LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — I Was ‘Mayo-ed’

It’s been an Epic week.

So there I was last Thursday in Wahpeton, N.D., at the Red Door Gallery preparing for my next photo exhibit, “A Photojournalist’s Retrospective” highlighting my work of the past 55 years. As I passed Chahinkapa Zoo on my way out of Wahpeton, my cell phone rang. It was Erin, a Mayo Clinic appointment secretary, to ask if I wanted to have my knee surgery next Monday instead of next October.  “Absolutely!” I answered with a silent “YES!” to myself and an “I love you!” to Erin as the bearer of wonderful news.

I was about to be “Mayo-ed.”

Six weeks earlier, I had been told my knee replacement surgery wouldn’t happen for months. But that didn’t stop me from being proactive. Every week, I called to ask if there had been any cancellations. There was no way I was going to wait until October with the knee pain I was experiencing.

Early Friday morning, I left La Farm near Ashby, Minn., where I’d been staying for the week because we were in the middle of re-siding our old farmhouse, to drive back to the Cities. Then my husband drove us to Rochester, Minn., for presurgical appointments (X-rays, blood draw, food and medicine updates) and five hours later, we were on our way back to Edina, Minn.

At my Friday appointments, we kept hearing about Epic, the new electronic health record system that was being launched that weekend. In the past, the clinic had been using a variety of disparate record-keeping systems. The new Epic System brought the various different record systems together, resulting not only in more efficient record-keeping but faster results speed up work for both patients and employees. There will be less duplication of testing and data entry.

At 5:15 a.m. Monday, we left Edina arriving at Methodist Hospital at 6:50 a.m. Epic was evident, up and running with nurses and other staff hovering perhaps a little longer over their computers looking for the appropriate slots to enter data.

My husband, Arnie Bigbee, worked in administration at Mayo for 32 years, retiring in 2007. He observed a lot of people in green vests who we learned are Epic “experts,” hundreds of help desk-type staff who have been working for months as Mayo transitions to the Epic System.

What was interesting about the experience is that despite a totally new, highly sophisticated computer record system, every Mayo employee kept their cool, apologizing to patients when they took a little longer than normal, expressing appreciation for patient’s patience. The work flowed.

My surgeon is one of the best for fixing knees, Michael J. Stuart, M.D., co-director for Sports Medicine Center in Rochester and Minneapolis and professor of Orthopedics at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Before surgery, he “autographed” my left knee to make sure the work was done on the correct knee. I was wheeled in to surgery a few minutes before noon and was out by 2:30 p.m.

While I don’t remember a lot about the first few post-op hours, for the remainder of my stay through Wednesday afternoon, Mayo staff executed exceptional care living up to their worldwide reputation.

It’s been an Epic week, all right.

To all the wonderful Mayo nurses (and all nurses everywhere), Happy National Nurses Week, indeed, and thank you for being there.

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