'But I will, if I have to': How one surgeon has repeatedly saved his loved ones

As a transplant surgeon, Bud Shaw, MD, was taught early on to avoid serving as his own family's physician. But through the years, he has had to take on the challenge of guiding his family members through medical emergencies.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Dr. Shaw's story highlights the difficulties many medical professionals might find themselves in when their own families enter and depend on the healthcare system.

Dr. Shaw, also the author of Last Night in the OR: A Transplant Surgeon's Odyssey, recalls helping his daughter Natalie through a case of bacterial pneumonia. Although he was not her physician, Dr. Shaw was worried she would slip into septic shock while at the hospital. After a nurse refused to obtain saline for him, Dr. Shaw broke into a crash cart and obtained saline to amp up Natalie's fluid levels. Because of his actions, she was one of the few to survive her kind of pneumonia in the state of Nebraska.

Dr. Shaw notes other memories of helping family members in his op-ed. When his mother-in-law had an abscess in her wound after undergoing colon surgery, her rehabilitation attendants believed it would heal. But Dr. Shaw urged her to go to the emergency room, where the surgeon revealed the abscess was filled with pus.

Unfortunately, Dr. Shaw is haunted by the moments in which he couldn't do anything, such as when his request to have his son transferred to an intensive care unit was denied. His son survived, but Dr. Shaw felt guilty for not having helped more. In another instance, despite Dr. Shaw's request that his father not receive a specific medication, caregivers administered it anyway and his father died 10 minutes later.

Although it has been challenging, Dr. Shaw has helped his family members on numerous occasions. "I never again want to step in to rescue someone I love," he wrote. "But I will, if I have to."

More articles on hospital and physician issues:
Ochsner, Adeptus partner on stand-alone emergency rooms
New specialist visits to primary care: Considerations to maximize impact
Community Health Network, VillageMD partner for primary care management joint venture: 5 things to know

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