Most people don’t know what Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS) is, and frankly, you probably don’t want to know. It is very painful and difficult to treat properly. To sum it up, the muscles in your calf are surrounded by something called fascia, which is basically like the skin surrounding the meat of a chicken. When you exercise, your muscles expand with blood that goes in and out, but with CECS your fascia is really scarred and tight. Blood flow is restricted and the pressure increases immensely. I have had this before and I had surgery in Duluth but my condition was not resolved. In order to test for CECS, you must exercise and then after you start to get symptoms a needle is inserted in your muscles in order to read pressures. I was tested again and my pressures were not high enough to diagnose compartment syndrome. Instead these pressures were borderline, and the surgeon wanted to do another surgery even though it was in the gray area. I decided to embark to the Mayo Clinic to have more tests and explore other possibilities as to what was causing my excruciating pain. Not only did my visit lead me down the path to the proper diagnoses, but it also introduced me to how much globalization can be seen in our own state.
The Mayo Clinic employs approximately 32,000 people, which is roughly one third of the entire population of the city of Rochester, Minnesota where it is located. The Mayo Clinic is one of the best clinics in the world. It is also the top clinic in several areas, including neurology. This is impressive, but more impressive is the amount of money involved and number of people of different cultures who come to the clinic in order to get treatment. The University of Minnesota even opened a branch in Rochester mainly for research purposes at the Mayo Clinic. It spends over 500 million dollars for research every year. The entire downtown consists of buildings having to do with the Mayo Clinic, with several of the buildings towering over twenty stories high. The town is very clean and gets quiet when the clinic closes.
I had to apply to be seen. There are limited spots available, especially for those from out of town, but thankfully an orthopedist agreed to see me. In June of this year we drove five hours down to Rochester. When we arrived I felt more like I was in an airport than a clinic. Downtown there were several stores with different languages in the windows and a parking ramp with cars with license plates from nearly every state except Hawaii.
The next day my process of getting checked out began. Initially the doctor wanted me to get an MRI of my legs. This was something I have done before but when I arrived to the clinic they had just received a new technology from GE which allowed for more in depth viewing in an MRI machine that they wanted to test it on a select few individuals. Luckily, I was one of these few. I had to sign a form of consent, then they took me to a floor with approximately 36 MRI machines. The one I went to was built and shipped in two weeks before I got there and was the size of ? of a typical American school class room, and the room temperature was about 52ºF. The new technology seemed to be giving valuable data.
The Mayo Clinic collects and stores your data, including your DNA if your case is compelling (with your consent). It is one of the biggest research hospitals in the world so when they take your data they use it to better understand underlying causes of your condition. All the people who go there and all the data the hospital has is amazing; it truly is a library of the most unusual medical mysteries from all around the world.
After my MRI and other tests I had one final appointment with a vascular surgeon reputed to be the best in the country. This doctor had worked on professional athletes and Olympians. But the amazing thing was not only the visit to see him, it was also the process of getting there. When I entered the main building, there were a number of signs with different languages and many interpreters wearing suits and ties, as well as guides because the buildings are so large that people often get lost. When I arrived to my floor and entered the waiting room it was amazing to see the variety of people. There were people wearing turbans, burkas, even intriguing masks with large noses over the burkas, as well as a wide array of strange and different designer clothing I have never seen in the States. There were also many foreign languages spoken such as Arabic, Mandarin, and others that I could not distinguish.
The appointments go quickly; there were at least five entryways to call people into because it was so busy. I waited for quite some time, and it was already fifteen minutes past my appointment time when all of a sudden people stopped being called and a man in an elaborate white robe and turban came walking in with several other men and women beside him. He walked right in, and nobody further was called. I went to the front desk and asked what was going on. They told me that a V.I.P. had come in for an appointment, and mine had been rescheduled to one hour later. I was confused- it was just an appointment so why did this man get to cut in front of everyone? I later found out that he was a wealthy businessman who was able to book an appointment sort of last minute and because he paid more money than everyone he was able to get in more quickly. It was at this minute that I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “money talks.”
I eventually had my appointment, and the doctor told me that he could do the surgery required, but there was someone even better than he at a clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. All my data was shipped to the clinic in Madison and I was scheduled for surgery a month later. After a long visit, and after many extensive and quite painful tests, I was ready to go home. But I had learned a lot during my one-week visit to the Mayo Clinic. It is truly a world wonder where people from all different backgrounds and ethnicity gather for their health. It was amazing to be in the presence of such a grand place where so many groundbreaking things are happening. It also drove into my mind a sense of reality. There were many children with missing limbs or serious conditions such as cancer or other potentially fatal diseases. It really showed how fragile life is and there is always someone who has it worse than you out in the world. It made me feel lucky that I had the opportunity to go to such an amazing place, and that I didn’t have a serious life threatening illness. All in all I learned a lot, and it was definitely worth it. I will never forget how important and wonderful a place like the Mayo is, how lucky I am to have it so close, and how I may often take the ability to get such good healthcare for granted.
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10
The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to the North Star Project.
Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.
Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year
(c) 2014 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 8, Spring, 2014. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.