Lou Gehrig, Mayo Clinic, and Me

1923_Lou_Gehrig

If my math is correct, I’m trailing New York Yankee great, Lou Gehrig, at Mayo Clinic by 77 years. Not in age, but by the year we visited. Different eras, different conditions, same area of expertise.

Lou Gehrig came to Mayo Clinic in June, 1939 to be evaluated and treated for the disease that would eventually take both his name and his life – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

In just 16 years, Gehrig set several world records in professional baseball, including most home run slams and 2,130 consecutively-played games, a record that wasn’t broken until 1994. All of that ended when he was diagnosed with ALS.

Gehrig was extremely happy with the care he received at Mayo Clinic during the many visits he made here in the summer of 1939. in fact, he became personal friends with his Mayo physician, Paul O’Leary, M.D. Mayo Clinic staff became family to Gehrig, and Rochester became home to him. Once he returned to New York, he wrote letters back to his Mayo doctors repeatedly expressing his gratitude and promising to diligently follow their advice throughout his treatment.

I know the feeling.

The Mayo Clinic staff aren’t quite family to me, but I certainly do favor them. Above all,, I trust them and that counts for a lot. Rochester isn’t so much home, but it is becoming more familiar to me, even though it’s only my second visit so far. I think highly of my doctor,and have already written back to him between visits expressing my gratitude and clarifying his advice  so I can most closely follow it. Gehrig was treated at the clinic in June, as am I. Both of us have seen the summer beauty of Southeastern Minnesota,

Lou Gehrig and I have much in common.

I love history, and this place is filled with it. In my time between appointments, I’ve been digging into that history, and that’s how I discovered the link between Lou Gehrig and me. I remember seeing the movie, The Lou Gerhig Story and balling my eyes out. If the Mayo connection was mentioned in the movie, I somehow missed it.

I’m not missing it now,

On July 4, 1939 – after his diagnosis – the Yankees held “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.” It’s during that event that Gehrig made the speech that became one of the most famous and cherished in all of sports history,

He said:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

What an amazing speech!

I’m not facing the life-threatening obstacles that Gehrig faced, but I am facing some obstacles of my own. And I’ve been asking myself if I could honestly say, I’m the luckiest (wo)man on the face of the earth.

I don’t think I could at first, but I’m getting there, and for the same reasons that Gehrig got there.

I have wonderful people I work with and through my work, I’ve been blessed with some of the most mind-blowing adventures I could ever have imagined.

I have a great support network. I say, “Pray!” and they shout, “We pray!” like one of those rounds we used to sing in grade school. Only, they’re not just singing about it; they’re really doing it.

I have siblings who are right there for me, even when I write gripe-y emails just to let off steam.

I’ve got a husband who bends over backwards (a little Mayo Spine Center humor), to help me out in every way imaginable.

I’ve got kids who love me and let me know it in uncountable and often unexpected ways.

And, I have my faith and the conviction that I rest in the loving hands of my heavenly Father. He is the Almighty, All-Knowing, All-Wise, All-Powerful and All-Merciful God.  No matter how this little adventure of mine turns out, it’s all going to turn out perfectly according to his plan. Plus, he’ll give me the grace to sustain me.

Lou, you were right.

I’m the luckiest woman on the face of the earth.

5 Comments

  1. Beautifully written… and yes, you have our prayers! It’s nice to have you in Minnesota, but next time, let’s have you visit the Land of 10,000 Lakes for pure fun!

  2. Many prayers for the best possible outcome and the grace to accept whatever that is. As always you are so eloquent in sharing your story.

  3. You are in my prayers and on my mind

  4. Wishing you all the best on your painful journey. Sending prayers for peace and healing.

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