Given the location where I grew up, just a few miles from the South Dakota and Minnesota border, Rock Valley was tucked in the northwest corner of Iowa. I never realized or appreciated our proximity to a world famous institution. Bigger than the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. More famous the The Grotto in West Bend. More important than the Falls in Sioux Falls. Ok, not as awesome as Mount Rushmore or The Black Hills but this place was in a very different category, not a vacation spot or sight seeing destination.
It was Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, about 200 miles northeast of Rock Valley. The world renown hospital/clinic where people from all over the globe sought medical help for their complicated health issues. The facility where kings, queens, movie stars and athletes went when they had a serious medical problem. If our local doctor was stumped, (believe me, Dr. Hegg could fix about anything) he referred you to a specialist in Sioux Falls or Sioux City. If they couldn’t come up with the right diagnosis, they sent you to Mayo. Because they were the best. Still are. But Mayo didn’t limit their expertise to just royalty or the rich and famous. They treated the Gerritson’s too. Who knew? Although I don’t think Dad ever was a patient at Mayo. He went to the Veterans hospital in Minneapolis for back surgery when he had a ruptured disc. But Mom and I utilized Mayo Clinic on occasion.
My first experience at Mayo Clinic was in 1966. I was dating John (later he would change his name to the Hubs). We were at a party at Denny Hamann’s, who lived a few blocks from my house. In Rock Valley everything but the farmer’s spreads were within a few blocks. It was late fall and John was shifting from football season to wrestling season, meaning he had to lose a few pounds if he hoped to reach the weight division he was striving for. (A normal struggle for him. Wanted to be heavier for football season but slimmer for his best wrestling weight. He made it every season, and often could be seen wearing a rubber suit while he jogged around Rock Valley, dropping weight at a very unhealthy clip. But he got down to his desired weight and was strong as an ox).
So we were at this party and he was showing off a little. He was describing this wrestling move and eager to show me how it worked to his advantage. He used this move called a cross face. When both wrestlers were in the down position but John was on top. Right as the ref blew his whistle, Hubs tried to distract his opponent by slapping his own forearm (up to his elbow) across the other wrestler’s chin/mouth and cheeks. Then John would grab the guy’s left arm and pull hard, causing him to collapse. That’s the way it was supposed to work. At least in his own head. Uh, ok, I’m game. I’m not chicken (umm, some of my peers were watching￼) and I know he won’t hurt me. He’s still in the ‘trying to impress me’ stage. (Had I been wearing my thinking cap instead of a mini skirt/flirty face I might have known where this was headed). As he artfully (gently) applied the cross face to my face, I turned my head, (talking) right into the move, leading with the part of me that stuck out the farthest (on my face, work with me here people). My nose. Which made a sick crunching sound that caused my eyes to water profusely. Ok, part tears but mostly water cause that’s what happens when you have your nose smacked really hard. Not a fan. Don’t try this at home.
Without a doubt it was the easiest move Hubs had ever successfully planted on another wrestler, (I use that term loosely). Although in retrospect he might have tried this teaching moment on someone other than the girl he really, really liked. Can you imagine how he felt? About as bad as this chick with the watery eyes, swelling, snotty nose and fat lip. Yup my nose was broke. Unbelievable. My boyfriend broke my freaking nose. In front of a crowd. Even though it was an accident, witnessed by several kids, my folks were not pleased. Not much John could ever do would please them. Then or in the following decades after we got hitched and had adorable kids they both doted on.
Mom initially took me to Dr. Hegg, but he was getting on in years and a rhinoplasty (what a perfect description, rino, which pretty much summed up my new look) for a deviated septum (nose job) wasn’t in his repertoire. He rattled off several eye, ear, nose, throat specialists from Sioux Falls, Sioux City or Mayo Clinic to have my nose tweaked (re-broke). Ugh. I was scared and looked like shit. Until that incident, I don’t think Mom had considered Mayo Clinic for anything, (more on Mom and Mayo later) but her interest was piqued. She jotted down a couple names of oral surgeons and simply called Mayo for an appointment for her teenage daughter’s broken schnoz.
After we arrived in Rochester, we learned surgery would be at St. Mary’s and I’d be staying for a couple days. (Now you have knee replacement and go home the next day) Mom was not keen on hotels and spotted a beautiful home nearby which rented out rooms to family members or outpatients so she reserved a room. My surgeon was young and cute. Very. Goodness but I looked grim. Nothing says a great first impression like a heavy-mouth-breathing-teen-with-a-crooked-nose. A couple bones in my nose which weren’t in the right spot. They took a lot of pictures and x-rays. I still have the pictures somewhere since Mom never threw anything away.
While the actual operation is hazy, I totally freaked out when the cute doctor said I’d be awake during surgery. (He promptly lost a lot of appeal. Not really all that cute). No. Not in this lifetime. Really, no. Seriously, no. Absolutely not. However my vote counted for diddly squat and I remained awake throughout. They injected (too many to count) my nose/forehead/cheeks with a numbing agent, maybe novocaine or lidocaine. I vaguely remember the doctor discussing where and how he was going to use a chisel/screw driver type tool. UP MY NOSE. WHILE I WAS AWAKE. I opened my eyes just a slit for a couple seconds. And saw him grabbing a small HAMMER. Tap, tap, tapping on the end of the chisel handle near my mouth. I could feel nothing but the sensation of tiny thumps. But not much of the chisel/screw driver was visible anymore. So unbelievably gross. Had to be up in my brain. Squeezed my eyes shut for the rest of the operation.
To this day I don’t like my nose touched. Ever. By anyone. I’m pretty sure if I need to be tested for Covid, it will not be with a foot long Q-tip. Take blood, take a biopsy or knock me out but do not touch my nose, or stick anything up it.
After surgery I had two black eyes and a fat face. Which lingered forever. My nose was swollen and covered with an enormous splint I wore for 6 weeks, causing all the skin underneath to peel off like a sunburn. Not really a cute phase I was going through during school that winter. But my handsome, young surgeon did a great job, (he was totally forgiven) putting all the pieces back in place. I could finally breathe through my nose again. My surgically repaired nose was awfully sensitive to touch and smells for the longest time. Now it was time for payback. I needed to practice some cheerleading moves. Kick my leg high enough or hard enough to inflict a bit of damage to someone’s face. Or another part of his (I mean their) anatomy. Not that I was vindictive or anything…