Monday, December 12, 2016

Richard Michael Nestrud: A Retiring Pioneer

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.

14 comments:

  1. A pioneer, indeed! Thanks for sharing this. It's amazing how much has changed in medicine. I have had two nicu babies so far. I can't imagine how it was before surfactant. That is quite an amazing story about adopting a patient there!

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    1. Thank you! It wasn't just gas stations - also restaurants, stores. Everyone stopping and thanking him for saving their baby. I was so proud and in awe growing up with that. I hope your NICU babies are doing as well as my giant 11 year old son:)

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    2. They are thriving! My oldest would have died without the nicu. At almost 8 lbs when she was born, she was the sickest kid in the nicu for a couple days. We are sooooo grateful for the nicu even though it's never a place we wanted to be!

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    3. My son was 5lbs. With the help of my dad I got him to his projected birth weight of 10lbs. by his due date six weeks later. He bragged to everyone about that and my nursing. Without his support I would never have been able to do that!

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    4. That is amazing, 10 lbs in 6 weeks! That could be a record!

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    5. Lol it was only 5, but that's a lot too. From 5 to 10lbs.

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  2. I love this. I spent my HS candy-striper years saying "yes, he's my father. Yes, thank you. I think he's pretty great, too."

    One of the great regrets of my life was not going to the dinner some of my dad's patients gave him when he left clinical practice (he never actually retired.) I have tears in my eyes. We are lucky to carry on the legacy of our fathers.

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    1. I remember being upset in medical school because I married and changed my name and missed those aha moments in the institution that he trained. I would tell all those he studied with who I was. Then going back to maiden at Baptist was awesome when I divorced because I was no longer incognito. The NICU is the magical place of my childhood. Pathology is a little different, but I love making the gross room and microscope the magical place for my kids to remember.

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  3. What an inspiration! You are so lucky to have such a wonderful role model! I will try to remember this when I'm feeling sorry for myself for working late and missing my daughter, that what we do at work has real value, and that both our patients and our families need us.

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    1. There were definitely times I didn't see him much - he had one partner for many years in private practice so was always on call. He worked much harder than I do as a pathologist - maybe not harder but longer hours for sure. Yes, your daughter has a fantastic role model keep going . . .:)

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  4. A lovely tribute. We need more "unconventional, but vanguard" approaches in medicine.

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    1. Yeah we are kind of stuck in bureaucratic hell, aren't we. But I was just talking to a surgeon and we feel like at this hospital even though it's hard, we still feel like a community and we can call and talk to each other when there are issues. And hug each other at Christmas, talk about our families. So there's that.

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