An excerpt from patient Meghan Pochebit's 11th grade expository writing assignment
"Meghan, you're okay and everything is fine. You did great." The instant I heard his gentle voice, I knew that I was safe. My eyes slowly opened to the light, and I saw him hovering over me. All I could do was smile. Dr. Lillehei had just performed a risky, seven-hour surgery on me, yet I felt the safest I have ever felt in my whole 17 years. Dr. Lillehei is a classy gentleman, who has a deep care and concern for each one of his patients. It is through him that I have learned to show others compassion and to trust, and it is he who has influenced me to become a doctor myself.
I will never forget the first time I met Dr. Lillehei. It was 2 o'clock in the morning on February 3, 2005. I had been in the ER since 4 o'clock that afternoon. Endless tests were performed, so the doctors could determine what was causing me so much agony. After a long school day and drives to different doctors' offices all afternoon, I was weary and exhausted. The only thing I desired was sleep, but this was impossible at the time. I waited anxiously for the test results, as the beeping of the hospital machines bounced off every wall. When Dr. Lillehei entered the room, I was feeling cranky, furious and incredibly irritable. I took my anger out on him, for I felt that he was the reason for me being there. I vividly remember Dr. Lillehei looking me in the eyes and stating the absolute truth. He told me that I had an abscess, an infection in my stomach, and that I would need surgery. Instantly, I was able to feel the water build up under my eyes. It was impossible to control the tears. My mind played games with me. No, no, I could not have surgery. How could such a young person like me need surgery? Why did this have to happen to me? Will I ever be allowed to leave the hospital? Will I survive? These dreadful questions swept my brain infinitely. I was so selfish, and I wished my condition onto anyone but myself. Even though I was extremely rude to Dr. Lillehei, he completely understood my reaction. Never once did he scold me for acting harshly. He told me I was lucky to have a condition that could be fixed, and that I would be on the road to recovery soon. He made me feel like I was his only patient and treated me as if I were one of his own children. He respected my feelings and was so sympathetic toward me that I found it extremely easy to trust him.
Over the next week and a half leading up to the surgery, I came to know Dr. Lillehei very well. It was during this time period that
Dr. Lillehei allowed me to develop a sense of trust for him, both as a person and surgeon. I had so many questions to ask him about what would happen during surgery, and how I would feel afterward. With each question I asked, he was entirely honest. Each question was answered with such an extensive knowledge, and I knew that I was in the right hands. I will never forget his gentle demeanor that set such a peaceful and placid atmosphere. It took only his presence to make me feel like the safest and securest person alive. I liked this feeling and wished I could do this for someone else if they ever felt they needed protection.
After awakening from surgery, I realized that Dr. Lillehei was the individual I wanted to be. He successfully cured my physical problem but also my emotional being. Ever since the 9th grade, when I found out about my diagnosis of Crohn's Disease, I have struggled emotionally in accepting it. Dr. Lillehei is the first person I've met who allowed me to tolerate my state. He made me realize that I'm fortunate to have a problem that can be treated. It was he who helped me through such a difficult time in my life, and I want to do the same for others in this position. I am inspired by all the qualities
Dr. Lillehei possesses, and want to use them as a tool for helping children survive Crohn's Disease.
Dr. Lillehei is a fantastic surgeon but an even better person. That day I awoke from surgery was one that will live in my heart forever. I should have been scared and fearful but was anything but. I felt a protection like none other. I now know that I want to help children with Crohn's Disease, just like
Dr. Lillehei has helped me endure it. I feel that it has been a great privilege to meet this true miracle worker, and somewhere down the road I will be sure to thank him for all he has done for me.