Monday 7 March 2016

The Thank You Project

WARNING: Grab a box of tissues or a handkerchief (does anyone use those anymore?) or a towel or something absorbent, because you will cry before the end of this.  You have been warned.

This isn't my story, but I feel like it should be.  Karen (not her real name™) wrote me with a link to a video to me over a year ago, and it has unfortunately been buried under my "stupid patient stories" list until now:
Dear Doc Bastard, 
You write about your important cases and tell such great stories, yet you have mentioned that some patients never even showed up to their post-surgery check-ups.  Has anyone ever come up to you months or even years later to thank you for helping them? How did or would you react?  What's your opinion of patients overall, and do you think many patients realise just how much doctors such as yourself do for them?  
I'd be really interested to know if you've seen this video, and wanted to suggest that you could write a short blog post either about it or at least inspired by it, like about gratitude or something like that.   
Thank you so much for being such an inspiration to so many doctors, aspiring doctors and just generally kind human beings.  It's funny that despite your slightly crude online persona, you still seem like a very kind-hearted man and you inform everyone about important safety issues - I myself have made sure to always wear my seatbelt in the car ever since I read your first post about it. 
I hope Mrs. Bastard and the little bastards I'll admit it feels strange calling them this when they must be such fantastic kids) are doing well and that your work is going smoothly.  With much admiration and the kindest regards, Karen (not my real name™)
It's been on my "Write About This, Dammit" list since then, but I haven't been able to get to it.  But that list has shrunk over the past few weeks, so I finally have the opportunity.  The story went viral back then, getting covered on national television shows and various other news outlets, so I'm way behind the game here.  Nevertheless I still feel like story this deserves to be covered here in case anyone missed it.

I've written before about the impact of saying "Thank you" to your doctor, but this takes that concept to an entirely new level.

In 2004 Kellie Haddock (her real name!) was in a car accident with her husband A.J. and their 14-week-old son Eli in Orlando, Florida.  A.J. tragically died in the accident, and baby Eli was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children with serious injuries, including intracranial bleeding.  Though the paediatric team at the hospital worked tirelessly to treat Eli and his trauma-induced seizures, Kellie was told that even if he recovered he would most likely never walk.

Less than a week later, Kellie took Eli home.

Fast forward 11 years, and Eli has made a full recovery.  He's now a happy, healthy tween, Kellie remarried, and her new husband adopted Eli.  While this may seem like a nice, heartwarming story, it fortunately doesn't end there.  Ten years after the accident, Kellie was inspired to track down every member of the medical team that made Eli's recovery possible - first responders, the flight medic, the respiratory therapist, nurses, doctors . . . everyone - in what she appropriately called the Thank You Project.

In pointing out exactly what's wrong (but what could be right) with the world, Kellie said, "We rarely take the time to notice when people are doing things right.  I want to be a person that points out when someone does something right.  How much better would the world be if we all spent more time focusing on what’s right instead of what’s wrong?"

So Kellie found them all, arranged to meet them, and then threw an elaborate dinner for everyone.  And all of them got to meet Eli, now a very bouncy (and very normal) 11-year old.  Tears flowed, as would be expected.

I feel happy when I get even a simple "Thank you" from a patient or family member, elated when I get a hug, and absolutely on top of the world when I get a card or a fruit basket.  So I cannot even begin to imagine how honoured all these people felt when Kellie found them.  Kellie went way above and beyond as her way of saying "Thanks", but if everyone made even a tiny fraction of the effort that Kellie did, just imagine the possibilities.

Here is the video that Kellie made with the assistance of Strongfilms, a professional video company.

Thank you Karen for sending this to me.  And thank you, Kellie.  Thank you for saying "Thank you."  That means more than you will ever know.


  1. damn it, i hate videos like this - they seem designed to wring out tears, but the message in this one can't be denied. so thank you for sharing!

  2. It just reinforced the comments I've made in a couple previous threads. emergency responders will roll on a call like this, perform heroic measures to get the patient handed over to the transport agency, who will perform heroic measures to hand the patient over to the hospital.

    and then the patient ceases to exist in our world. if they died on scene, we know it because we have to call TOD. otherwise, we usually never hear about them, ever again. occasionally we will find a follow up in the news, if they die or it is a high profile incident; and often we can make the assumption that everything turned out fine, because quite often, our calls are for incidents that while severe for the patient, have an extremely high recovery rate.
    but there are also a lot of calls that simply disappear and we have no way to know if we made a difference or not.

    another quirk that we have is my community has a large end-of-life population, so we tend to have patients we see fairly regularly and then one day we realize we haven't seen them for a while.

    it is an interesting world the health care family lives in.

  3. What I don't understand is why doctors are somehow deserving of any more or less respect than any other profession in the world. Teachers, nurses, even people who works at McDonalds. They all worked hard, worked harder than anyone you know, and there was never any prize or reward for them in the end. No one forces you to become a doctor. And yet some patients have never been more condescended to by any other profession more than medical doctors. They assume that they as patients know nothing, can't care for themselves, don't do their own research, aren't aware of the exorbitant amounts of money they make for care that is sometimes wonderful and sometimes ridiculous. When families are driven to extremes, watching their families die, when they become financial victims of a morally-bankrupt profit-driven system, do you honestly believe that doctors care for them?

    1. What a great example of strawman arguments, non sequiturs and red herrings! Oh, you were serious?

      1) When the hell did I ever say doctors are more deserving of gratitude than anyone? Never. My kids' teachers get a thank you card every year. The mailman gets a Christmas card every year. I say "Thank you" to the cashier at the grocery store. But I am lucky if I hear "Thank you" once a month. Why are they more deserving of gratitude than the guy who is in charge of caring for your life?
      2) Have I not made my position on nurses clear enough? If
      3) Do you honestly think people who work at McDonakd's are as deserving of thanks as healthcare workers?
      4) The fact that I chose to be a doctor does not in any way mean that I don't deserve a "Thank you" when I save someone's life.
      5) The most condescending people I've ever met have been lawyers and mechanics. Doctors (in my experience) rank a close 3rd.
      6) Exorbitant? You obviously have no idea how much primary care doctors make.
      7) Do I believe that doctors still care for patients during their darkest hours? Of fucking course.

    2. You know what, yes I honestly think doctors care! This could be because I am an optimist seeing the good in everyone or it could be from being surrounded by doctors and their colleagues that cared about my family right when I needed them the most.

    3. what an ass this anon is. is it cornboy by any chance? it seems slightly more literate, but that could just be a fluke.

    4. I don't think so. It isn't his style of vitriol.

    5. This seems closer to old communist propaganda than cornboys old points. (seriously makes me think Mao Zedong has come back from the grave to post this comment; the idea that a doctor isnt worth as much as a fastfood worker is just like what zedong preached)

    6. What I do know is that without the care and skill of the doctors and nurses that I have interacted with in my life, I would not be reading this. I can't say the same thing regarding a McDonald's employee.

    7. true. his style is a bit more cut-and-paste.

    8. Doc, I didn't know you were such a softy! Thanks for telling us this:

      I feel happy when I get even a simple "Thank you" from a patient or family member, elated when I get a hug, and absolutely on top of the world when I get a card or a fruit basket.

      If I knew your address I'd send a bunch of flowers on behalf of all of us who enjoy reading your blog so much!

      I'm not convinced the one sour puss who didn't have anything nice to say isn't JB. He always had a weird animosity toward medical professionals. One of the reasons he trolls the McMath case so diligently is his wish to see the lawyers stick it to CHO and Jahi's doctors. His ongoing attempt to discredit Doc's bonafides is another example. JB has claimed to hold many different professions but in reality maybe he's really a McDonald's employee who feels he isn't getting the respect he deserves.

    9. For the record, "Mrs. B" is not Mrs. Bastard.

      As far as I know...

  4. Doc - I agree with you that:

    1. *Everyone* who serves others (which actually encompasses most of the world's's just that we often aren't in personal contact with those working to make our lives better and more convenient) deserves thanks.

    2. Health care workers *do* deserve more thanks than they actually get, just because their *disappointments* have a greater impact too. If I purchase fast food at McDonald's and don't get what I ordered, or something isn't up to standard with the food, I might have to bring it to the server's attention to have the problem corrected, and if that server is uncooperative, ask for a manager's assistance. Same thing might happen at the grocery store if a price correction needs to be done due to a scanning problem or data entry error. But in either case, these problems are solvable, and even if the personal interaction involved doesn't go smoothly, neither my life, nor the life of the retail sales associate, are horrifically impacted.

    Health care professionals have a different challenge, because they face a different set of expectations from both patients and their loved ones. The doctor, nurse, or first responder is expected to "make things better," whether it's actually saving a life, reversing the course of a life-limiting illness or injury, making pain go away, or otherwise restoring the affected patient to some degree of well-being. But, as we all know, sometimes that doesn't work out, and there's no way to "fix" something. Not everyone does well at accepting this. While many *are* appreciative of the care that has been administered, there are always those who feel that something more, or something different, could have been done, and that the health care providers have somehow "failed" them. For that reason alone, those in health care deserve to have their successes acknowledged more often than we typically *do."

  5. You can't put people down just because they work at McDonalds. Many people instead of being better seek weaker people so they can continue to escape from self improvement. Its like watching the seedy reality shows and saying to oneself "at least I am not that bad"
    You people act this way because: 1)to claim your supremacy and adequacy over others to compensate for what you don't possess. 2)sometimes for creating a ever-wished stronghold which you always lacked. 3)to intimidate others out of personal contention sometimes jealousy and envy. 4)and lastly to derive a sense of security out of it, as it is deemed in your family and vicinity as a shield to preserve your vulnerable and brittle self.

    1. Anon - nobody "put down" McDonald's emoloyees. Someone merely made the point that their job isn't as important as others'. If you really don't see that as true, then just wait until you get really sick and need one of us. Never in the course of human history has anyone ever needed a McDonald's burger assembler in order to survive. You can't say the same thing about a nurse or oncologist or paramedic.

    2. that sounded an awful lot like projection to me.

      and to add to your comment, there has been a general consensus that McDonalds employees deserve to be thanked for what they do for their customers - because EVERYBODY deserves to be thanked for what they do. that's called "good manners"

    3. I take it someone dislikes their job at McDonalds.....

  6. I am a cancer survivor. My oncologist and his amazing trio of nurses were invited to my child's wedding with a note in the invitation that read: "Please bring no gift, if it weren't for you, there would be no mother of the bride-that and your presence is all the gift we need". My daughter did not tell me she was doing that, and I didn't find out until the groom toasted the medical professionals who saved my life at the reception.

    I honestly think that people like you, Doc deserve thanks and so much more!!

    Thank you all for all that you do!

  7. Good grief! Anonymous is an ass. I'm afraid this comes a bit too late for me. I saw my oncologist at the beginning of December. He died the day after Christmas. I tend to say thank you to everyone, the cashier, the person who holds the elevator door for me, etc. I hope I said thank you to him. I wish I'd brought in a plate of cookies or at least sent a card. What I really wish is that I'd gone out of my way to tell him how grateful I am that I lived to see my grandchildren. Now it's too late. I think that I will keep this is mind when I'm dealing with the other doctors, nurses and office staff that I see.

  8. I have a file of notes from patients. It helps on those bad call days, horrible deliveries, and bad surgical cases. A friend calls his "The I don't suck" file.

    And as an OB, I love the pictures of the babies I have helped deliver.

    1. I only have pictures of various organs I've removed and holes I've fixed, but they aren't as cute as babies.

    2. we are very strictly discouraged from collecting pictures. partly because ours tend to be large enough to find distinguishing features.

    3. I have some tumor pictures as well. You're right, the baby pics are cuter.

  9. A few months ago, I spent 4 hours in the ER with my 30-year-old son, who had a throat infection (not strep) that turned really bad really fast and made it difficult for him to breathe. The doctors and nurses were nothing but kind while they pumped him full of antibiotics and fluids and got his heart rate under 150 (while also dealing with the drug-seeker who just wanted some morphine for the ankle he twisted a week ago, the shackled prisoner who dislocated his shoulder falling out of bed, and the weeping woman who didn't know where it hurt).
    We finally went home, and a week later my (healthy) son came over and insisted we were making a batch of cookies to take down to the ER. Many of the same folks were on duty, and were pleasantly surprised. I'm glad we did it.

  10. About three years ago my dad went into cardiac arrest and flatlined while in the ER. The ER team saved hm. My dad spent two weeks in the main hospital and then another three weeks at a rehab hospital. The rehab therapists worked with him day and night and he gained his strength and mobility back. A few weeks after he was discharged, he walked into the ER waiting area and brought the team a home made lasagna dinner. A few of the team members were there and they were so touched by my dad's gratitude. He also brought the rehab therapists a lasagna dinner too. They were so ecstatic to see my dad walking in on his own... No wheel chair, no walker and no cane!!! We will never forget the smiles on their faces.

  11. I would love to do something like this for the all the First Responders, the air medical team that took my brother to the hospital, Doctors, Surgeons, Nurses, and everyone else involved in his care. I'd have to do a little a research in tracking them down, but I bet I could. My brother was involved in a motorcycle accident. As a hobby he rides bikes on courses, not dirt, more circuit courses, and even teaches new riders. Thank God, he takes safety very seriously. He wears helmet, full leathers etc. He was out on the course and another bikers came out of the pits and hit him going 140 miles a hour. He didn't lose consciences, which is a miracle, but knew his leg was gone. Thankfully at these events they have first responders stationed all over the track. The first crew to arrive knew that he had to be evacuated by air, and the flight medic's were called in. They left him right on the track. During this time he was able to get a buddy to get to his garage and get his cell phone. He called his wife, and I and explained he'd had an accident he was pretty certain he'd lose his leg, but he was in good hands, not to kill ourselves getting to the hospital. My understand is the flight crew was amazing. I guess they were due to go to a BBQ when the call came in so they quickly changed into their work attire and ditched to BBQ outfit. They even teased him that he got blood on their BBQ t-shirts. He said he can remember being sad that he was able to look out the helicopter windows. Once at the hospital it was immed. apparent that he would indeed be losing leg below knee. The trauma surgeon on that day was in the middle of a another cause, but the general surgeon consulted with with the trauma surgeon and it was decide that the general surgeon was more then capable of doing a simple guillotine cut, and a revision would be done a couple days later. He called me from recovery and the human spirit is amazing. He was his usual self, the jokes started and haven't stopped since. 2 weeks later he surprised his colleagues and showed up at a work conference in Las Vegas, they were all all stunned. Within a few short months he was back to doing everything he loved to do beforehand. Although it took awhile to get the right prosthetic, it hasn't slowed him down one bit. He's back to skiing, biking, just anything he feels like doing.

    I would love to honor those that actually saved him life. If everything had been just in place, God knows what the outcome could have been. I'm so thankful and feel our family has truly been blessed.

  12. I use handkerchiefs! I'm in my twenties, but the only others I see using them out in the world are occasional seniors. You can find them in the men's underwear section of stores. Normally I change mine out every couple days, but during cold season I go through two a day. Purchase accordingly.

    1) Cheaper in the long run - throw in the wash and use again
    2) Softer on the nose
    3) No irritating dust up the nose and on clothing (this has cut down on blowing my nose a LOT)
    4) If you forget one in your pocket in the wash, it will NOT shred over all your clothes in nasty pills that are a pain to remove.
    - L


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