• Sharing Mayo Clinic

    A Second Life

Job description: Meet and write about the grateful patients who become benefactors of Mayo Clinic, their gifts and the researchers and physicians who use these gifts to move medicine forward.

That's my job - if you can call something as wonderful as that a job - as a writer for the Department of Development. But so often, my stories are really only starting points for much better ones that continue long after I've done my work.

Hal Freeman, M.D., is a great example. When I wrote about Dr. Freeman last year, we talked about his life-saving liver transplant at Mayo, his gratitude for his care and his plans for the future. What's he done since then? Live.

For example, he's gone SCUBA diving in the Carribbean, sailed on board the Queen Mary 2 and he's moved to New York City, to enjoy the operas at Lincoln Center and many other cultural activities that are his passions. He also is continuing his quest to author THE authoritative guide for patients to get the most out of their visits with their doctors.

No one would have predicted any of this for Dr. Freeman. Just a few years ago, he was the victim of a seemingly incurable disease and in a different hospital, where physicians' only plans were to "make him comfortable." Even after he decided to seek care elsewhere, he couldn't find a place willing to give him a transplant because of doubts about his ability to survive the operation.

Now, he's living a second life. It reminds me of the phrase "gift of life," that we so often here about organ donation. It doesn't sound cliche in this context. It also makes me think about his gift to Mayo and the progress it will generate. "Mayo Clinic saved my life," he told me during our interview. "With their experience and patient volumes, they have a vital opportunity to make a lasting contribution to research and help future patients."

What will that contribution be? Maybe it will be a discovery that helps make liver transplantation safer and more widely available? Or maybe it will help patients before they reach the transplantation stage, so that people with liver disease can lead a first life without interruption.

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