This is the shocking story of a teenage girl who was allegedly held against her will by a world-class hospital.
This is the shocking story of a teenage girl who was allegedly held against her will by a world-class hospital.

Famous clinic ‘kidnapped’ teen

MAYO Clinic is one of the world's most revered hospitals.

But a Minnesota family says they were forced to save their daughter from the facility, after she was held against her will and isolated from her own parents.

After two months of heated conflicts, the 18-year-old's parents forged a daring plan to bring their girl home - and they caught the whole mission on video.

More than a year on, they've gone public with their story, telling CNN the harrowing details of the alleged "medical kidnapping".

This is their story.



It all started on Christmas morning, 2016.

One minute 18-year-old Alyssa Gilderhus was totally fine. The next, her parents found her in severe pain, screaming and vomiting in the bathroom.

Alyssa was rushed to a local hospital, which determined the girl had a ruptured brain aneurysm - a blood vessel in her brain had filled with blood and unexpectedly burst.

Surgeons said her chance of survival was slim, and they begged to have her sent to Mayo Clinic, a world-renowned medical centre located 140km away.


Alyssa pictured before her brain aneurysm.
Alyssa pictured before her brain aneurysm.


Her prognosis was grim, but Alyssa miraculously survived several surgeries and ended up moving into rehab to recover.

Over a month after she arrived at the clinic, she was transferred from the neurology unit to the rehabilitation unit. Then the problems started.



Over the weeks following her admission into rehabilitation, Alyssa's parents started butting heads with the doctors assigned to her.

They said the medical staff were being cruel to the girl, and not listening to her. They also wanted to take her off oxycodone, a powerful painkiller that had been prescribed after her surgery. According to her stepfather, she was still in a significant amount of pain when they made the suggestion.

Alyssa's parents said there were various other complications. Her breathing tube was the wrong size. She had a bladder infection which the family - not the doctors - discovered.

Alyssa's mother, Amber Engebretson, got into numerous disagreements with medical staff over the quality of her daughter's care.


Alyssa's mother (left) with Amber (right), was later barred from seeing her daughter.
Alyssa's mother (left) with Amber (right), was later barred from seeing her daughter.


Hospital staff later barred her from seeing her daughter. "(The doctor) said to me, 'You are not allowed to participate in Alyssa's care. You are not allowed on Mayo property. You will be escorted off the premises right now,' Amber told CNN.

Amber claimed she was told she was not allowed to "participate" in her daughter's care, and that the girl's phone was confiscated after she made a video for her mother.

Alyssa wasn't allowed to leave. In a Facebook post, her mother said she was "basically a prisoner of Mayo".

They claimed staff started refusing other relatives who wanted to spend the night, and kept Alyssa under around-the-clock supervision.


Alyssa spent over two months at the Mayo Clinic.
Alyssa spent over two months at the Mayo Clinic.


It later emerged the hospital had asked the county to take guardianship of her, claiming that although she was legally an adult, she was not mentally competent to make her own medical decisions.

Olson, Alyssa's grandmother and Amber's mother, tried to speak with the senior doctor but was told he wasn't available.

"She was truly being held captive," Olson told CNN. "I would never believe a hospital could do that - never in my wildest dreams."



On February 28, 2017 - two months after she had been admitted - Alyssa was freed by her parents through a daring plan.

They planned to tell hospital staff that Alyssa's great grandmother, Betty Stalheim, had come to see her. The 80-year-old woman had just had knee surgery, so Alyssa would have to come down to see her.

With his nine-year-old daughter Allie filming the endeavour on a secret GoPro camera, Alyssa's stepfather Duane went in.

The video, supplied by the parents to CNN, shows Duane pushing Alyssa in her wheelchair, with two women in scrubs trailing closely behind.


He tells hospital staff Betty's car is at the entrance, and wheels her out of the hospital.

Then, the front passenger door opens. It's empty. And Alyssa is bundled in.

"Alyssa, we're going to go home, honey. Come on," Amber says to her daughter in the video, from the driver's seat.

In the footage, a nursing aide can be seen grabbing Alyssa by the arm. Someone else yells "No!" The two women in scrubs run towards her.

"Get your hands off my daughter," Duane yells. He closes the door, gets in the back seat, and yells at his wife to drive. "Get out of here, Amber. Go, go, go, go, go, go!"


Footage of Alyssa's stepfather escorting her out of the hospital.
Footage of Alyssa's stepfather escorting her out of the hospital.




The hospital reported Alyssa's departure as a "patient abduction". For the next 12 hours, the family was on the run from Minnesota authorities. Police tracked their locations via their mobile phones - but narrowly missed them due to a slight signal inaccuracy.

The family eventually fled to neighbouring South Dakota, where a second doctor disagreed with the Mayo Clinic specialists' ruling on Alyssa's mental capacity.

The family was finally free to go home.

They're not suing the hospital, although they've told CNN they are in talks with a lawyer.

In a statement, Mayo Clinic was disputed CNN's version of events.

The clinic stressed "patient safety is always our highest priority" and that Alyssa's case was "no exception". They said the central focus was the girl's wellbeing and maintaining "professionalism".

"Following a thorough and careful review of the care in question, we have determined that the version of events provided by certain patient family members to CNN are not supported by the facts nor do they track with the direct observations of numerous other providers on the patient's care team," the statement said.

"Our internal review determined that the care team's actions were true to Mayo Clinic's primary value that the patient's needs come first. We acted in a manner that honoured that value for this patient and that also took into account the safety and wellbeing of the team caring for the patient.

"This story lacks further clarification and context that CNN knew but chose not to use.

"While we will not discuss specific patients or their families, many who seek Mayo Clinic's care can also be dealing with significant emotional and family dynamic complications which can be challenging in an already complex medical situation.

"We provided lifesaving care for this patient and made decisions based on what we felt is best for the future of this patient."

Alyssa, meanwhile, is doing better. Since the ordeal, she has graduated from high school and is getting ready for university. She said freedom felt "phenomenal".

"It was like the biggest weight off my shoulders," she said.

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