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!

Testing a Facebook Live Embed

With Facebook now offering live video streaming through Facebook Live, I thought it would be great to test whether I could embed the video on a WordPress blog. Looks like it worked!

Mayo Clinic expert shares 5 things to know about #colorectalcancer

Posted by Mayo Clinic on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Leading Change from the “Other” C-Suite (That’s Communications)

That’s the title of the presentation I’ll be giving in Washington, DC today along with CareHubs CEO Paul Speyser, for the annual conference of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, a.k.a. #SHSMD15. Yesterday we had our Social Media Residency at UC-Davis in Sacramento, and so as I write this, I’m at the airport in Detroit on the way to Washington, DC, having taken the Red-Eye from SFO to DTW last night.  If all goes well, I should be in DC by 9 or so.

I had an opportunity to preview some of what we’ll be discussing in our presentation in a podcast conversation with Stewart Gandolf, which he published last week. As I mentioned in the interview with Stewart, I think it’s been about a dozen years since I’ve spoken at this conference, back when my main job was media relations for Mayo Clinic. It’s fun to consider all that’s changed since then, and yet how our work now with the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is consistent with what we were doing in 2003, but also with more than 150 years of Mayo Clinic history.

Here’s the slide deck Paul and I will be using:

We’ll be talking about how we’ve collaborated to create social networking capacity through an owned platform for our Center for Social Media, and how we’re now applying those capabilities for patient education, patient communities, blogs and news delivery.

While many of the slides contain hyperlinks to some of our WordPress-based sites and communities, here are a few initiatives I’d like to particularly emphasize:

Here are a couple of our sites that will have significantly redesigned looks in the next few weeks:

If you haven’t yet signed up, please take advantage of our free Basic Membership in the Mayo Clinic Social Media Health Network.

Finally, here are links to some of the books we mentioned, which have influenced our thinking:

I look forward to a good discussion.

A Visit from Some Very Good Danes

This week we have visitors at Mayo Clinic from Odense University Hospital and the Institute of Clinical Research at the University of Southern Denmark. I enjoyed meeting them last night at a reception and dinner they hosted (for the next few hours you can see the Periscope video of the gathering), and today I will be presenting the work of our Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

My presentation is scheduled from from 10-11 a.m. CDT, and I plan to Periscope the Q&A session from our Mayo Clinic account. That should start around 10:40 CDT.

  • If you’re on Periscope, follow the Mayo Clinic account and you’ll get an alert when we go live.
  • If you’re not yet using Periscope, you can watch on your desktop by following the Mayo Clinic Twitter account (or #MCCSM) and then clicking the broadcast link when it’s tweeted.

You can learn more about Periscope and our Mayo Clinic experiment with it on our Social Media Health Network site.

I hope you will join our Mayo Clinic Periscope experiment today. Please chime in with your greetings and questions (and of course we’ll appreciate hearts, too). I think you’ll enjoy it, and it will give our visitors a first-hand experience of the powerful reach of social media.

Here are my slides from today’s presentation:

Twitter Email Alerts Much Less Useful After Change

Twitter has taken a minor but annoying step back in the usefulness of its email notifications.

I have selected relatively few types of email updates to receive from Twitter, but one of the ones I had appreciated was notification that someone has sent me a direct message. And in the old days (meaning maybe a month ago), the text of the direct message was sent along with the email.

In the last week or two that has changed, and not for the good. Here’s a message I got yesterday:

New message on Twitter

Really, Twitter? You send me the alert, and you purposefully removed the content of the message?

This looks like something done to increase page views on, but not thinking of the users and what they need or prefer.

It’s a minor annoyance, and I didn’t say anything at first. But after having this happen a few times, I decided to take a few minutes for a post, because it relates to a larger point that applies to all of us.

Think about the changes you make in your online interfaces, and how they serve (or may annoy) users.  Don’t make them work harder to get the information they need. You may have valid business reasons for your changes, but if you’re making withdrawals from your reservoir of customer good will and loyalty, the benefits may not be worth the cost.

Even more importantly, try not to get into these cost/benefit calculations. Just do the right thing for the customer (as Twitter generally has until this point.) Doing the right thing will be better for everyone (including you) in the long run.

I was disappointed to see Twitter swerve into this short-term thinking. It’s a good reminder for me to be sure that what we’re doing keeps users and their needs first.

Update (2/25/14): I just noticed that Twitter has returned to a more useful direct message email notification. Looking back through my deleted emails, it appears this happened back on Feb. 12 or 13.

David Harlow DM

Good deal.