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Benefactor says he'll work rest of his life on behalf of Mayo Clinic

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Sister Generose Gervais assists Jim Crossingham with the ribbon cutting Thursday at the Helen and Jim Crossingham Family Emergency Department Lobby Dedication held at Saint Marys Hospital.
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Saint Marys Hospital will open its new Helen and Jim Crossingham Family Emergency Department Lobby on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Jim Crossingham and two of his daughters, Ann and Jamye, attended an internal unveiling Thursday with about 100 invited guests, including emergency-room personnel, nurses, doctors, flight-crew members and several Franciscan sisters who still live at the hospital.

The family gave what Mayo officials characterized as a "generous gift" without disclosing the dollar amount.

The donation funded not only the new lobby entrance but also endowed emergency-medicine research and education that will continue in perpetuity.

"I'm overwhelmed. I feel certain that my wife, Helen, knows what's going on here today," said Crossingham, former CEO of children's clothier Spencer's and currently a quarry owner. "She passed away while I was in this hospital."

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The lobby is part of a $25.8 million renovation and expansion of the Saint Marys Emergency Department that began in the spring and will take two years.

Crossingham said he was injured in a plane crash and received heart surgery in a Wyoming hospital several years ago. But his facial injuries needed such delicate reconstructive surgery that there were only two medical teams the hospital could recommend in the country.

One was in Colorado, and the other was at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Crossingham and his wife previously had made medical visits to Mayo, so he knew immediately he would travel to Saint Marys.

"It's still operating today on the same principals on which it was founded — and that's very rare today," he told the crowd.

He lamented politicians as "people who know very little or nothing about medicine trying to decide" how to manage the country's health-care system.

Crossingham said every day from now on he plans to consider the work he does to be on behalf of Mayo patients, instead of for himself. The Emergency-Department lobby makes him feel like he can directly help the patients of Saint Marys in some way, he said.

When patients arrive, he said, he wants them to feel like it's the environment of a family's home.

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"I can not express the debt of gratitude I have for the doctors, the nurses and the staff that were so wonderful to me," he said.

Every member of the Saint Marys staff, Crossingham said, treated him with a similar air of compassionate and genuine concern for his well-being and comfort. Maintaining the Franciscan values first envisioned by Mother Alfred Moes and Dr. William Worrall Mayo have been maintained for 150 years and still are followed today, Crossingham said.

"That is a wonderful accomplishment that has not been equaled, that I'm aware of, anywhere else," he said.

Crossingham said his doctors at Saint Marys were frank with their counsel.

"Most doctors are afraid to tell you what they don't know," he said. "Here they don't mind."

Crossingham, his family, several members of the Saint Marys Emergency Department joined Franciscan sisters as Crossingham performed a ceremonial cutting of the ribbon.

But just beforehand, he invited Sister Generose to join him. She oversaw construction of the Domitilla Building decades ago as the hospital's last Franciscan administrator,

That act, Dr. Annie Sadosty, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, said to Crossingham, "really speaks to what a wonderful man you are and the spirituality that you hold."

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It was not scripted, Sadosty said, but a spontaneous act of goodness.

After the ceremony, Generose sat in a chair, quietly preparing to eat some fresh fruit served to guests.

"Aren't you going to grab a little fruit?" she asked Crossingham, encouraging him to eat some healthful food and displaying both her dietitian training and business acumen.

"I just think it's wonderful what they've been able to do," he said of the new emergency department.

"By the grace of God," Generose replied.

Health reporter Jeff Hansel writes the Pulse on Health column every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHansel.

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