• Sharing Mayo Clinic

    Young girl with complicated health problems grows up seeing Mayo as second home


I am Carolyn of Missouri.  I have long been a patient of Mayo Clinic since about 1942 and am still a patient visiting about every 3 months.

Sometime after I was born, we moved to Glendale…that is where we lived when I took sick at the age of about 20 months.  The Dr. there treated me for about 3 weeks for a cold and then I guess I took a turn for the worst and one night he sent us on up to Rochester and they performed surgery on me at 3 a.m. in the morning.  Dr. Figi was the Dr. I had for many years while growing up.  Before I was 17 years old, I had had 48 surgeries on my throat for pappillomas of the larnyx and trachea.

I had surgery at the Kahler  Hospital (top 3 floors of the Kahler Hotel) until I was 12 at which time the  Kahler hospital was closed and I then went to St. Mary's.

At that time we were in Rochester for 6 weeks (my Mom and I).  We had moved back to Missouri not too long after I'd had my first surgery so my Mom and I traveled back and forth to Mayo's each time via the bus from Marshall, MO to Rochester.  My dad was a truck driver and in the course of the years, I had 2 brothers who stayed with my grandparents when Mom and I were gone.  We usually always stayed at the McRel Hotel (boarding house) which was south of where the Methodist hospital is now.  I believe it was usually around $2.50 per day to stay there.  How times and prices have changed.

We watched many, many changes over the years in the growth of Rochester, of the Mayo Clinic and the hospitals.  When I first began I was at the old brown Mayo Clinic building.  Then we watched as the new gray marble Mayo Building was built and then added onto by the Gonda Building.

When I was 16 and soon to be a senior in high school, they were able to take out my tracheotomy and close the opening in my throat.  I had some skin grafting done and then was able to breathe on my own without the tracheotomy for the first time in many years.  What a wonderful senior year I had even though I had so much damage to my voice box.

From the time I was 17 until I was in my 50's, I didn't have to come to Rochester much.  Before I was married in 1961, we had one last checkup on my throat and the Drs. said I didn't need to come back unless I had a problem.  In 1966 with the pregnancy of my 2nd son, I developed thyroid problems and was in Rochester for 3 weeks having my thyroid removed and being  told I had thyroid cancer, but they did radiation and I was told it probably would never bother me even if I lived to be 80 (now I'm quickly on the path to  80!)

My husband, Russ and I married…and we have 3 healthy, normal children, 2 boys and a girl...We also have 4 grandsons...and 1 granddaughter.

I have had a cake decorating/catering business for about 47 years and have been successful in making many people happy.  I still continue in that business today.

In my 50's I began having breathing problems again and decided to come back to Mayo's to let them see what my problem was.

I was in my 50's, a new grandmother, had a  successful business, and after about 3 months of struggling to breathe, I told  the Lord I wasn't ready to die...From the moment I said the prayer, it was like the Lord lifted that burden from my shoulders and said "what are you worried about, it will all be o.k." I called my Drs. and arranged to be in Rochester as soon as they could take me to do the surgery.

If we have counted correctly I now have had 100 surgeries. I have watched several doctors retire.

One of my best friends is Margaret…who worked over at the Methodist in the Cancer area as a secretary. She is also a cake decorator and thus our friendship. We [spent] 3 weeks together in January in…Hawaii. Another very dear friend is Sister Ralph Jahner at Assisi Heights and where I have stayed several times as her guest while in Rochester.

I have started a trend each time I come to Mayo's in that I bring decorated cakes or cookies to Dr. Edell and Dr. Kasperbauer's staff as well as the door staff at the Mayo Clinic front door who are always so helpful.  I think they all look forward to me coming and call me the "Cake Lady".

I think the Lord chose for me to make people happy with my talents as a cake decorator.

My Dr. Edell is from the Kansas City area and I was honored to have him call me last summer and ask if I would do the 60th anniversary cake for his parents.  I graciously did the cake and was honored to do it.

Mayo's is like a second home to me.

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