Patient Stories > Mayo Clinic Patient Leverages Experience to Help Others

Mayo Clinic Patient Leverages Experience to Help Others

By Erin Kourkounis

In the medical world, most patients are looking for one thing: They want someone to help them. MaryDale Hansen has another purpose in her journey as a patient.

“I want to help someone else. What else could be the reason for my going through depression for so many years?” says MaryDale, 74.

“I was first depressed as a young adult. If you were depressed in those days, you tried to not let anyone know about it. You felt less capable than your friends. And you were less productive because depression is debilitating.

“As your depression worsens, it takes on physical symptoms. You don’t sleep well, you are tired most of the time, your entire body aches. You can’t think straight and you struggle to make yourself do anything,” she says.

She is talking about her depression in the hope of reaching others about the breakthrough care she received at Mayo Clinic.

“And to give others with mental illness new hope in the many opportunities they have to start their journey to wellness,” MaryDale says.

MaryDale’s care at Mayo included drug-gene testing, which predicts how a patient’s genes will affect his or her response to medications.

Information about the potential for drug-gene interactions is added to a patient’s electronic health record. Computer alerts are triggered to guide clinicians and pharmacists regarding prescription choices and dosing recommendations.

Finding the correct drug and dosage for depression is important because of long delays waiting to see if a drug works and dangerous side effects, including increased thoughts of suicide.

Faith and prayers

Before testing, MaryDale felt like she was bouncing back and forth between drugs. She described weeks of waiting to see if a new drug would work, enduring the bad side effects, how her body became immune to the drugs, and how her depression returned again and again.

“I had been on many drugs that weren’t in my genomic profile, and those drugs didn’t help me or did only for a short time, she says.

“If I didn’t have my faith and the many prayers and support from others, I just truly would not have made it.”

Now when MaryDale gets depressed, her doctors at home use one of the drugs from her profile. “The episodes of depression are not as deep and don’t last as long.”

In recognition of the great care MaryDale received, she and her husband gave to Mayo Clinic.

While people today have a better awareness of mental health than when MaryDale first experienced depression, there is still a lack of understanding and stigma associated with mental health disorders.

“We need to talk about depression. Depression happens to people in many circumstances — regular people. Depression can happen to anyone!” MaryDale says.

She hopes by speaking publicly about her experience that she will spark new conversations between family members or friends that may have been thought of as too difficult to have.

“I just hope in my lifetime, we can make a difference.”

Editor’s Note: Learn more about mental illness and how to get help for yourself or a loved one. If you have suicidal thoughts, please call Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 from any phone. The lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

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