I remember my Dad telling me of those days: the ones in which no blood was screened. A NICU doctor. He said when a baby needed blood, they would just find a health care worker whose type matched up, and would get the necessary vital life source to the baby, siphoning it.
I spent my college days writing checks at gas stations. Occasionally, a worker asked if I was related to my father. I would nod in the affirmative, and they would regale me with stories of how amazing my Dad was. "He saved my baby."
He saved my baby too. My son was born six weeks early. My water broke while I was walking on the treadmill. I mistakenly thought my bladder failed me, but soon realized it was amniotic fluid. I received surfactant on bedrest in the hospital. It definitely matured his lungs. When he was born, my dad kept him from entering the NICU - arguing with his partners to keep him by my side, nursing. I took him home, and when his jaundice required a bili lamp, my dad smuggled one home to me. I remember spending nights bathed in the blue alien light, marveling at my son.
The stories told by the nurses and doctors tonight, at his retirement party, were awe-inspiring. He and his partner were inspirations to his health care workers and patients and their parents. Their methods were unconventional, but vanguard. They saved many lives, some a testament in the room.
I never thought I would see this day. The man that kept me on my toes throughout my life is closing a chapter in his. He told a story, one that I didn't know, that brought me to tears.
Before surfactant, babies were trached, and became toddlers, and spent close to 16 months in the NICU. Many were destined to spend their short lives with that community. He told of a moment when his co-workers became a team. One child spent 16 months fighting for his life. The NICU adopted him, and they all became his parents. His death was inevitable, his life inspiring. They all mourned the outcome, and in their grief they became a team. A vital community that lives on to this day.
The man that I spent my whole life in awe of, aspiring to be like, closes a chapter of his life this week. I sat at a table with his partners - ones that told me I was garnering praise from the leadership of the hospital. After ten years, I am finding time to reach out and give back. "They say you are doing wonderful things. You are just like your Dad."
I hope to continue the legacy. And I hope my Dad continues his legacy. He's young by current standards. He does and will continue to inspire me. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. His roots are worth nourishing. He has my love, my adoration, and my aspiration, forever and always. Love you, Dad. You have saved many lives, including my son's, and will continue to inspire me throughout my career and yours, which doesn't end with retirement. You are my favorite doctor. The one that I modeled myself after, the one I will spend the rest of my life trying to emulate.