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Documentary focuses on Mayo Clinic, treatment of Siouxland patient

Dubbed “the miracle in the cornfield” by doctors, and patients, alike, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic has treated the sick for 135-years. Many Siouxlanders have sought treatment there.

Tuesday night, the Mayo Clinic was on display to a nationwide audience. Filmmaker Ken Burns’ latest documentary, on the Mayo Clinic, debuted on PBS, Tuesday night. “The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope, Science” explores the history of the hospital, and the human toll, from the doctors and nurses, to the patients and their families.

Karl Schenk, of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, was one of those Mayo Clinic patients. In 2014, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Last year, we documented his successful battle with the deadly disease. Schenk was interviewed for Ken Burns’ documentary on the Mayo Clinic.

Tuesday night Schenk’s wife, Nancy, arranged for a viewing party for the documentary at the couple’s home alongside family and friends. Schenk’s participation in the film centered around his experimental surgery conducted at Mayo.

At the hospital where Schenk was initially diagnosed, doctors said surgery was not an option. They told him radiation would buy him six months, and chemotherapy would likely extend his life by a year. “I was told I was not a surgical candidate,” Schenk said. “However when I got up to Mayo for a second opinion, I was told that there was a chance. I was told there was a pioneering surgery that can be done, at least to extend my life, if not cure the cancer altogether.”

The experimental surgery, at the Mayo Clinic, involved removing some of Karl’s internal organs, including his spleen, and rerouting the blood supply from the now missing organs to the remaining healthy ones. Schenk says the surgery made all the difference. He says doctors at Mayo were the first to try it. It saved his life. “There are options,” Schenk said. “There is hope for people that have been diagnosed with this awful cancer that has such a terrible survival rate. And Mayo is changing that.”

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Matt Breen

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