Benefactor Stories > Arizona Couple Trusts Care, Supports Mayo Clinic Through Love of Cars

Arizona Couple Trusts Care, Supports Mayo Clinic Through Love of Cars

By Colin Fly

It was a joyous moment at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, when professional race car driver Aric Almirola's 1965 Shelby Cobra CSX S/C sold for $280,000 in support of Mayo Clinic's Arizona. Bold. Forward. campus expansion.

However, there was one piece of unfinished business from that night in January 2022 — who bought the car? The winning bidder was listed as anonymous.

"I was just busy buying other cars," says Jonathan White, the owner of car restoration company Pistons & Pearls and a collecting enthusiast who attended the auction with his wife, Heather. "We sold 17 cars this year at Barrett-Jackson from our collection, but we bought five others — including Aric's Cobra."

Jonathan first got into tinkering with cars with his dad, Lynn. The first car Jonathan fell in love with was a 1964 ½ Ford Mustang they restored together. Predating the first official 1965 model, it was a prototype that was rushed to market after its successful debut as the 1964 Indianapolis 500 pace car.

That car led to several others, including one that almost killed Jonathan and led him to seek care at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic is also why the White family was at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale in the first place.

A Devastating Crash

Jonathan's medical journey began one morning in Ohio in 2015 when he was hit by a drunken driver, causing his vehicle to roll over six times.

Eyewitnesses say Jonathan calmly got out of the smoking car with help and told the worried onlookers he needed to continue with his day.

"I was like, 'I am fine. I am good, and I have got to go to work,'" Jonathan recalls from what others told him about that day.

Instead, Jonathan was taken to a hospital and placed in a medically induced coma. Doctors found he had 32 broken bones, including everything from broken fingers to a skull fracture, which caused significant inflammation.

After over two weeks in the coma, he awoke and eventually was discharged to return home to Monterey, California. It was there that a trusted local physician discovered more — Jonathan's lack of a full recovery from his traumatic brain injury led to a further diagnosis of primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Slow Progress

Over the ensuing years, Jonathan worked to return to total health but had difficulty moving and functioning daily. His physician recommended Jonathan go to Mayo Clinic in Arizona to see if more could be done to help his cognitive functioning.

After their initial visit, Jonathan and Heather were so impressed that they decided to sell their businesses and move to Phoenix permanently to be closer to Mayo.

"We worked with several hospitals, and Mayo is the best to work with in terms of healing patients and giving patients the care they need," Jonathan says. "Mayo Clinic is incredible, and not only does it save lives, but it also treats its patients with an extraordinary level of personal care and attention."

Jonathan's functions continued to improve, but another setback occurred when he and Heather were hit by a car at an intersection in California following Thanksgiving in 2017. Their vehicle rolled three times.

"It was not to the extent of the first wreck; however, I still had seizures and other problems. Nevertheless, Mayo Clinic's team has been great," Jonathan says. "They have always paid attention, taking a unique perspective of how things are. The way they manage medicine is significantly different, and I love that. It is not a trauma center, but it deals with people in the aftereffects of trauma."

Mayo's Model of Care

Heather says the care Jonathan receives is second to none.

"The difference for me is that we could sit in one room and have the cardiologist, the neurologist and any other specialists we needed meet with us," Heather says. "They were all in the room simultaneously and talking about what the best plan was to get Jonathan better. It has made a dramatic difference in how Jonathan has progressed, and that is what I love about Mayo."

Jonathan's care team continues to work with him regularly. Since moving to Arizona, Jonathan has improved substantially, and he and Heather have opened several new businesses — a car restoration shop and a burgeoning wine company that they run in Washington state. New family members — seizure dogs Lulu and Beckham — help keep Jonathan's worst side effects at bay.

A Passion for Pistons

So, back to doing more of what they loved, the Whites went to Barrett-Jackson.

Jonathan and Heather swooned when they saw the Cobra CSX S/C car at auction. It brought Jonathan back to his dad's fondness for 1960s muscle cars, and the sale benefiting Mayo Clinic's expansion efforts to help more patients like Jonathan receive care made perfect sense to both him and Heather.

"The car speaks to us," Jonathan says. "We love what Aric did, giving a car that was gifted to him for winning a race at Talladega.

"The whole story is quite amazing. Furthermore, it is one of my favorite cars that I have always wanted to own. We are just so excited about being able to give back."  

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Eds Note: The individual featured in images was following social distancing guidelines, and in compliance with Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 safety guidelines while unmasked.

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