DNA 3.11.22

 The Long Way Home 3.11.22

Back in 2018, I struggled with a painful medical condition that seemed beyond the diagnostic ability of local doctors and specialists in Duluth. Frustrated and exhausted with the constant pain, I finally asked my local doctor to either help me get it diagnosed or get me a DIY euthanasia kit. Yep, that serious.

She grabbed the bull by the horns and got my specialist in Duluth off his keester. He finally got part of it diagnosed and operated on me for that part. Since my remaining condition was beyond his capability he referred me to a specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He was without much optimism they could help, if I’m honest.

At Mayo, after a day of invasive tests, a surgeon young enough to be my son told me exactly what was wrong. And then he told me how he and a team that included orthopedic, plastic, and general surgery would try to fix me up. He said, “I’ve done five or six of these procedures and I think I can give you your quality of life back.” 

So after 12-hour surgery, 18 days in the Mayo hospital, and two weeks of recovery at our local hospital I was well on my way. At my one-year check-up, the young doctor said, “I told you I’d give you back your quality of life.” And sure he had, with the amazing group of doctors and nurses at Mayo. I was elated.

So when researchers at Mayo asked if I’d participate in The Tapestry DNA Sequencing Research Study, I couldn’t say no. I will always be in debt to these folks. The Tapestry study is designed to understand the short-term and long-term impact of genetic testing on people's health care when their DNA results are part of the electronic health record.

To begin my contribution to the study I had to collect my saliva by spitting it in a test tube and sending it to a company called Helix in California. They would sequence my DNA and add the result to the Mayo study database. It took a few months, but I just got an email that my sequencing was done. In a couple more months, they promise to have a health report completed for me.

They also provided an ancestry report that presents my traits and ancestry, and I find it fascinating. 

My ancestry traces to six regions of the globe. Not surprisingly, I’m 96.3% European. A combination of NW European, Finnish, NE European, and SW European, in percentages from 66.7% down to 2.9%. In addition, the DNA shows me 3.2% Persian and 0.5% Melanesian (Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.)

The biggest takeaway from that is that I have a genetic factor called Arctic Adaptation that helps humans adapt to living in colder climates. So, this winter.

The report also looked at 18 different traits and compared me to averages. It confirms that I have high tolerance (need) for caffeine, broccoli tastes bitter to me, and my cheeks don’t flush when I drink alcohol. It also predicts that I’m taller than the average (not by much) and I have brown eyes (which belies my Scandanavian heritage). 

I’ll always be indebted to the Mayo Clinic for giving me back an almost normal life and I hope my little contribution of spit to their research will help someone else dealing with medical issues. You may find more on the Tapestry Study at https://www.mayo.edu/research.

Published 3/11/2022   Northshore Journal