A city of nurturing

The server at Chester’s Kitchen and Bar looks at my tired face with concern and asks sympathetically, “Did you have a lot of appointments today?”

That question might seem odd anywhere else but here. This bustling,upscale restaurant draws crowds for its perfect rotisserie chicken, its locally sourced and inspired dishes and its playful bar and dessert menus. But in this location, the query makes perfect sense. Chester’s stands directly across the street from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Many of us with MS are familiar with Mayo. With more than 90 neurologists on staff, Mayo has one of the largest and most comprehensive neurology departments in the world, and people come from all over the globe in search of answers to their neurological problems. I traveled there last year for what became a diagnosis of primary progressive MS, and, unfortunately, I’m a patient there again, this time battling bone marrow cancer.

“Medical tourism” seems like an odd concept to those us dealing with debilitating diseases, but in Rochester, it’s a way of life. This city of a little more than 100,000 knows that many of the people who come to visit are facing serious medical challenges, and the shopkeepers, restaurant servers and hotel staffers keep that top of mind every time a customer steps in the door. Front desk clerks at the hotels know that patients’ stays can stretch with little notice, thanks to Mayo’s multidisciplinary, collaborative-care approach, and they work to offer patient rates and make sure you have a place to sleep for another night or two when you need it. The volunteer artists who staff the Semva Art Gallery, also across the street from Mayo near Chester’s, cheerfully greet customers curious about the works produced by southeast Minnesota artists and ask them if they’re in town because of Mayo.

An underground pedestrian subway system connects three hotels, a food court and classy shops to the Mayo Clinic buildings (making Mayo really easy to navigate for those of us with scooters!). But it takes a few tries before you really understand how it all comes together, and the hospital employees on break who fill the hallways are happy to point you in the right direction when you need help.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us wouldn’t plan a vacation to Rochester if Mayo Clinic wasn’t part of our vocabulary. But when you need to go, it’s comforting to know that you’re in caring, nurturing hands—not just in the doctors’ offices, but in the community as well.

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Kendra L.

Kendra L. Williams

Kendra L. Williams is a longtime writer and editor and the founder of MStravels.org, a blog about the ups and downs of handicapped accessible travel. She lives in West Des Moines, Iowa.

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    10 Comments

  • Sue   May 14, 2015 3:10 PM
    Comforting to know that human kindness can rear its head in the most desperate of situations to warm hearts of the isolated and hopeful...
  • Avatar
    maria1  May 14, 2015 3:25 PM
    That sounds like utopia, did you make that up? (joke)
  • Kara   May 14, 2015 4:24 PM
    I have been going to Mayo Clinic every year since 2010. Everywhere my husband and I go (either restaurants, shops, hotels, anywhere), everyone is kind and compassionate. The people at Mayo are the best. I always feel "safe" there because the doctors are the best. I first started with a neurologist for grand mal seizures and then added a neurologist for MS. My medical record is in the computer for all to see. There is complete coordination between doctors. I highly recommend Mayo Clinic in Rochester if anyone is seeking a second opinion!
  • Tressa Livingston   May 14, 2015 4:24 PM
    My husband has primary progress m.s. stage 4. We want to no where thia place is and how much. His dr. Bills had pretty much broke us. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated. thank you
  • Bill   May 15, 2015 5:51 AM
    Very nice tribute to the Mayo staff and folks who work for the connected businesses. Every kindness helps. Thanks for sharing.
  • Kendra   May 15, 2015 6:16 AM
    Tressa--If you need help with Mayo bills or have other questions, the MS Society has people who can talk with you and offer some ideas and resources. Call them and start the conversation!
  • efolly  May 15, 2015 7:10 PM
    I'm a registered nurse and caregiver to my husband who was diagnosed with MS at age 62. Thanks for sharing your gratitude for the kindnesses offered by all of the service providers in and around Mayo clinic. So wonderful and uplifting for caregivers, as well.
  • Martha   May 24, 2015 4:25 PM
    I visited Rochester years ago as a bona fide non-medical tourist to visit a friend doing her residency there. Nice town. I will always remember a posting of a house for sale for under $200k. Even in the early 90s that seemed a bargain to someone from California!
  • bretthundley  Aug 23, 2015 5:25 AM
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