Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Driven by Thankfulness. June 5, 1978 Remembered. Stop and Give Thanks.

34 years ago, I had no plans to become a scoliosis surgeon, or even a surgeon, or even a doctor for that matter.  I thought I would some day be a naval architect or engineer, and a motorcycle mechanic on the side for fun.

But June 5, 1978 4pm  changed everything.  In the blink of an eye I went from being a care-free teenager restoring a mahogony classic speed boat for a friend and riding a moped to go see friends, to a guy in big trouble after being struck by a car with a mangled left leg and lots of blood loss.

Every year when this anniversary hits, I try to pause for a moment and remember and give thanks for the people and circumstances that God worked through.

I just sat outside for a few moments out in the meditation garden here at Duke Raleigh Hospital and actually sat down to remember and give thanks.  Out of the blue this week I uncovered a letter that Dr. Mark Pitman sent me in March 1984, which appears to be in response to a thank you letter I sent him for his excellent care and mentorship after being accepted to medical school.  I think this was likely sent to our home recently from my mom and dad who are still sorting through old files after their big move! 

In the letter, which he mailed to my fraternity at MIT, he said the following, which is tough to read on the attached photo of his letter:
12 March 1984

Dear Lloyd:
Thank you so much for your kind letter.
Firstly, congratulations for getting into this program at Harvard.  I think it's great, and I think that the Medical School made a wise choice.  I am sure that this is the start of a fantastic career, and one of which Harvard will be very proud.  It is really their good fortune.

I really appreciate all the kind personal things you wrote in your letter.

As far as a patient who was challenging, "really frightening" case, yours was the most.

I learned a great deal from it, not only about orthopedics but about people and courage.  It really added something to my life.  Although it was difficult for you, I know something positive was gained from it.

I apologize for not writing to you about your talk here.  It was very good.  Jim Pugh gave you the business, but I think you handled it very well.  Giving a paper in front of him is like being thrown in the lion's den, but it was good.

As your work goes on, you certainly are welcome to present here anytime.

We are looking forward to seeing you here this summer.  Again, congratulations to you and your family, and the best of luck in everything.  I am sure that you will succeed. 

Sincerely,  Mark I. Pitman, MD, Chief Sports Medicine
Hospital for Joint Diseases / Orthopaedic Institute  Mount Sinai School of Medicine

I knew I was one of Dr. Pitman's more challenging cases, given the 3 inches of tibia I had lost in the accident and large soft tissue injury.  But he definitely persisted through the 11 surgeries it took to get my leg to heal. 

His willingness to take on such a tough case, and the change it made in my life definitely imprinted a drive to try to help others with more complex orthopaedic problems, and there is no doubt that spinal deformity (scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylolisthesis) and revision surgery can be complex and challenging. 

As I reflected on Dr. Pitman's discovered letter this afternoon, and also remembered all of the caring physical therapists (Barbara Bader, PT), nurses and many others at Glen Cove Hospital where I stayed for a solid 3 and a half months, my heart swelled with thankfulness for these compassionate, hard-working people. 

Since then, I have had the privilege to work as a teammate with many other excellent nurses, physical therapists, surgeons, physician assistants, internists, pediatricians, occupational therapists and so many medical students, residents and fellows.  But I have also have had the opportunity to get to know countless patients and their families who are so precious, and encouraging.  They have blessed me with their thanksgivings and stories of healings, which I could have privilege to be a part of.

Well, I just got called to go back to the operating room to go help position my last surgery patient for today, so need to close.

Thanks Dr. Pitman and everyone else who helped to care for me, to help create an internal drive to help others, empowered by thankfulness to God and all of you.  It is humbling when you really see how much each of us has received, and how we all have the opportunity to share our lives to encourage and help others.

Taking a minute to look back is helpful to remember where we came from, and to drive us to keep serving with that same drive and motivation that started the journey to begin with.

Lloyd Hey MD MS
Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery

I thank God for sparing my life, and bringing so many special people into my path to help, heal and encourage me including Dr. Mark Pitman and his brother Charles who were my orthopaedic surgeons willing to take me on as a very tough case.

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