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Sidewalk message: 'Thank you Mayo Clinic for saving my mom'

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Tracy Haefner, a Mayo Clinic sonographer, talks Monday about a message written in chalk outside the Gonda Building. "It's good to be recognized," Haefner said.

Tear after tear fell to the sidewalk as Dr. Barbara Mercer, a family practice and geriatrics physician from Lansing, Mich., contemplated the wordschalked neatly in all caps in front of her on the sidewalk.

It's likely others also cried as they read the words from high above on various levels of the Gonda Building.

"Thank you Mayo Clinic for saving my mom — Phil."

It's not clear who Phil is; if he is a young boy, a young man or nearing retirement himself.

But his message to Mayo Clinic staff Monday morning was crystal clear.


Passersby at ground level caught a glimpse, turned their heads, slowly turned side-to-side and reacted as they slowly came to realize what the message said.

Many were, like Mercer, emotionally touched.

Mercer's sister-in-law, Judy Fogle, raised a hand to her mouth and just stood, tears welling.

One son's words, it seems, represent the feelings of many.

"It's pretty emotional walking around here," Mercer said. "We've been here for a few hours. I've sent patients here all my life, but I've never been here. I brought a sick brother."

She, her brother and sister-in-law had just left the Gonda Building, where a youngster fighting cancer was getting entertained by musicians who spilled song after kid-related song into the air, triggering joy amidst the roller coaster of medical treatment.

Mercer and Fogle sought care for Mercer's brother far and wide. But, Mercer said, their visit to Mayo has been "the first time I thought he's going to get any help."

About a half million people get treated at Mayo in Rochester and its surrounding Mayo Clinic Health System sites each year.


Patients often say thank you — in a variety of ways. But the bold, semi-anonymous but very-public sidewalk art got the attention of clinic employees.

"I think it's really cool that a family member would write a message to Mayo in this way to thank us for what we do," said Joyce Overman Dube, of Rochester, a nursing-trained systems analyst with a Mayo patient-safety effort.

Mary Bergner, of Two Rivers, Wis., came to Rochester with her husband.

"They saved his life," she said. "I'm very grateful for all of the time and kind consideration that they give to patients."

The splash Phil made in chalk reverberated throughout Mayo in Rochester, with the clinic posting on Facebook that it was "the chatter among the staff" Monday.

Yet, caregiving continued unabated as passersby such as Mercer appreciated what Phil had done.

"I'm hoping I can write 'brother' down there," she said.

A sign at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center on Monday coincidentally had the words "make someone smile today" — also written in chalk.



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

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