Two weeks ago, in Lagos, Portugal, my 95-year-old grandfather, Anthony Meyer (Tony) met Thomas Pušćak (Dr. Tom), the spinal surgeon who quite literally saved my neck in 2013. When he and Dr. Tom first embraced, it was emotionally charged. Tears were flowing from all of us, as Tony expressed his gratitude to Dr. Tom. Although it was a planned event, there was some serendipity involved. But there’s more to this story, and it’s a great example of why we should never underestimate the power of connection.
At 95, my grandfather suffers from severe chronic pain. In the late 1930s, Tony was a talented equestrian rider, but unfortunately, his hopes and dreams in the athletic arena were interrupted by World War II. As a South African, he served for the allied forces for the duration of the war. Towards the end of the war, he was doing a routine patrol when he heard the whistle of an impending mortar impact nearby. In his words, “I watched the shell hit the ground some 30ft away and then saw the thick metal base of the shell soar just inches overhead. I thought, ‘oh, that was lucky,’ but then the blast hit. I was hurled airborne across a road, hitting an embankment on the other side. I ended up face down in the muddy ditch, unable to move. Luckily I was taken to the infirmary in a hurry.” The mortar shell lodged over 25 small shards of metal in his body and severely damaged his back. Miraculously, he returned to service after only a few weeks in recovery.
As though Tony’s experience in WWII wasn’t enough, when he resumed horseback riding after the war, his horse slipped out on a jump and came down on top of him. This accident caused permanent damage. Saying that Tony is “no stranger” to medical care is a massive understatement. So, if anyone understands the good fortune I had when I was placed in the care of Dr. Tom, it’s my grandfather.
In 2014, Tony wrote a letter to Dr. Tom thanking him for all that he has done for me. And on the recommendation of my grandfather, I reached out to Dr. Tom so that I could try to thank him in person. But here’s the lucky part, it was my grandfather’s letter that made all the difference! When Dr. Tom’s assistant first told him there was a patient of his trying to get a hold of him, he thought he was about to get sued. But when she told him a bit more Dr. Tom remembered me immediately, thanks to the letter!
The serendipitous luck that connected Tom and I in 2013 is something I’ll never take for granted. The fact that my gracious grandfather took the time to write Dr. Tom is remarkable. And, the good fortune of bringing together two people who have been so important in my life was priceless. You never know who is going to come into your life and what role they might play in your future. I’m grateful every day for my recovery, but it’s days like this that really stand out.
It’s been a while since my last post, but this kicked my butt into gear. Thanks for reading.