June 13 – Happy Birthday Dr. Benjamin Button

buttonIt was a scary day. Our first born Michela had been fighting a cold and all of a sudden her fever spiked and she went into a seizure. It was winter time and freezing outside so we bundled our little girl up in a snow suit got her in the car and flew to the old St. Mary’s Hospital emergency room. I remember holding her in my arms and running through the door and down the ramp yelling help. And the first person we ran into was Dr. Benjamin Button.

He was wearing his standard blue operating scrubs and he grabbed my daughter out of my arms carried her into an examining room and started taking off her snow suit and pajamas to cool her body down. Within seconds her terrifying shaking stopped and her eyes regained their focus and I remember she started crying and Dr. Button, while rubbing her little belly to calm her down, explained to the two of us that it was the high fever that threw her into a convulsion and the best thing to do should it ever happen again is to cool her down not warm her up. From that day forward, I became a fan of Doc Button, though fortunately, because he was a surgeon no one in my family ever had to see him as patients again.

Benjamin Button was born on his family’s farm in the town of Canajoharie on July 13, 1933. He graduated from Sharon Springs High School, SUNY Albany and SUNY Medical School in Syracuse. He then spent five years at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, where he did his surgical residency and in July of 1963, he opened his practice in Amsterdam as an orthopedic surgeon. For the next 27 years he was the Rug City’s go to guy for any kind of surgical procedure required to treat musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors and congenital disorders. And since his training predated arthroscopy, he frequently signed his operations with large and sometimes pretty ugly scars. It was an occupational hazard and not anything he was doing wrong but the truth is, back when he was cutting people open, many of us were a bit intimidated by the good doctor.

That all changed when he retired from his practice. That’s when everyone learned about the real Dr. Button. He spent the next fifteen years doing medical missionary work mostly in Africa. He transformed his image from Amsterdam’s scar maker into a compassionate caregiver to the world’s most needy.

He lived to be 80 years old, passing away in January of 2014. He left behind his wife Jane, two sons and a granddaughter. I only met him that one time but I will never forget his laugh and the twinkle in his eye as he rubbed our daughter’s tummy and helped two very young and concerned parents make it through a very frightening day.

 

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