Internationally renowned care right here at home

Dorothy Gjere
Dorothy Gjere and Same Day Services reigstered nurse, Pat Meyer.

Since 2001, Dorothy Gjere of Mabel, Minnesota has come into the Winneshiek Medical Center Same Day Service Department for medications to control the progression and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.  On a recent Friday, she walked in with a box full of hand-made stocking caps.  Using a knitting machine, Dorothy had made hats to appeal to boys and girls of all ages and interests.

“I had heard the Same Day Services Department was in need of warm hats for children – I thought, ‘I can do that!’” says Dorothy.

Every six weeks, Dorothy receives three-hour infusion therapy treatments by the order of Eric Matteson, M.D., Mayo Clinic rheumatologist and outreach physician at Winneshiek Medical Center.  Dr. Matteson has been traveling to Winneshiek Medical Center two days per month to see patients for approximately 19 years.  At Winneshiek Medical Center, Dr. Matteson sees patients from the surrounding area, as well as patients from as far away as southern Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Dorothy says, “I began seeing Dr. Matteson in Rochester, but when he started offering outreach in Decorah, I transferred my care here.  It’s much more convenient.”

Dr. Matteson is chair of the Division of Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic.  In addition to patient care and administrative responsibilities, Dr. Matteson performs research to learn more about rheumatoid diseases.  Currently his team is focusing on why people with systematic rheumatoid diseases have a greater risk for heart disease, and how genetics govern the body’s response to medications for treating these diseases.  Dr. Matteson regularly presents his research to international audiences, and works to further the understanding of systematic rheumatoid diseases as an officer with the American College of Rheumatology.

Dr. Matteson uses Dorothy’s case in his research and has been studying her blood for over five years.  “Dorothy is involved in a study to determine if there is pre-mature aging of the immune system in patients with systematic rheumatoid diseases,” says Dr. Matteson.  “I often ask patients to provide blood samples.  They are generally quite willing to be part of the research process.”

“He is something else,” says Dorothy of Dr. Matteson.  “It is amazing that such a highly-regarded scientist is also my doctor, and he provides care nearby in Decorah.”

Research has shown that over one’s lifetime women have a 1/12 and men have a 1/20 lifetime chance of developing a systematic rheumatic disease like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and others.  “The research my patients participate in, including patients in Decorah, will make a positive difference for patients for years to come,” says Dr. Matteson.  “We will understand more about how the disease progresses and expresses itself, and be able to continually develop better medications to control the disease and its symptoms.”

Of Dorothy’s donation of children’s stocking caps, Dr. Matteson says, “It is astonishing that Dorothy has the spirit, ability and desire to donate hand-crafted items.  Rheumatoid arthritis makes everyday living very difficult – the joints do not move like they should and there are always medication adjustments to contend with. Activities of daily living, that someone without the disease may take for granted, are simply much harder for people with systematic rheumatoid diseases. The fact that Dorothy overcame these hurdles and made hats for the children is simply extraordinary.”

Dr. Matteson’s care has made a difference for Dorothy.  She says, “Dr. Matteson has prescribed powerful medications that keep my joints moving.  Because of his care, and because of his research, I am able to do what I love.”

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