Dayton stands by staff after lack of post-surgery updates

Dayton has been at the Mayo Clinic since mid-October after complications

Sloane Martin
November 20, 2018 - 1:06 pm

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Weeks after back surgery at the Mayo Clinic resulted in damage to his lungs, Governor Mark Dayton spoke to reporters about his condition and recovery.

The 71-year-old governor provided an update via conference call for a first time after complications from two spinal surgeries more than a month ago left him recovering at the Mayo Clinic. Dayton says he's going back to the residence Wednesday ahead of Thanksgiving. 

Reporters asked him about a seeming lack of transparency about his condition post-surgery. Nearly-daily schedule reports from his communications office reported he was meeting with commissioners and staff and those meetings were closed to media, but did not disclose that he was still hospitalized in Rochester or that his medical condition has worsened with the complications. Dayton says the public is entitled to know some of his medical information, but the ordeal had no effect on his cognition or ability to communicate with staff. 

"I had a briefing on the economic forecast via phone," he said. "I had a number of phone conference calls with staff and commissioners as well emails and memos, so really I have to say, other than face-to-face meetings and particularly meetings with constituents, which I regret not being able to do, and not being able to pardon the turkey and Halloween, which is always one of my favorite events — other than those restrictions, there really hasn't been any functional difference on how I've operated here versus being at the residence."

Dayton says he's back to functioning without the aid of oxygen and is looking forward to spending time with his grandsons and dogs on Thanksgiving. His rehab and physical therapy has included 15 to 20 minutes on an exercise bike and he's confident his lung capacity will get back to what it was, but that's not guaranteed. He says doctors aren't certain what led to the lung damage.

"The severity of my damage medically, I think it was moderate, but not severe," he said. "They don't know for sure if any of it is permanent. Most of it recoverable."

Dayton says he and Walz have spoken briefly twice, but he expects to have a face-to-face meeting at the residence soon. He says he has complete confidence on Walz's ability as a "savvy leader."

Dayton is wrapping up his second and final term before Walz is sworn in in January.