Emerald City…Almost There

I wanted to take a few days and let those interested read part 1 of my journey to the Mayo Clinic. I also needed to rest because I am still not well. Somehow, I looked up and 10 days had passed…good grief. Anywho, let’s pick up where we left off.

As I hurried off the shuttle and into the Holiday Inn Rochester Downtown, I was not quite sure what to expect. All of the online reviews of the hotel looked great and the staff was very friendly, but nothing gives the real deal like seeing a place in person. Friends, I gotta say, the hotel did not disappoint. For the price, it far exceeded my expectations. Now, I want to be honest though, while I was very much concerned about my sleeping quarters and whether they would be up to my expectations, I was more concerned about my scheduled appointment with the Wizard. So, I quickly checked into my room, unpacked and got in bed for the night. I am almost certain I fell asleep as my dad was still unpacking. As I drifted off to sleep, the cheap clock on the night stand read 12:30am. 

After what seemed like only 2 hours, I was startled out of my dream by Ricky Dillard’s “Amazing” blaring from my cell phone. In disbelief that it was already 5am, I frantically searched for my phone to quickly turn off my alarm so it wouldn’t wake my sleeping dad. As I fumbled around in the dark searching for my cell phone, virtually blinded by the crust that had accumulated in my eyes, I glanced over at my sleeping dad in the other king size bed. He looked so peaceful that I hated to wake him…that was the first night he had slept that good in a long time. But, like my peaceful slumber, his too had to come to an end. So, I gave him a slight shake and said “daddy, it’s time to get up. I’ll shower while you iron. We have to leave here by 6 for my 7am appointment.” 

After both showering and skipping breakfast because the paperwork required me to fast, and my dad didn’t want to eat in front of me because I couldn’t eat, we decided to make the 1 block walk to Mayo Clinic. At 40 degrees, it was apparently unseasonably warm for Rochester. So, we decided to take the quick walk over to the Mayo Clinic…which gave us an opportunity to talk about any last minute fears. As we walked over, we made small talk about how smoothly the trip had gone, how good we had slept, and how nice the hotel was compared to what we expected. We also both gave our thoughts on what we thought we should expect once we finally reached Mayo. Friends, neither of us was quite prepared for what we encountered and just how off our expectations were. 

Before we could finish our early morning conversation, we rounded a corner and found ourselves standing directly in front of a building bearing the sign “Mayo Clinic”. The first time I laid eyes on the building I was completely overwhelmed. It was silver with widows as far up into the sky as the eye could see. Being from a big city, I am used to seeing tall imposing buildings. But, this building was different. The way the sun hit the glass on the windows was almost blinding. Despite the glare that caused me to squint, I scanned each window with my eyes determined to memorize every detail of the building. I forced myself to take in every floor of windows and every architectural detail. As I stood in front of the building, unable to speak, I mentally prayed that we had finally arrived at a place that could once and for all determine what was wrong with me and offer a solution. Now, true to my non-overly optimistic personality, I prepared myself for the same unhelpful information I had received to date. I told myself I had nothing to lose and even if they couldn’t help me, I was no worse off than I was had I not made the trip. 

Scared to death, but committed to seeing this all the way through, my dad and I walked inside the building and took the elevator to the 9th floor. Once we existed the elevator, it was 6:30am on the dot. Excited that I had met my personal goal of reaching my destination 30 minutes early, I happily approached the West desk where I was greeted by a concierge. She was a white woman with blond hair, and a warm soft voice. With a soft chipper tone, she said “good morning, welcome to Mayo. How may I help you”? I quickly replied by giving my name and Mayo patient ID number in my standard raspy and monotone 6:30am voice. The concierge then replied, “welcome. We have been expecting you and are so happy you made it ok. If you have any records with you I will take those now. If not, please have a seat and someone will call you from the doorway on my right shortly.” I remember thinking, “wow, this is absolutely amazing. This is like checking into a hotel and everyone is so friendly…and its 7am.” 

Within 15 minutes, a brunette woman appeared in the doorway to the concierge’s right and called my name. As I heard my name, I jumped up like a contestant off The Price is Right…I am certain I skipped but cut it short because I became painfully aware that I was doing it. As I walked through the hallway with the brunette and my dad, I noticed each empty patient room. There must’ve been over 50 rooms and each had very modern looking furniture and state of the art equipment. I gotta say, simply looking at the patient rooms made me feel confident that I would finally get answers. As we neared the end of the hall, we entered the patient room where I would finally meet the Wizard. After a quick exchange with the brunette and having my vitals taken, she turned and said “make yourself comfortable, the doctors will be with you shortly.” 

As quickly as she appeared, the brunette suddenly disappeared. Within 3 minutes, there was a knock on the door and in walked a woman of Middle Eastern descent. As she entered the room, she extended her hand to me for a handshake and said “hi, I am Dr. Chaudrey. I am a GI fellow here at Mayo specializing in Crohn’s disease. I will be working with Dr. Raffals, who you will see shortly. I want to speak with you first if that is ok”? While my head nodded yes, everything inside of me screamed “NO! NO IT IS NOT OK. I WANT TO SEE THE WIZARD!” Immediately, my heart sank and I thought to myself, “great, a waste of my time. Another GI fellow to waste my time, give me bad information, and let me down.” Friends, I could not have been more wrong. 

Within 2 minutes it was clear that Dr. Chaudrey had read LITERALLY every word on every page of the records that I had sent…over 200 pages. She knew my history almost better than me…and it went back to the 80s. She was familiar with every colonoscopy, CT, MRI, MRE, and every procedural complication. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she knew my medications, hospitalization history, and had prepared answers to the questions I sent over in advance.   

Still not done giving me my money’s worth, Dr. Chaudrey did two things that really stood out. First, while going through my medication list, Dr. Chaudrey asked “can you tell me the medications you are taking, and the reason you are taking them?” Now, I have been asked to recite the medications that I take for the past 30 years, but I have NEVER been asked to tell why I take them. This was big because it showed me that Dr. Chaudrey was looking for a competent and knowledgable patient. See, I had become used to doctors that feared or loathed a competent patient, but Dr. Chaudrey’s question showed me that she EXPECTED me to be informed about my own medical care. Second, Dr. Chaudrey uttered the words that have become like the sound of nails on a chalkboard to me…but things didn’t end how they usually do. She said “I have closely looked at everything and I have to say. I am not convinced you have Crohn’s.” Immediately and involuntarily, tears formed in my eyes and I heard my voice quiver as I began to speak. With a shaking soft voice and with tears in my eyes, I replied “do you know what that would mean. Please think about it before you say it. If I don’t have Crohn’s, I could come off these horrible toxic chemo meds. I could stop getting a infusion every 6 weeks.”  

Friends, while I have accepted my diagnosis and treatment…I have never given up hope that some day I would be relieved of this terrible disease…even if that means a doctor saying “your diagnosis is wrong and here is what you really have…turns out it’s not so bad.” See, to me, accepting what is, does NOT mean refusing to hope. So, usually when a doctor says what Dr. Chaudrey did, I meet them with anger because my hope is shattered within seconds because they failed to read my file. But, from Dr. Chaudrey it was different. She saw the hope in my eyes, and put parameters around it and my expectations. Dr. Chaudrey quickly saw the fear and optimism in my eyes and wanted to ground me before I mentally ran away. While I was given hope from a person very knowledgeable of my case, she wanted me to keep things in perspective. So, Dr. Chaudrey quickly replied to my tearful excitement with “listen, I am not saying you don’t have Crohn’s. I am just saying we are going to check everything. I appreciate all the testing that has been done, but we do our own and will check everything. I can’t promise you don’t have Crohn’s. But, I can promise you will leave here with answers about what is wrong and a treatment plan that meets your goals. Something is going on and I am not convinced it is Crohn’s.” I quickly whipped my tears, pulled myself together, shook her hand, and replied “that’s fair.” 

After a little more back and forth, Dr. Chaudrey left the room to discuss everything with Dr. Raffals. After about 20 minutes, Dr. Chaudrey stuck her head through the door and said “I just wanted to come back an say I haven’t forgotten about you. Dr. Raffals and I are really digging into your file and getting some people on the phone. She will be in shortly.” After another 10 minutes, there was another knock on the door. Yes, friends, it was finally the Wizard. 

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