Monday, June 05, 2006

you could wish it were so

Dr. Samuel Weinstein does what many health professionals do that goes above and beyond their duties. He makes trips into parts of the world that are very poor and where specialized medical care is often unavailable. In this case, the heart surgeon from New York was performing an operation in San Salvador.

Weinstein, chief of pediatric cardio-thoracic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, had an eight-year-old patient on the surgical table. The team was already 12 hours into a complex procedure to repair his defective heart.

The surgery had been going well, but the little boy was bleeding more than the doctors would have liked. Because the hospital did not have all the medicines Weinstein could have requested at his customary medical center, he inquired about more blood for him. At that point he was told that no more was available because of his rare blood type. The blood bank was depleted.

Weinstein was told that his patient had B-negative blood – a type shared by only about two percent of the population. The surgeon informed his colleagues that his blood type was also B-negative. And he proceeded to interrupt surgery for about 20 minutes to donate a pint of his own blood. After a couple of bottles of water and a Pop-Tart, the 43-year-old surgeon went back and finished the operation. In a manner I suspect is typical of him, Weinstein declared there was no one on the surgical team who wouldn't have done the same thing.

The young patient, Francisco Calderon Anthony Fernandez of San Salvador, had his surgery on May 11, 2006. He came off his ventilator the very next day and had some lunch with Dr. Weinstein. He continued to recover nicely and has since gone home to be with his family.

"His mother was very happy with me," reported Weinstein in an interview after his mercy trip with Heart Care International, "and she said to me, ‘Does this mean that he's going to grow up and become an American doctor?' "

The story of the doctor who saved a boy's life with a gift not only of his skills but of his own blood as well will surely be told to the child repeatedly. One can only hope that the retelling of so wonderful a story will have a positive impact on him. He may not become a doctor, but he can be an unselfish human being.

Take a few minutes to remind yourself of some of the kindnesses invested in your life. Teacher, Scout Master, parent, coach, mentor – all of us have people who were there at critical moments. Be sure to pass along the legacy.

Reprinted, with permission from Rubel Shelly's FAX of Life.