Gov. Dayton to return home Wednesday after 40-day stay at Mayo Clinic

Governor Mark Dayton said he expects to return home to the governor's residence Wednesday after a 40-day hospitalization at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. 

In mid-October, Dayton went to the Mayo Clinic, where he had two spinal procedures to improve his leg strength. He was supposed to be released within days, but has remained at Mayo since then.

Dayton's office did not reveal the extent of the governor's medical issues until last week, when it disclosed that the governor had suffered lung damage as a complication from the earlier surgeries. On a conference call from the Mayo Clinic with reporters Tuesday -- his first comments since his hospitalization -- Dayton denied trying to keep his lung ailment a secret.

"We haven’t been hiding the fact that I’ve been here and am still here, without going into details about the reasons for it," Dayton said.

Dayton said Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach was kept aware of his medical issues, but he never considered turning over his duties to her. The governor said he was conscious throughout his Mayo Clinic stay, other than during the two surgeries and a follow-up procedure to clean out an infection.

Fischbach has not commented publicly about the situation.

The governor told reporters his back surgery and rehab at Mayo Clinic have had no effect on his cognitive function or ability to communicate with his staff. 

"There really hasn’t been any functional difference in how I’ve operated from here versus being at the residence," he said.

Dayton entered Mayo Clinic for an Oct. 12 back surgery, followed by a second surgery Oct. 15. At the time, his office said the governor would remain at the hospital for "a few days."

In an Oct. 29 news release celebrating Halloween, Dayton said he could not attend the events because he was still recovering from the surgeries. He echoed those comments in a Nov. 1 letter to hunters celebrating the opening of deer season.

Dayton's office did not disclose the lung damage at that time, however.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Dayton said neither he nor his staff should be held accountable for the lack of disclosure. Instead, he said "there was a lack of probing interest" from reporters or the public as the election season played out.

During his two terms in office, the governor has had several back and hip surgeries. He was also successfully treated for prostate cancer, revealed after Dayton collapsed during his State of the State speech in early 2017.

Dayton will leave office at the end of his second term in January. He'll be succeeded by Governor-elect Tim Walz.