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Dayton to return to St. Paul, denies hiding extended hospitalization at Mayo

Mark Dayton

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton plans to return to Minnesota’s capital city a month after complications of a back surgery caused damage to his lungs and required additional treatment in Rochester.

Dayton underwent a pair of surgeries to fuse vertebrae in his lower back in mid-October. And in the weeks since, the DFL governor has remained at the Mayo Clinic for further observation and treatment.

On a phone call with reporters on Tuesday, Nov. 20, Dayton said he has continued his work from the Mayo Clinic, remaining in constant contact with his staff. And he denied assessments that he had tried to keep his health status a secret, saying reporters could've learned about his extended stay at Mayo if they'd asked.

“We haven’t been hiding the fact that I’ve been here and (am) still here," Dayton said. “If anyone wanted to know why I was still at Mayo a couple weeks after it was planned, I certainly would’ve had no problem disclosing that. I’m not aware that anybody asked.”

The 71 year old said he planned to return to St. Paul Wednesday and would stay there full-time.

During the course of the phone call, Dayton laid out a clearer timeline for his surgeries and treatment and defended his ability to govern remotely during the course of his recovery.

"I was conscious all the time and able to function mentally through that time," he said. "That didn't affect my ability to make decisions or be involved in decisions."

The governor said he'd had two surgeries to fuse vertebrae in his lower back on Oct. 12 and 15. On Oct. 19, he returned for post-surgical care and a day later, doctors at the Mayo Clinic detected inflammation in his lungs stemming from an apparent complication from the surgeries.

Dayton was hospitalized and treated for the lung damage at that time and has remained in Rochester since then, he said. He said he's built up lung strength in the weeks since and feels confident he'll regain lung capacity.

And so far, the results of his back surgeries appear to be successful, he said.

Dayton underwent similar surgeries in 2012 and 2015. During his two terms in the governor's office, he also had several other back surgeries and a hip repair. The governor also announced he has prostate cancer in 2017.

As he went through surgery and follow-up treatment, Dayton said he never considered turning over his responsibilities to Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, with the exception of periods when he was under anesthesia. Despite that, he said his team kept Fischbach informed of his status throughout.

Upon his return to St. Paul, Dayton said he plans to meet with DFL Governor-elect Tim Walz to begin the transition process.

"I just have to point out to him how fortunate he is to have a DFL House of Representatives," Dayton said. "What a huge difference that will make in his ability to work cooperatively with the Legislature and also to get part of his agenda accomplished."

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com.

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