Pam Harbarth, a Gillette mom, knows that Gillette’s Marcie Ward, M.D., has an advanced medical degree and a lengthy title.
“But that’s not how I think of her,” Pam says. “I call her Dr. Makes-My-Life-Easier. No matter what we need—from a disability parking permit to a prescription for physical therapy—she’s there for us.”
A Rare Syndrome
Dr. Ward and other Gillette specialists have been treating Pam’s daughter, Madison, since Madison was a baby. For years, the family made the long drive from their Mankato home to Gillette’s St. Paul campus for care.
Madison was born with a rare condition called caudal regression syndrome or sacral agenesis syndrome. Her spine stopped developing partway down her back, and she’s missing its lower section—including her tailbone. Her feet and legs also developed improperly. As a result, she has bowel and bladder issues and uses a wheelchair.
“When Madison was born, we didn’t know what her syndrome was,” Pam recalls. “Our doctor referred us to Gillette, and she had her first appointment a week later.” Gillette’s specialists confirmed that Madison would need continuing care in areas including orthopedics and spine, rehabilitation medicine and urology.
Easing the Strain
Before Gillette opened our clinic in Mankato, Madison’s family regularly drove three hours round-trip to St. Paul or nearly as far to our Burnsville Clinic. “The amount of strain on our family was enormous,” Pam says. “Madison was missing several days of school a month, and my husband and I had exhausted our vacation and sick days.”
That changed when the Gillette Mankato Clinic opened. Now Madison sees most of her specialists—including “Dr. Makes-My-Life-Easier”—close to home. And the Gillette Mankato Clinic’s benefits go far beyond easy parking and a lack of traffic. “We’ve been able to get our lives back to normal,” Pam explains. “Normal for us means more time at home as a family.”
Collaboration in the Community
The Gillette Mankato Clinic is a boon not only to local families, but also to people throughout southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. And because Gillette is next door to the privately owned Mankato Clinic and Pediatric Therapy Services, our Mankato location offers another benefit: close collaboration with community providers.
“We love how closely everyone works together,” Pam says. For example, if Dr. Ward suggests physical or occupational therapy, it’s easy to set Madison up with a therapist at Pediatric Therapy Services. Gillette urologist, David Vandersteen, M.D., connected the family to a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Mankato Clinic.
“The coordination that happens at Gillette and the Mankato Clinic is amazing,” Pam says. “Everyone speaks the same language. We get the same Gillette experience—but in Mankato!”