Nurses bring Curly Fry the calf to patient

Family, nurses say cow visit was big boost
Nurses bring Curly Fry the calf to patient

A Hillsboro man is on the mend after two Gundersen Health System nurses went the extra mile in unique way.

Earlier this year, 43-year-old Mike McCluskey spent weeks dealing with stomach issues at Gundersen hospital in La Crosse, and those taking care of him told his family he might not make it.

“Ever since he was little, cows were his life,” Mike’s sister Tracy McCluskey said. “He wouldn’t miss one single chore. That’s what he lived to do, was to take care of his cows.”

Because of Mike’s cognitive difficulties, his sister Tracy looked after him, until earlier this year when his stomach problems brought him away from his cows and into the hospital.

“They said he wasn’t going to make it, because he wasn’t keeping any food in,” Tracy said.

Mike left a mark on Gundersen staff.

“He’d watch cow videos on You Tube, or be looking at different cattle magazines,” registered nurse Beth Krage said.

“Many of the staff grew very close to him while he was here,” registered nurse Kyle Johnson said.

Mike’s nurses and family said he seemed to be giving up.

“We were really concerned that it was going to be end of life,” Krage said.

Krage and Johnson asked how they could help.

“And I said jokingly, if you could bring cow into his room he’d have it made,” Tracy said.

Of course, you can’t just bring a cow to the hospital. So Johnson and Krage brought a calf to the hospital’s parking ramp instead.

“It was a really cool experience,” Krage said.

In March, she told Johnson one of her cows had twin babies.

“I think the stars and moon aligned,” Johnson said. It was Johnson’s idea to bring the calf to Mike.

“When you’re in situations like that, I think what you go to isn’t your typical answers, always,” Krage said.

On Saturday of that week, a 3-day old calf named Curly Fry saved the day with a meet and greet in the hospital’s parking ramp.

“I will not forget the look on his face when (Mike) came around the corner and saw the calf,” Johnson said. “He had a very big smile on his face.”

For a guy with few words, Krage said, “He talked about it and talked about it and talked about Curly Fry and thought that was so nice.”

It’s safe to say, Mike was over the moon.

“He gave him like two or three kisses on the top of his head,” Tracy said.

Krage and Johnson brought Curly Fry in to see Mike on their day off.

“It’s not uncommon for the nursing staff to go above and beyond,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it’s just in bigger ways like bringing a calf to work.”

Mike had been in the hospital for about three months, and not long after Curly Fry’s visit in late March, nursing staff said they began to see improvements in his health.

Now with a smile on his face, Mike is back home with his cows.

“I think it was a turning point,” Tracy said. “It made him remember or focus more on what is his whole point of living, and that’s his cows.”