“In the mid-19th century, rural emergency healthcare was generally in the hands of local small-town sawbones—and there was a reason they called them that. Before ambulances and helicopters rushed patients to high-tech hospitals, your best option was often an informally trained medic with a modified hacksaw and a flask of whiskey in his medical bag.
Only a few decades later, things had greatly improved—especially in Minnesota, where healthcare advanced more quickly than in the rest of the Midwest. The Mayo brothers, doctors Will and Charlie, were carrying on the work of their father—himself a onetime frontier medic—in Rochester, on the banks of the south fork of the Zumbro River. Working far from the prestige of the coasts, the Mayo brothers were laying the groundwork for the clinic that would eventually be known as one of the best in the world.
The calls came in to Rochester: a train derailment, an industrial accident, a woman stricken with acute appendicitis in Winona. In the case of the sick woman, a Model-T puttering down gravel roads might not reach her in time. So the clinic called on rail workers to detach the engine from a train and make haste to Rochester. Dr. Will grabbed his bag and hopped aboard as the tracks were cleared. Racing to Winona past midnight, the engine beat the record time for that stretch of track by almost half an hour—the first EMT on the prairie.”