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Dear Jennifer,
Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed post. My Dr.'s and I had not considered your hypothesis. However, I recall that a chiropractor that I saw about 5 years ago took an X-ray of my neck and he said that there was some compression of my C3 and C4 neck vertebrae. Much of what you explain, especially about the arms weakness, makes complete sense. However, my neurologist, the one prior to seeing the Hopkins specialist for VM, did review the X-Ray but had no significant observations. I am so pleased to report that Dr. Robertson at Mayo only today agreed to see me; I am convinced that she order all kinds of head and cervical tests. And, I am sure she will consider TOS.

With respect to your diagnosis and surgery, I am pleased to hear that you are doing better. How was your experience with your Dr. and the neurology group over all?

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.

Kind regards,


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Replies to "Dear Jennifer, Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed post. My Dr.'s and I had not..."

I'm glad you'll be seen at Mayo. I was very impressed with all the providers there. They really take time and are very thorough and they evaluate all the issues you have that interconnect. I started with the neurology exam, and then the doctor ordered other tests and evaluations. He was in the spine center. I had never had complete MRIs of all of my spine, and they did that. (Some insurance now doesn't want to cover MRIs at hospitals, so check with your insurance before you go there.) They review your imaging with you. They schedule everything for you as you go along at your appointments. I was sent to a specialist for TOS and a doppler study where I had mini blood pressure cuffs on my fingers and they raised my arms and measured the changes in pressure with changing arm positions. I did have nerve conduction studies that went for about 2 hours. If they are booked for testing, you can wait in standby status and often get tests done early. The waiting areas have nice lounges with computers for your use and lots of wonderful artwork everywhere. There are pianos in the main lobby that people can play and it just doesn't feel like you're at a medical center. Make sure you see the Chihuly glass chandeliers over a stair case at the Gonda building. They are spectacular. You might need a few days there depending on how much they schedule for you. Some hotels are in walking distance and others have shuttles. I was also impressed that after I had the TOS evaluations, and an hour later while I was seeing the neurosurgeon, he received a call from the TOS specialist and they discussed my case while I was at my appointment. It is a team approach and the doctors consult each other. You might want to draw diagrams of where your pain is and what type of pain it is and take that with you to your appointment and a list of the questions you have. It's easy to forget to ask something and having it on paper helps. I love Mayo. My case had unusual symptoms and I was refused help by 5 surgeons before I went to Mayo. I chose them because I thought my TOS was confusing the diagnosis of my spine. I had spinal cord compression and TOS at the same time. Coming to Mayo changed my life. I was loosing the ability to hold my arms up and coordination of my hands. I'm an artist and I wasn't able to do my paintings and my surgeon gave that ability back to me. To thank him, I painted his portrait as a gift. I was so grateful for his kindness and compassion as well as his talent that it was what I wanted to do the most as I was recovering last year. His nurse scheduled one of my follow up appointments on a surgery day so I could get photos of him in scrubs. He was a good sport and I brought the finished painting to my one year follow up appointment and he loved it. I had been drawing sketches of him prior to surgery to help me get through it and using my own artwork to stay calm. This was huge milestone for me as I had never had major surgery before. I am so glad I came to Mayo and if I have more spine issues in the future, I won't go anywhere else. I had a great recovery and even now, I am working to rebuild muscle that I lost before my surgery and painting again. Please check in and let us know how you're doing. I hope you enjoy your time there as it's a lot more than doctor's offices. I loved the beautiful historic Plummer building too. ( You can find some videos of it on the website.) I have enjoyed all my visits there and its' a special place to me.

Jennifer, your account of how Mayo healed you moved me. I find it astonishing that five prior surgeons did not want to take on your case. From what I continue to learn about Mayo, they seem to be the last resort for patients with troubling medical issues but, more importantly, they know how to diagnose and treat, with expertise and compassion. I also enjoyed learning that you are an artist and that Mayo enabled you to return to your passion: I am so happy for you. Thanks to your account of your experience with Mayo, I am looking forward to my visit. My husband will be with me, so I am now confident that it will be a revealing experience, in all senses. I will keep you posted! best and paint away


You as a patient have a lot of power over your own healing. Keep an open mind and an open heart. You are starting out fresh at Mayo. Kindness between both doctors and patients helps everyone. After the prior 5 surgeons had missed the real problem in my case, and I was reading the publications from my Mayo surgeon (before I became a patient there), I found terminology that I looked up, and it was in doing that, that I also found other medical literature that described unusual cases that were like mine. I had just been dismissed after sending a message about having had a vertigo episode to a neurosurgeon at another medical center that I had been seeing for 6 months. I had done all the tests he wanted, but he didn't know if surgery would make me better or worse. He had his nurse send me a message that he wasn't going to offer surgery, and I cried. I tried to get the help from my other doctors at the same medical center to send the literature I had found to the surgeon who refused me, and none would contact him on my behalf. I was afraid to try to contact him myself because everything went through his nurse who was very hard on me, and she had actually refused to make appointments. I talked to my neurologist about going to Mayo and she thought it would be good to go there.

I sent the literature I found with my request to be seen at Mayo to the surgeon who's paper I had read. The dismissal had been a blessing in disguise because during this time I was also caring for my elderly disabled parents and my dad passed away. Right after his services, I got the call to come to Mayo, and I got help immediately from a confident, kind, compassionate surgeon who recognized and understood what the others had missed. During the last several years, I've also had the help of a skilled physical therapist who helped me understand and develop body awareness of my issues, and it was frustrating for me to be able to describe my issues in detail with correct medical terminology and not be listened to by the prior surgeons. I think that can be a problem with doctor/patient communication because patients can believe anything on the internet. I have enough background in understanding this because in addition to the art, I also have a biology degree and had worked in neuro-anatomy research at a University, and studied human anatomy in art school, and I read all the studies I could find in regard to spine surgery during the 2 years I was getting worse and looking for help. Patients need to be the best patients they can be and do what they can to help under the guidance of their doctors. I kind of think of it like a job interview. I made appointments with surgeons only after I had read about their interests and publications, and after meeting them and how my questions were answered (or not), I had a sense of who I could trust. I asked intelligent questions, and the only surgeon who really impressed me was the one I hired at Mayo. A lot of surgeons want to take cases they know will be successful, so when a patient shows up with unusual symptoms, they hesitate, and wait. Mayo is known for taking cases that others refuse. The others told me that some of my symptoms were not related to the spine problem, but that was not true.

Thanks for your kind words. I know how difficult my journey was for me, and if I can inspire someone else to better health with my story, I am more than happy to share that. During my journey, I had to advocate for myself even when I was afraid of having surgery. It was also a journey in learning to overcome that fear. Having a compassionate surgeon made it easier for me to have the courage to make the choice to better my life. My Mayo surgeon changed my life for the better and I will be forever grateful.