An Act of Kindness from a Faceless Nameless Stranger

July 5, 2013

Present day University of Kentucky Medical Center 

A few months ago I shared my story Salt on a Birds Tail .  I had a terrible accent on July 3, 1986, and broke my arm.  I didn’t “just” break it, that would be atypical of me.  I managed to turn my left arm into a mangled mess. My poor grandmother was so disheveled when she found me, I thought she might loose her mind.  I spent most of that July 4 in emergency surgery, roughly 6 hours.  I think the accident impacted the course of my life, but not as much as the random act of kindness I saw from a stranger.  

I was only six years old so I can’t remember details of his face, but I do remember the outline of a special anesthesiology resident who was very kind to me.  When I reached the University of Kentucky Hospital in the wee hours of July 4, 1986 I was terrified.  The last few hours had been spent traveling from hospital to hospital, the doctors were trying to get a faint pulse of circulation to my badly broken arm.  When I fell from the kitchen countertop onto the hardwood floors of my grandparents house, I had nearly crushed my arm.  It had dislocated the elbow, fractured the radial head miraculously without piercing though the skin, and cut off all circulation to my arm from the shoulder down.  I felt nothing, which given the severity of the accident probably wasn’t a bad thing.  

My beautiful scar 

The anesthesiology resident came into my exam room to see me prior to surgery.  I’m sure I was the last thing he wanted to see on a holiday.  I was horrifically frightened five year old girl with a limb threatening fracture.  This will sound cliche, but his presence was almost like an angel.  His demeanor was calming and peaceful.  He left me briefly before surgery and returned with a teddy bear.   I know some of you are probably thinking that I was hallucinating, but I still have the teddy bear.  He was a resident at one of the largest hospitals in the state.  I am sure he saw his share of trauma and bad accidents.  I am positive I wasn’t the only child he had been kind to during his residency.  When I woke up in recovery, he was sitting there watching over me.  I was fighting to wake up but the drugs had not worn off yet.  I can hazily recall him talking me back to sleep.  

I spent July 4, watching fireworks from a wing at the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital.  I remember having a large collection of stuffed animals and flowers.   My prized possession was that bear.  I doubt that young doctor realized the impact he had on a scared little girl.  His random act of kindness by a complete stranger altered my life.  I was absolutely terrified, and he brought me comfort when I needed it most.  He taught me an invaluable life lesson.  I didn’t know his name or how to find him, but I always knew I wanted to repay his kindness.  

How do you repay someone for changing your life?  I always hoped that I could influence someone else, the way he influenced me.  

There is a passage which is often misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson which reads,

To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.

The faceless and nameless young man became my benchmark for success for many years. 

Happy Fantastic Friday