Alyssa Gilderhus, a high school senior with cropped hair and a large bandage on her neck, passed through the automatic doors at Mayo Clinic. The Sherburn teen was rolling along in a wheelchair, her eyes straight ahead.
It was February of last year. She was recovering from an emergency surgery—the result of a Christmas Day aneurysm that left her curled on the bathroom floor, vomiting and screaming for her mother.
Now, the Rochester hospital was letting her roll to the parking lot to visit her Great-Grandma Betty, who was too frail to go inside.
The day was overcast. The pavement was damp. The van was waiting only yards away. But Grandma Betty wasn’t there. Alyssa’s mother, Amber Engebretson, was there instead.
Alyssa hadn’t seen her mother in a while. Amber had been butting heads with Mayo’s rehab staff throughout her daughter’s recovery regimen.
She protested when they took her off oxycodone, saying Alyssa was still in too much pain. Then she said her daughter’s breathing tube was the wrong size, and that her family discovered a bladder infection doctors had missed.
Amber says she had reams of unanswered questions, possible conditions left untested, but Mayo staff just wouldn’t listen.
On Feb. 22, Amber and a nursing aide had it out. Amber asked that the aide be kicked off her daughter’s care team—the fourth staffer she’d asked to be booted in three weeks. Later that afternoon, she interrupted a staff meeting, saying they were talking about her family, and that she should be included.
The hospital was clearly tired of her meddling. An hour later, three security guards kicked Amber out of the hospital. She was no longer allowed to enter the property or make any decisions regarding Alyssa’s care.
So Amber hatched a plan for her daughter to flee.
As Alyssa left the hospital that day, Mayo staffers realized what was happening. They protested, grabbed Alyssa’s arm. Her stepfather, Duane Engebretson, yelled in protest.
“Get your hands off my daughter!”
The family lowered Alyssa into a seat and shut the door. The van sped away.
Mayo security immediately called 911 and told police that a patient had been abducted. Alyssa and her family say the exact opposite is true, that Mayo had held her against her will.
After all the disputes, they’d asked to move her to another hospital. They even had a lawyer request an “expedited transfer.” Eventually, they decided to take matters into their own hands. They caught the entire escape on video.
But all this was moot, according to the Rochester police. Alyssa is 18, an adult fully capable of making her own decisions. They refused to bring her back.
The hospital hasn’t responded to interview requests, but records say a Mayo psychiatrist determined Alyssa lacked the capacity to make her own medical decisions. The police say they understand there was no official diagnosis.
It’s within the hospital’s rights to ice out a family member if staff believe they’re jeopardizing the patient’s care, a Mayo spokesperson told CNN. But Alyssa’s family says they were doing neither. They also stumbled upon another wrinkle in the case while going through police records. Before the great escape, a Mayo social worker had requested emergency guardianship for her. If they hadn’t busted her out, Alyssa's parents say, they might have risked losing parenting rights over their daughter.
The most Mayo has said about the situation so far is that it “will not address these questionable allegations or publicly share the facts of this complex situation.”
Meanwhile, Alyssa says she’s just happy to be out. The moment she hit that car seat, she said, was “phenomenal.”
“The longer I’m away from Mayo Clinic, the better.”