An Astonishing Week

As my wife Lisa and I sit in our home library this evening reflecting on this past week, we’re looking at each other in slack-jawed amazement.

I told part of the story in a blog post Thursday on the HELPcare site, but now I want to take a step back here on my personal blog to give some details, along with an update on my spine surgery experience.

I’ve been dealing with neck and back pain for almost four months, and in the last couple of weeks noticed weakness and numbness in both my arms and legs.

Among other impacts this affected my golf game, as my shots were consistently shorter than I expected. Eventually I recognized that I needed to “club up” a little, e.g. using a 6-iron when I ordinarily would use a 7.

In what turned out to be my last round of the year Monday, I seemed to have found the groove:

On Tuesday, July 19, Lisa and I left Austin at 6 a.m. and drove to the Twin Cities to take test specimens to Labcorp and to get an MRI of my spine as ordered by Dr. Dave Strobel.

After my scan, the remote technologist asked me to stay around a bit while she had the radiologist review it. She had seen something and wanted to make sure no additional images were needed.

That gave me an opportunity to capture an image of my own:

It was a little unnerving eavesdropping on one side of the conversation as the local staff person responded to the radiologist’s question with “No, he’s mobile.”

We had hoped the MRI would give us a reason for my symptoms.

To have the radiologist wondering whether I was even able to walk told me this was serious.

A few minutes later we were heading back to Austin with images on CD, and with the radiologist reading to follow by fax.

That evening we discussed the report with Dr. Dave and he said I needed to be evaluated for surgery, and we planned to have him refer me to Mayo Clinic.

On Wednesday at 8 a.m. he submitted the referral. Lisa typically goes to Rochester on Wednesday afternoons to drop off HELPcare Clinic lab specimens for Labcorp pick-up, and we decided I should go with her this time with the image CDs in case I could be seen at Mayo.

We got a call from the Mayo referring physician office while we were on the way, and by the time we had dropped off the specimens it was clear we needed to go to the Emergency Department.

We arrived just after 3 p.m. and the speed of the process was otherworldly. By 5:15 we were told I would be admitted and scheduled for a Thursday operation.

On Thursday at 10 a.m. I participated with Dr. Dave in our regular weekly radio program on KAUS AM 1480, but this time from my hospital room:

Less than two hours later I was taken to pre-op, and I was wheeled into the operating room at 2. The operation started at 3:20, and at 5:53 Lisa got a text message that they were closing and that it had gone well. I was back in my room at 8:30.

On Friday morning I went down for x-rays, and before I was discharged the chief resident reviewed them with me and we discussed the need for follow-up. The team had taken a conservative approach, just removing the C4-C5 disc that was clearly causing the symptoms, and fusing those two vertebrae. The discs on either side might need attention eventually.

We left at about 1:30, and on the way home we stopped at the HELPcare Clinic office to see and thank Dr. Dave and the team.

I went to bed around 9, but then awakened at about 12:15 a.m. Saturday because the Tylenol had worn off, and my mind was flooded with ideas related to HELPcare Clinic development.

Practicing my Getting Things Done (GTD) training, I captured the ideas on my phone so I could clear my mind and get back to sleep.

But within a few minutes I’d get another idea, and then another.

The more I captured, the faster they came.

By 6 a.m. I had 51, and I realized I wasn’t going to get back to sleep, so I got up and started refining them.

They boiled down to about 30 distinct concepts or projects.

I think it’s one of the most creative nights I’ve ever had. Maybe all the stimulation my nerves got through this process amplified their creative activity.

At any rate, I didn’t have any problem getting to sleep early last night.

So just to recap:

  • Monday morning I played golf for the last time in 2022
  • Tuesday I got an MRI of my cervical spine
  • Wednesday I was admitted at Mayo Clinic for surgery
  • Thursday I had the operation
  • Friday I was discharged home
  • Saturday I had one of my more productive days of work

In less than a week we went from just having suspicions of the nature of my problem to having it surgically repaired.

We prayed for a positive outcome and resolution of my symptoms, and we appreciate so many who joined us in this plea.

Those prayers were answered in a way we couldn’t have imagined. We’re overcome with gratitude and joy.

I’m recovering well, and looking forward to having all six of our kids, five spouses and our 14 grandchildren together this weekend as my son Joe gets married on Saturday, and Amy Wagner will become our last daughter-in-law.

Today, Sunday July 24, Lisa and I were blessed to be able to worship with our church family at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Rochester.

Soli Deo gloria!

Hospital Social Media Governance Survey

Communications and marketing professionals who are in charge of managing the social media presence for hospital systems frequently find themselves in a difficult position as leaders of specialty groups, residency programs and other entities within the system clamor for their own social media accounts that carry the enterprise brand.

In theory these accounts should contribute to overall organization reputation, but if they aren’t well managed they could dilute the brand through inactivity or even become flash points for controversy.

Back when I led the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (#MCSMN), which brought together social media leaders and users from health care, we heard these concerns regularly.

Now as I’ve moved into a third career while also continuing to work in digital health in my of counsel role with Jarrard, Inc., I’m excited to be working on a project to help health care social media colleagues compare notes and perhaps identify best practices for managing these sub-brand accounts.

One of our Jarrad clients, Ashley Anderson of Cedars Sinai, has commissioned a research project to gather input from colleagues on how their organizations are handling social media governance issues. Some of the questions include:

  • Which department has primary responsibility for your organization’s main enterprise-level presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and any other social media platforms?
  • What other departments have a role in using or contributing content to these enterprise-level accounts?
  • How many employees contribute to your organization’s social media accounts (i.e. content development, strategy, planning, community management, etc.?)
  • How do the sub-accounts contribute to and support the organization’s overall brand?
  • Is there a strategy or methodical approach behind the sub-accounts?
  • How do you measure and/or prove the success of the sub-accounts?

Ashley plans to share the results of the survey with the participants, so all will be better equipped with data from peer institutions to help guide their internal governance discussions.

Here’s the survey.

If you are responsible for managing social media in your hospital or hospital system, I hope you take a few minutes to participate.

Starting My Second Revolution

It was 10 years ago this month that Minnesota Monthly, the magazine formerly published by Minnesota Public Radio, included me in its story called The Revolutionaries: 12 Minnesotans who are changing the way we think about the world—and its future.

I had started Mayo Clinic’s social media program as part of my role as manager for media relations, beginning with a makeshift podcast in 2005 and then branching into experiments with blogs and the various social networks.

By 2008 we were on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, and also had a news blog that eventually became the Mayo Clinic News Network.

I understood that as Mayo Clinic’s reputation had been built for 150 years through word-of-mouth, these platforms would be ways that word would spread between people in the 21st century.

While the rest of the world uses youtube to post videos of their cats curled into shoeboxes, Lee Aase is using the medium—along with Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, and blogs—to upend health care as we know it.

Minnesota Monthly, February 2012

Along the way I met up with co-belligerents as we created what would become the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, and we even wrote a book called Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care. Meredith Gould, Ph.D. was our editor, and besides Farris Timimi, M.D., my great friend and medical director for social media at Mayo Clinic, our contributors included

That was a magical time, as we experimented together and encouraged innovative applications of social media to promote health, fight disease and improve health care.

I have many fond memories from that revolutionary movement, and now I’m excited to help start another one through HELPcare and HELPcare Clinic.

Instead of a health care communications revolution, it’s a revolution in health care practice. My experience in the former has equipped me for this next one.

So has my personal health journey.

HELPcare is my new venture that provides metabolic health coaching, education and peer support for people who want to turn back the clock on their health through lifestyle changes.

HELPcare also provide management services for HELPcare Clinic, a new direct primary care practice my dear friend and high school classmate, David Strobel, M.D., opened in our hometown of Austin, Minn. on Feb. 1.

In just its first month of part-time operation, HELPcare Clinic already has more than 200 members, and positive newspaper and TV feature stories in our local market.

Today we’re announcing HELPcare Clinic’s Corporate Membership program, which gives small businesses who can’t afford ACA-compliant insurance a way to support their employees’ health and well-being.

Direct primary care is a growing trend. Likewise, many people are finding a low-carb, ketogenic diet combined with intermittent fasting is enabling significant health restoration.

I think the synergy between an affordable, membership-based medical practice that provides unhurried, unlimited primary care services in concert with lifestyle coaching that equips members to address underlying causes of disease will be powerful.

Hopefully even Revolutionary.

The Joys of Coaching

When my daughter Rebekah took a job as the girls’ varsity basketball coach for the Lyle-Austin Pacelli Athletics, she prevailed upon me to be her assistant (and JV coach), so since mid-November we’ve been having a lot of time together.

We’ve lost a lot more games than we’ve won this season, but last night we achieved our first winning streak, following Tuesday night’s win with a big comeback against the Schaeffer Academy Lions. After being down 30-15 at halftime, the Athletics girls went on a 25-1 run to start the second half.

That was fun!

Afterward, Bekah and I took a picture with my parents, Lew and LaVonne, who were there to watch their son and granddaughter coach a great-granddaughter.

The basketball season will be wrapping up in the next couple of weeks, so then I will be focusing on another type of coaching Lisa and I are doing as part of our new venture, HELPcare.

Through HELPcare we’re providing online education, community support and metabolic health coaching for people interested in making lifestyle changes to maximize their health, energy and longevity.

These services are available globally, but for people who become members of HELPcare Clinic they’re included at no extra charge.

HELPcare Clinic is the new direct primary care clinic I’m helping my good friend, Dr. David Strobel, open in our hometown of Austin, Minnesota. My new venture, HELPcare LLC, is contracted with HELPcare Clinic, his medical practice, to provide management services so he can focus on doctoring. We just opened last week.

This metabolic health coaching practice is built on what I’ve learned through my health journey over the last few years, and also the results Lisa has gotten. We started by coaching friends, and then the circle expanded over time.

I enjoy helping people discover their abilities to do more than they thought they could. It’s been really rewarding seeing people reclaim their health and even turn back the clock.

We feel better than we did 25 years ago, and are glad to help others looking to make similar changes.

And hopefully tonight we can make it three in a row for the Lyle-Pacelli girls!

A Year of Change and Blessings

2021 has been a year of massive change for Lisa and me, and as we look back we can see God’s hand of blessing even in the heartbreak.

By far the most difficult change was losing Lisa’s dad, Leonard Wacholz, in June. We all miss him and Lisa gets teary every day. But we’re thankful that he lived to be 90 and was able to stay at home on the farm until his last three months. Unlike so many who died alone during COVID, he had all of his children and their spouses as well as most of our children and grandchildren able to visit him in his last two weeks. And for those who couldn’t physically get there, we had FaceTime.

All of his descendants gathered in August for our nephew’s wedding, and we captured this photo that shows Leonard’s (and Lisa’s mom Arlene’s) legacy:

Here’s the Aase branch of the clan…

Behind us you see (L to R):

  • Rachel, husband Kyle Borg and their five kids, who live in Winchester, KS. Evelyn is our first teenage grandchild. Judah is badly outnumbered. Aletta, Mabel and Sylvia are enjoying dance lessons. Rachel homeschools all of them, and Kyle pastors the Presbyterian church.
  • Joe and his fiancée, Amy Wagner, who will be married July 30. We’re looking forward to that!
  • Ruthie and husband Trevin Hoot with daughter Noa and son Frank, who was born March 22. They’re Presbyterian missionaries in Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • Rebekah and husband Andrew Gatzemeyer with Griffin, Gus and Murphy. They live seven blocks from us in Austin.
  • John and Bella, married last year and now living in Roseville, MN.
  • Jacob and Alexi with Graham, Isaac, Clara and Julia. They live in Rochester and Jacob is a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic.

For Lisa and me, the changes in the last year have been breathtaking. So I’ll just take a breath now and reflect:

Leonard was diagnosed with heart failure in February and needed to leave the farm in late March. The following three months were pretty hard.

I completed my MBA in Healthcare Management on April 3. I decided to retire from Mayo Clinic May 3 and was originally intending to have it be effective December 31. A series of providential events made it possible for me to move it up to August 3.

That’s when I started an “Of Counsel” role with Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, a communications firm based in Nashville. It’s very much part-time and lets me continue to use my skills and experience from 21 years at Mayo Clinic on behalf of Jarrard clients.

Given my newly flexible schedule, I also was able to arrange a significant increase in golf time, taking full advantage of my Meadow Greens membership.

Ruthie and family (including our newest grandson Frank) were back from Bulgaria in mid-August, which was another incentive for my August 3 retirement date. We enjoyed the company of Trevin’s parents and his sister Tiffany, too.

I’m also serving as the assistant coach (and JV coach) for the Lyle-Pacelli girls basketball team. Rebekah had accepted the head coach position and asked me to serve as her assistant. We’re enjoying spending time together, and the girls are great. It’s something I couldn’t have done without my newfound schedule freedom.

But my main focus since August has been development of our new health venture and what will be my third career. Here’s that story.

We’re blessed to be in position to start this new venture offering support to people interested in reclaiming their health, and also to provide management services to help my dear friend and high school classmate, Dr. David Strobel, open a new primary care clinic in our hometown. We’re on track for that to open in February.

Just after we signed the lease on the space for HELPcare Clinic, Lisa and I joined Dave and his wife, Lorene, along with our employee #1, Coleen Olmsted, to celebrate and commemorate the occasion.

Coleen, Lorene and Dr. Dave with Lisa and me where the new HELPcare Clinic sign will go.

As I look back, I’m astounded at how quickly this has all developed. We’re also gratified by the enthusiastic reception so far as Austin-area residents have signed up to become Founding Members.

We have been abundantly blessed!

Lisa and I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas, and hope your 2022 is characterized by personal growth and happiness.