Alyssa Gilderhus is an 18-year-old girl whose family is accusing the Mayo Clinic of “medically kidnapping her” after she was the victim of an aneurysm, per CNN.
In a two part exclusive report to CNN, the Gilderhus family told the story of how Alyssa was taken into Mayo’s care following a near-death surgery, then was cut off from her family and refused her requests to transfer.
The Mayo Clinic gave a statement to CNN on the report of mistreatment, saying, “We will not address these questionable allegations or publicly share the facts of this complex situation, because we do not believe it’s in the best interest of the patient and the family. … Our internal review determined that the care team’s actions were true to Mayo Clinic’s primary value that the patient’s needs come first. We acted in a manner that honored that value for this patient and that also took into account the safety and well-being of the team caring for the patient.”
Alyssa Gilderhus is from a small town in Minnesota, with less than 1,000 people. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Gilderhus Experienced a Brain Aneurysm in 2016
In 2016, Gilderhus was the victim of a brain aneurysm on Christmas morning. CNN reports that she was perfectly healthy and when she went to the bathroom, she began to scream. Her parents reportedly found her lying on her side, with her left side “very weak” and no ability to hear out of her left ear.
Soon, a local hospital determined that a blood vessel inside Gilderhus’s brain had burst. Local doctors drilled a hole in her brain to relieve the pressure, then Gilderhus was eventually transferred to the Mayo clinic.
2. While at the Mayo Clinic, Gilderhus Was Isolated From Family Members & Her Transfer Requests Were Refused
After Gilderhus was sent to the Mayo Clinic, she underwent surgery that had a 2% likelihood of survival. Against all odds, she survived— but then tensions began to grow between Gilderhus’s family and the medical staff.
In February of 2017, Amber Engebretson, Alyssa’s mother, was kicked out of Mayo after she got in a disagreement with medical staff. Amber recalled to CNN, “[The doctor] said to me, ‘You are not allowed to participate in Alyssa’s care. You are not allowed on Mayo property. You will be escorted off the premises right now.'”
When Amber Engebretson and her husband, Duane, asked if they could speak with a patient advocate to represent Amber in the hospital, a staffer reportedly told them that there wasn’t a patient advocate and walked away.
Despite Gilderhus and her mothers’ repeated requests to transfer out of Mayo and into a different hospital, the hospital refused to allow it.
Amber Gilderhus wrote to Facebook, “They refuse to let her go. … We cannot transfer [Alyssa] out or get her discharged,” she wrote. “No one has any say in [Alyssa’s care] and she is basically a prisoner of Mayo.”
What’s more, other family members were told not to talk to Gilderhus about her mother, and Gilderhus’s boyfriend’s mother said of the nurses, “It was like they were watching every move you made.”
3. Staffers Confiscated Gilderhus’s Phone, Laptop & Tablet After Finding Out She Recorded a Video for Her Mother
CNN reports that Gilderhus was soon examined by a psychiatrist who found that she “lacked the capacity to make her own medical decisions”; this was a piece of evidence that police would later point out as confusing, as the Mayo Clinic would later argue that Gilderhus was making her own medical decisions which is why they were able to kick her mother out without providing her with a patient advocate.
On February 26, Gilderhus’s cell phone, laptop and tablet were taken away from her when staffers found out that she’d been recording a video for her mother. Soon after that, family members were refused from bringing any similar devices into her room. Shortly after that, Mayo staffers reportedly told Duane that no one was allowed to stay overnight with Gilderhus anymore. He said, “The doctors said they were doing this for Alyssa’s own benefit.”
4. Eventually, Gilderhus’s Family ‘Hatched’ Her From the Mayo Clinic, & the Mayo Clinic Claimed ‘Medical Kidnapping’
The Gilderhus family eventually developed a plot to “spring” Gilderhus from the hospital: they invented an old relative named “Grandma Betty” that was too weak to make it to Gilderhus’s room, so Gilderhus had to come to her. When Gilderhus made it to the car, her family helped her in and they left.
Gilderhus said of that moment to CNN, “It was like the biggest weight off my shoulders.”
Soon after Gilderhus left the hospital, the Mayo Clinic called the police and claimed “patient abduction.” The police tried to track down the Gilderhus family for over a day, until they received work from a hospital in South Dakota, where doctors confirmed that Gilderhus was capable of making her own medical decisions and that she could be taken home to receive care.
John Sherwin, the captain of investigations for the Rochester Police Department, said of the event, “There was no abduction. This was done under her own will. You had a patient that left the hospital under their own planning.”
5. A Year Later, Gilderhus Was Voted ‘Prom Queen’ at Her Senior Prom
A little over a year later, Gilderhus is healthy, and can now walk without any assistance. CNN reports that she was voted prom queen of her senior class, and that she plans to attend college at Southwest Minnesota State University in September.
Gilderhus’s family have not yet decided if they want to file a lawsuit, per CNN.
Asked what would happen if they hadn’t forcibly removed their daughter from the Mayo Clinic, Duane said, “I think she would be [at the hospital] and nobody would be able to see her.”