May 27—After an extensive health journey, Sue Thomas wanted to show appreciation to her care team.
She recently brought a thank-you note with her when she came in for tests to Mayo Clinic Health System in Waseca. Thomas had spent many days at the clinic since having a heart attack on her birthday on Feb. 20, 2019.
She handed over the card to a worker she knew and recalled the worker saying how sweet the gesture was, as they don't always get thank-you cards from patients.
Thomas knew what she had to do next.
The Waseca woman asked an employee at the front desk how many people work on the hospital and clinic's campus.
"She said '125', so I said, 'I've gotta go," Thomas said. "I've gotta make cards for everybody."
Staving off writer's cramp, she wrote 97 thank-you notes. Her sister made another 30, totaling 127 to factor in her health care providers who don't work exclusively in Waseca.
Thomas delivered her box of cards Thursday, with staff distributing them to workers on site.
Thomas' 2019 heart attack was considered "silent," meaning there were few to no symptoms tipping her off to it happening. The symptoms can be so minimal that some people mistake them for heartburn, to their fatal detriment.
Shortness of breath eventually prompted her to go to the hospital after hours went by. It wasn't the birthday she had in mind, to say the least.
An internal bleed, a triple bypass surgery in October 2019 and an incision infection kept her coming back to appointments at Mayo clinics or hospitals in Waseca, Owatonna and Rochester.
During one stretch, she was coming in for appointments at least five days per week. Then it dropped to once per week.
However many total appointments it added up to, she grew close to her health care team in Waseca.
Thomas feels much improved compared to 2019, she said.
In December she learned she could go a full year before her next appointment with her cardiologist and six months for checkups with her primary care provider in Waseca. "Don't come back for a while" is what you want to hear in medical context.
Her Waseca primary care provider, nurse practitioner Abby Bartz, came out with a group of colleagues to accept Thomas' box of cards Thursday. Health care workers care for patients regardless of whether patients show appreciation, Bartz said, but seeing Thomas show so much thanks for the care she received felt great.
"We go into health care wanting to take care of everybody," she said. "It's much appreciated."
Dr. Abby Dettmer, a family medicine and wound care physician, said it meant a lot coming from a patient who they've all grown to know so well.
"It's humbling," she said. "It's nice to know we have an impact in our community."
Thomas, in her late 60s, hopes she stays healthy enough to never need to go to Rochester for care again. She's still thankful for the workers who cared for her there, though, just as she is to the workers in Waseca and Owatonna.
And next time she comes in for a checkup in Waseca, everyone on site will know how appreciative she is for all they do for people.
"Everybody deserves them," she said. "They sure do, every hospital and clinic worker from the ambulance drivers to everybody else."
Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola