus on being an expert in a narrow field of focus. I realized I wanted someone with expertise to provide guidance to my local docs.  Most cardiologists may see one SCAD patient in a year – it’s rare!  My cardiologist at Mayo, Dr Marysia Tweet,  saw 5 SCAD patients before my appointment with her… in one day!  And she still had another patient after me. Now that is someone with significant experience and expertise with SCAD!

But it’s not just the expertise, it is the Mayo Clinic’s commitment to treating the whole patient.

I discovered that the doctors on salary. They are not incentivized by doing extra testing and procedures. They spend time with you. They could make significantly more money in other places. But they have chosen to work at the Mayo Clinic because of the collegial atmosphere. And because they want to be on the cutting edge of medicine in their field.

I’m guessing the staff at the Mayo clinic receives significant training in emotional intelligence. I saw several doctors and one even referenced how far he had come in his own emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence and high regard for the patient was evident with every encounter I had with the staff. The doctors, nurses, receptionists, technicians, phlebotomists, all were so pleasant. Dr Tweet spent about 90 min with me and gave me ample opportunity to ask questions. All the physicians I saw looked me in the eye and made minimal notes on paper. This is different from the usual typing into a computer with minimal eye contact. I know this is much less efficient, but Mayo is patient centric.

I went to the Mayo Clinic website and found this:

Our institutional primary value: The needs of the patient come first. Our core values: Respect, integrity, compassion, healing, teamwork, innovation, excellence and stewardship.

The Mayo Clinic

A little about the physical space of the Mayo Clinic.  In a word — it’s absolutely stunning. The architecture, incredible world class artwork, and music all uplifted me. I met with a fellow SCAD survivor who was on campus participating in a study. We rendezvouded under Chihuly sculptures in the Gonda Building.   Beautiful, right? Chihuly dontated his time and another donor paid for the materials. My understanding is that much of the artwork is donated by grateful (wealthy) patients.

To learn more about the Mayo Clinic, watch the Ken Burns documentary on the Mayo Clinic.  If you donate to PBS, you likely already have access to it.     I enjoyed watching it.   It even brought tears to my eyes.

But here’s the thing: amidst the beauty and brilliance of it all, there was something else. Something that caught me off guard and gave me pause. Despite the pristine surroundings, high patient regard, and the aura of excellence, there were a lot of visibly sick people at the Mayo Clinic.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I know that seeking care at a renowned medical institution inevitably means rubbing elbows with folks facing a myriad of health challenges. But still, seeing so many individuals battling illness, each with their own stories and struggles, was a sobering reminder of the fragility of life and the universality of human experience.   I felt like we were all pilgrims hoping for a cure.

After going to Mayo, not once, but two weeks in a row to get the necessary testing done, my prognosis is good! I am HAPPY, GRATEFUL, and RELIEVED for the guidance and clarity I received while in their care. But I have a responsibility too. The biggest thing I have to work on is remembering who I really am. I am a child of God. I am unique and Divinely made. I must continue to fill myself up with happiness, joy and gratitude for all the goodness in my life and let the stress go. You may have heard the saying:

We teach best what we most need to learn”.

We all have habits of thinking and I am training my brain to live in positivity as much as possible.  Why?  Because positive emotions create the biochemistry that supports good health.  And happy people live longer, healthier lives. That is a FACT!

I didn’t write this post as part of a PR campaign for Mayo. Rather it is my unexpected positive experience that I wanted to share. If you ever have the need to be seen at the Mayo clinic – don’t hesitate!  Go!!!   It will give you hope. And you will know that you are doing everything you can from a Western medicine perspective. 

In closing, If you’ve ever been a patient at the Mayo Clinic, what was your experience like? Please share in the comments.

As I continue my journey, I’ll be sharing more on how I’m rewiring my brain and changing my environment to be supportive. I do have the power to choose what I think and you do too! Visit here to receive my top three scientifically based tools to reduce stress. Schedule a brief chat to see how I might be able to help you or someone you know navigate the mental aspect of having heart health issues.


7 thoughts on “Navigating the Maze: My Journey with Seeking Care at the Mayo Clinic”

  1. Cindi Allen says:

    Blessings Audrey on your health journey.
    I’m so sorry you have a serious heart condition but I know you
    are taking the best care of yourself and you have a bright future
    with many years ahead of you!

    • Audrey Weidman says:

      Thank you Cindy. I’m blessed for so many reasons. I have good health insurance and know of Mayo’s interest in SCAD and could even pick who I wanted to see. With the right mindset, we can live a healthy life!

  2. Pat Rinkenberger says:

    I appreciate your positive perspective toward this world class institution. I know it best via my brother’s many times there for a variety of issues. During one, I was with him as his advocate, staying eight days twice. I agree with your sense of the physical place although once got locked inside the massive underground walkways at night. Was quite the adventure! Seriously, my brother is still here thanks to the innovative options there that do not exist elsewhere in this country. We are forever grateful.

    • Audrey Weidman says:

      I love that you got to experience it as well. And that your brother is still here too. If you have a chance, watch the Ed Burns documentary on the place. Maybe you already have?

  3. Mary says:

    I liked that you said they see you as a whole person. I’ve been complaining for years that this is no longer the case. It took over six months for my blood pressure to be addressed once because PCP thought someone else should address it. The beginning of the snowball effect. I get angry thinking of it. We need professionals to see and treat us as one whole person.

    • Audrey Weidman says:

      Absolutely. I wonder how much it is that we are women and you are thin and healthy looking. Just because that is so doesn’t mean that on the inside things are going on. I believe that med students should have emotional intelligence training. When patients believe they are taken care of, then a lot of stress goes away.

  4. Mary says:

    I liked that you said they see you as a whole person. I’ve been complaining for years that this is no longer the case. It took over six months for my blood pressure to be addressed once because PCP thought someone else should address it. The beginning of the snowball effect. I get angry thinking of it. We need professionals to see and treat us as one whole person.

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