Sunday, August 21, 2016

Titan Twister Ravages Rochester, Gives Birth to Mayo Clinic

Devastation from the Rochester tornado of 1883.

Note:  As I type this my daughter Heather Larsen is in Rochester Minnesota with her mother Kathy Brady-Larsen.  Today they are taking in the local sights and biding time until she swallows a camera pill on Monday in an attempt to diagnose the cause of her inability to process and retain iron and the resultant critical anemia.  She is being treated at the Mayo Clinic, the top rated hospital in the United States which pioneered cooperative, cross disciplinary group practice and is noted for its state of the art diagnostics.  In other words, Heather couldn’t be in better hands.  Which is why the following item caught my attention as I was reviewing historical events on this date for my blog entry.
It was a hot, muggy day in southeast Minnesota on August 31, 1883.  Joseph Lenard an eye witness to events that day would later recall in History of Olmsted County, Minnesota:
At Rochester the day had been hot with a strong southeast wind, the air was smoky and oppressive, the heavens were overcast with clouds of a dull leaden line, and there were, apparently, three strata, all moving in different directions.
In other words, conditions were ripe for violent weather. At 3:30 in the afternoon a tornado estimated as an F3 in the modern rating system touched down near Pleasant Grove, about 16 miles southwest of Rochester.  Two people were killed and hurt.  It was the first of at least three twisters spun out of waves of towering thunderheads.  The last, an F2 hit near St. Charles 15 miles east of Rochester at 8:30 that evening.  It killed one and injured 19.
But the biggest blow was reserved for the region’s principle hub.  A massive F5 storm came down at Hayfield and stayed on the ground for 25 miles until it struck Rochester then lifted back up into the clouds.  In its destructive path 40 farms were hit and mostly destroyed as were a modern steal railroad trestle and the northern third of the city where 135 homes and numerous business were totally smashed and 200 other buildings damaged.  Thirty-seven were killed and at least and over 200 injured badly enough to seek treatment.
Stunned survivors frantically searched through the rubble dragging out the maimed.  But there was nowhere to take them.  In the whole state of Minnesota there were only three Hospitals outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul, note anywhere near the stricken city.  An emergency clinic was hastily set up in Rommel’s Hall, a German social center.  Local practitioners led by Dr. David Berkman and Dr. William W. Mayo provided emergency care but it was apparent that many of the injured would require days or weeks of care.  They needed a hospital.

He was still a small town Doctor making house calls in the 1880s.

In Dr. Mayo, they had just the man to start one.  Mayo was then 65 years old.  He had treated casualties at New Ulm during the Great Souix uprising of 1862 so was unusually adept at the treatment of traumatic injury.  He had first come to Rochester the following year as an Army surgeon for the local draft board.  He so liked the growing city that when his enlistment was up he moved his family to the city and established a local medical practice.  Unlike many doctors in the hinterlands, Mayo to pains to regularly travel to the east to keep abreast of the latest advances and procedures in medicine.  He was one of the first doctors in the area to use a microscope as a diagnostic tool. Both of his sons, Charles and William J. had followed his footsteps and attended medical school.  Charles had just graduated and assisted his father in the emergency clinic.  First year student William was also able to help.
The senior Dr. Mayo recruited the Sisters of Saint Francis, a teaching order with no medical background to nurse his injured patients.  Mother Alfred Moes agreed with Mayo that a permanent hospital was needed in Rochester and offered her considerable skills as a fundraiser to raise a building.  Mayo became its Chief of Medicine assisted by his sons and the sisters became regular nurses.  St. Mary’s Hospital opened in 1889 with 12 beds.
The busy and respected Dr. Mayo served his community in many ways beyond his practice and the hospital.  At various time he served as an alderman, mayor, and school board member and served in the Minnesota Senate from 1891 to 1895.  It was said his finger prints could be found on every civic improvement for thirty years.
Dr. Mayo finally retired from his practice in 1892 at the age of 72 leaving his sons in charge.  They brought several other top doctors into the practice as partners.  In 1919 they incorporated as the Mayo Properties Association and established the Mayo Clinic as a not-for-profit.
The elder Mayo had kept busy with science projects.  He became interested in agricultural chemistry and was developing a process for the distillation of alcohol from animal and vegetable waste.  In 1910 his arm caught in a machine crusher requiring the amputation of his hand.  Complications set in and he died on March 6, 1911 at the age of  91.

By 1912 St. Mary's had grown from just 12 beds to this impressive building. Two years later the Mayo Clinic erected its firs stand alone building.                                                                                  
But the practice and Clinic flourished.  In 1914 it erected the first of several buildings separate from St. Mary’s with which it was still affiliated.  Every modern idea was incorporated and several introduced like steam sterilization rooms, all-metal surgical tools and equipment, pneumatic tube system, knee operated sinks, and a state of the art HVAC system.  As a result infection rates plummeted.  More importantly, the building was the first designed for an integrated group medical practice which encouraged cooperation and consultation among specialists.
The Mayo Clinic as continued to expand and has earned a world-wide reputation.  Now in addition to Rochester there are major Mayo Clinic campuses in Jacksonville, Florida and Pheonix, Arizona.  The operations of St. Mary’s Hospital, Methodist Hospital, and the clinic are now consolidated under the banner of Mayo Clinic Health System and operate more than 70 hospitals and clinics across Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Georgia.  It also operates several medical schools including the flagship Mayo Medical School in Rochester.  At its far-flung facilities it employs thousands of physicians and tens of thousands other medical professionals and support staff.

Statues of the Mayo Brothers sit outside the gleaming main building on the Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester.

The Clinic in Rochester, was ranked nationally by US News and World Report  in the top 10 in all but one of 16 measured specialties, in the top 5 in 13 specialties, and was the #1 ranked hospital in 8 of the 12.   All very impressive.
And to think it started in the rubble of a Twister….

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