Lytle goes above, beyond

Darla Lytle, an infusion therapy nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, will be honored at a reception at the medical center Wednesday for service above and beyond the norm.

“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words.” — Mahatma Ghandi

For 17 years, Darla Lytle has made life a little easier for chemotherapy and infusion therapy patients at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont.

Her co-workers praise her professionalism and dedication as she cares for patients receiving chemotherapy or other intravenous treatments, and how she often surpasses the normal responsibilities of a registered nurse.

Lytle recently was named a 2018 recipient of the Mae Berry award, an honor given annually to only two non-physician employees at Mayo Clinic Health System, which includes campuses around the country.

The Mae Berry Service of Excellence Award recognizes Mayo employees for their outstanding commitment to patients, co-workers and clients. Lytle learned of the honor at a surprise celebration.

“I thought we were just having a staff meeting, but when I walked in, my family was there,” she said. “I was so surprised. I never thought I would win an award like this.”

The celebration of her achievement will continue with an open house reception in her honor from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Harvest Cafe in the Fairmont hospital. Those wishing to attend should enter through the south doors of the hospital.

Lytle said she motivated to become a nurse after watching her father battle cancer.

“I knew it was always something I wanted to do,” she said. “My dad had his care 27 years ago in Rochester. He had esophagus cancer, and at that time, they didn’t have any chemotherapy options for him. It was just radiation and surgery. He wanted me to be a nurse, but he died before I graduated from college.”

Lytle attended the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul and received additional training in oncology in Rochester. She began her career at the Madelia hospital. When her family moved to Fairmont 21 years ago, she continued to commute to Madelia for four years until she was hired at Mayo-Fairmont.

She and her husband, Tom, have three children. Raising them while simultaneously coping with the demands of being a nurse was challenging, but Lytle credits her husband for his help.

“It was really hard, but Tom was always so supportive, especially when our treatments go over. They’re not always done by 5 p.m.,” she said.

“But this is my dream job, to work in oncology. I love it. It’s hard, but I try to find the good in everything. There’s always hope. What gets me through is when I see people that I treated 17 years ago that are still in the community. I love that.”

Lytle calls her nine-member department a close-knit family.

“I love my department. My co-workers, I respect every one of them. Any one of them could have won this award. They’re all so good, and it just makes you better when you work with great people,” she said.

Lytle’s co-workers readily shared their admiration for her.

“My first thought was, there’s no one that deserves it (Mae Berry award) more than her,” said Tami Stegge, who joined co-worker Brenda Jones in nominating Lytle for the award. “We had to get lots of information for the nomination. It took a few of us to get together what she has done over the years, for Relay for Life, for the department, for the community, for the patients. Darla selflessly has had her hand in helping everyone, from patients to co-workers. She’s a good role model. She’s set up a good team, but she’s the driver.”

Carolynn Jahnz talked of Lytle’s love for the patients and her one-on-one interactions with them.

“She’s a nurse that wears many hats. She’s even gotten medicine and taken it to their home,” Jahnz said.

Dr. Amrit Singh, a Mayo oncologist who travels to Fairmont on a regular basis, called Lytle an “excellent lady, simply excellent.”

“I think she deserved it (award), definitely,” he said. “Many times, she helps people out at their houses, giving rides to patients. She goes beyond her job description and does a lot that’s totally out of the purview of her job.”

Lytle is not the first Mayo-Fairmont employee to receive the Mae Berry award. David Curtis earned the recognition in 2013 and Jeanne Berhow in 2009.

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