Audrey Schneider, left, and Maggie Davis look at the large fish tank in the lobby of the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic during the grand opening Wednesday night. Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Audrey Schneider, left, and Maggie Davis look at the large fish tank in the lobby of the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic during the grand opening Wednesday night. Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

Medical center officials, family unveil Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic

Published 10:32am Thursday, April 17, 2014

‘It’s all designed for kids’

By Jason Schoonover and Eric Johnson

Karl R. Potach’s legacy continues to live on in Austin.

Karl succumbed to cancer in 1997 before his fifth birthday, but on Wednesday night his parents, Dr. Kurt and Brenda Potach, and Mayo Clinic Health System officials unveiled the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic on the third floor of the medical center.

“Thank you to all our friends, donors and people we haven’t met yet that made this possible,” Kurt said. “It’s been an amazing journey and not all of it has been very easy. In fact, very little has been easy. There’s been so much love and support from our family and friends.”

A children’s choir directred by Erin Schumacher sings during the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic’s grand opening Wednesday evening at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin.
A children’s choir directred by Erin Schumacher sings during the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic’s grand opening Wednesday evening at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin.

The pediatric wing has served local families for several months after being built as part of the $28-million, 85,600-square-foot Mayo Clinic Health System expansion unveiled last January. But the finishing touches have just been made through $220,000 of additional amenities to make the space more appealing to youngsters. The amenities are similar to ones Karl appreciated while receiving treatment for Wilms, a pediatric cancer.

The space includes a 240-gallon fish tank built by Midwest Custom Aquariums in Starbuck, Minn., and a wood paneling on the ceiling that Mark Ciota, M.D., CEO at Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin, said was designed to feel a little smaller and more inviting to children.

“We know they’re here because they’re not feeling well, and the whole idea is to provide an environment that’s soothing, which just helps with healing,” Ciota said.

Doug Moser of Morris, Minn., completed some of the woodwork and crafted a butterfly-themed entrance to the clinic, according to Ciota. Butterflies were important to Karl and his family during his battle with cancer, as he was given a jar with two cocoons and loved watching the jar each day before the butterflies emerged.

Dr. Kurt Potach talks about the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic.
Dr. Kurt Potach talks about the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic.

Local photographer John Duren’s wildlife photography is featured in the hallways of the clinic.

“It’s all designed for kids,” Ciota said.

The space will also feature an interactive touch screen connecting to the Minnesota Zoo, which will show a live feed of several animals. The feed isn’t up yet, but Ciota expects it to be live on Monday.

“Karl had an interest in animals, so that was the idea: How can we bring live animals up to the clinic?” Ciota said. “So this was a novel idea.”

People walk down the halls of the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic Wednesday night.
People walk down the halls of the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic Wednesday night.

The pediatric wing is triple the size of the old clinic with 17 exam rooms compared to eight before, according to Ciota. Some of the $250,000 was also used to buy new equipment for the clinic’s four pediatricians and their staff.

The Potach family created the Karl R. Potach Foundation and hosts an annual golf tournament in their son’s name. Kurt gave much of the credit to his wife, Brenda.

“Brenda is the unsung heroine of this story,” said Kurt about his wife during the time Karl battled cancer. “Brenda was the glue that held us together. I couldn’t be more proud.”

To read more about the foundation and Karl’s story, visit www.karlpotachfoundation.com.

The butterfly wall is one of the first things to greet families at the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic.
The butterfly wall is one of the first things to greet families at the Karl R. Potach Pediatric Clinic.

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