The Power of Saying Thank You

Last month I met the man who saved my life.

I was born at 26 weeks, weighing around 800g (less than 2lbs). At a month old, I started developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious disease in which the tissue in the intestine begins to die. It is a leading cause of mortality in premature babies.

It was too risky for me to be transferred to the hospital in Jerusalem where NEC is usually treated, but something had to be done right away. A pediatric surgeon working at a nearby hospital at the time was called in an emergency to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where I was fighting for my life.

For the first time, the surgeon operated on a premature baby not in the theater, but in an incubator. He took a big risk and did something that he had never done before, and it paid off.  The operation was successful. I was then stable enough to be transferred to the other hospital, where I was sown up and gradually healed. It is because of that doctor’s willingness to take a risk and try something new that I am alive today. Last month I was lucky enough to be able to meet him and thank him in person.

Although I live abroad, I had recently returned to Israel temporarily to be with family and I decided to take this opportunity to try and locate the doctor. Having found him online, I sent him an email with my story. I didn’t expect a reply. Something always goes wrong with these things I reasoned; the email bounces back or the person has inevitably moved. I thought, even if he reads the email, I must have been one of so many thousands of patients he has seen over the years, that he would never remember me.

The next day I received an email back from him with a simple thank you note and a mobile number. I hesitated, fearful of not knowing what to say or how he would react if I called. I didn’t know what language I should speak in.

The following day I received a forwarded email with the same message and phone number. This time I took a deep breath and dialed the number. The doctor answered and I instinctively started the conversation in Hebrew. He was driving and pulled over to the side so we could talk. He told me he was overjoyed to get my email and became very emotional that I reached out to him. He was able to clear his calendar the same afternoon and we agreed to meet in a couple of hours in Jerusalem.

Meeting him was an incredible experience. Here before me stood the man who saved my life. Not only is he a gifted surgeon, but also an amazingly humble and down to earth human being. As we sat and drank coffee, he graciously shared some of his wisdom with me, and it quickly became clear that his tenacity and enthusiasm for life is something he developed from a young age. Through tremendous dedication and hard work despite some difficult circumstances, he became a doctor, a professor and a top specialist in his medical field. It was obvious just how passionate he is about helping others. Medicine is certainly his vocation. I am very grateful to have met him and it became clear just how much it meant to him too.

Through this experience, I’ve learnt some very important lessons, but none more important than the power of saying thank you. I’ve learnt that saying thank you and acknowledging the medical staff who work hard to help their patients is very important and really does make a difference. Recognizing individuals and their herculean efforts is a truly powerful and rewarding experience.

This lesson applies to all aspects of life. Regardless of whether it’s your mum, your dad, your grandparents, your children, an employer, a friend, or a spouse who made you who you are today and whom you are grateful for, it is not too late to tell them. Everyone has someone who saved their life. Someone who saw potential in them and turned their life around. If possible, find that person and thank them – it is bound to be a very meaningful experience for you both.

I have a prominent scar from the operation as a daily reminder of how blessed I am to be alive and I am so grateful to have been able to thank the man who made it all possible. I look forward to learning more about his incredible life and sharing in some of his wisdom in the years to come. Thank you, doctor.

About the Author
A healthcare professional, Tal Gurevich holds a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Warwick University. She has lived in Israel, the UK and the US and brings a global perspective to many conversations.
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