The scene: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 1966-67. I was senior pediatric resident on the cancer unit, run by a well known but aggressive and abrasive oncologist whose chemotherapy saved some children, but at a terrible cost. Maran was 9 or 10, and her body was failing all treatment with terrible side effects. Her parents, supportive of each other and Maran, wanted to take her home for Christmas, to be with the family before she died. One night we sat together, and after tearful hugs and kisses, I discharged her against the oncologist’s orders. She gave me a painting she made that I still have hanging in my home office, and I have the metal sailboat given by her sailing parents in constant view. They serve as reminders that as a medical professional, I must care about the whole health of my patients. It has always been important to me to care not only for people’s physical health but truly their whole selves, spirit included. I truly believe that decision helped Maran and her family with their emotional and spiritual healing and I think of them every High Holy Day season, when I too search for healing.
Michael is a retired pediatrician and pediatric nephrologist who previously chaired the department of pediatrics at Carolinas Medical Center. A member of Temple Beth El, he sings in the adult choir and recently stepped down after a 3 year term as co-chair of S.P.I.C.E. (TBE’s senior’s group), and member of the TBE Board.