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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanks, Docs

The history of my birthplace, Montgomery, Ala., isn't entirely pleasant but it is vivid and well documented. I enjoy a Facebook page, Times Gone By, that has over a thousand photos of the city's history.

One day I ran across this one, and I froze. It shows Dr. Hugh Cameron MacGuire overseeing construction of the first Atomedic Hospital -- his concept to improve the quality and simultaneously to reduce the cost of healthcare, an initiative ahead of its time. A native of Vancouver, B.C., Dr. MacGuire received his M.D. from McGill University in Montreal, became a U.S. citizen, taught at the University of Pennsylvania, and then somehow landed in Montgomery to practice pediatric surgery. He gained renown throughout the nation.

Why do I care? Because Dr. MacGuire undertook a desperation exploratory of a critically ill 18-month old in 1956. In the process he fixed my plumbing and saved my life. I think of his soft Scottish accent when I look in a mirror and see his still-precise stitching across my abdomen. He died in 2001 at the age of 83. I tried unsuccessfully to contact him before then. I'm embarrassed to confess that I never thanked him as an adult.

Nor did I seize the opportunity to shake the hand of Dr. William Brock, my pediatrician now deceased, for pulling me through year after year of immune disorder and the serious illnesses that it caused. Only at the age of 14 did my bloodwork finally normalize.

Nor have I ever thanked the staff of the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans for their care at a particularly dark moment during this adventure. I wouldn't even know whom specifically to thank there. One of my earliest memories is the trip from Montgomery to New Orleans. The president of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad, where my father worked at the time, personally obtained transportation for us on the Hummingbird, the L&N's best passenger train, at no cost to my parents who were spending all their money on my doctors.

So at this season of Thanksgiving, my simple message is: Thanks, Docs! I wouldn't be here without all of you.