Time to celebrate, I thought.
I was caught up in a small wave of young families, maintenance workers and health-care professionals dressed in scrubs all heading to the hospital cafeteria. Early that morning our family had arrived in the pre-operating area of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., so my 15-year-old daughter would be ready for surgery. She had been cancer-free for four years, but it was time to replace the prosthesis in her leg with the permanent one.
We had just received the good news that the surgery had been successful and she was resting well.
As I glanced to my left I caught sight of a small brown-skinned man with thinning gray hair dressed in a simple shirt, plain pants and practical shoes. For a moment he seemed so out of place in this up-scale, state-of-the-art hospital whimsically decorated with brightly colored tile and painted murals which catered to children.
Then the memory from four years before flooded my mind: the surgery waiting room, the kind little Indian doctor dressed in operating scrubs who so patiently answered my questions.
“Doctor Rao!” I called out, yelling louder than I intended.
The man stopped and turned toward me. As the crowd around us passed by, I looked down into his questioning, intelligent eyes and smiled as I introduced myself.
“I’m David Logan. Over four years ago you operated on my daughter’s leg to remove a bone tumor and inserted a prosthetic knee. This morning she had it replaced with the new one. I just wanted to thank you again for all of your work.”
“Yes,” he said. “Your daughter is the girl Mike Neel was working on this morning.”
“Yes,” I said, surprised he would know. “Dr. Rao, I want you to know I know that Dr. Neel travels around lecturing and receives a lot of attention for his work, and we’re also thankful for his help, but I remember that you are the first one to do this procedure in…was it 1986?”
“1980,” he corrected. “Mike trained with me in 1994, but I still also lecture. In fact, I’m in a different country almost every month.”
I could not hide my surprise. “Thank you. Thank you, sir, for your work.” I watched as he was lost in the crowd.
The lessons were almost too many to take in at once. In a hospital for children, in a society that glorifies youth and exalts style over substance, this unassuming man was slowly making his way through a crowd of oblivious researchers, workers and family members. Did those mothers pushing baby strollers and those uniformed security guards even know who this man was? Did they care?
I felt like I knew a secret no one else knew or seemed not to care to know. I wanted to stop everyone there and tell them his story…my story. “This man saved my daughter’s life!” I wanted to say.
He was such a treasure in such a humble package. He reminded me of the ultimate treasure born in a stable 2000 years ago.
I still want to tell everyone.
By David Logan