Dr. Daniel McNeely was set to helm eight-year-old Jackson McKie’s surgery. But as the duo made their way to the operating room, the patient had a one-of-a-kind request – and the doctor instantly made it happen.
Jackson McKie was used to visiting the hospital – the eight-year-old had hydrocephalus, which was once known as “water on the brain.” That description is a slight misnomer, though, since an excess of cerebrospinal fluid, not water, is what affects the organ.
It’s that excess fluid that causes all of the problems, expanding the brain’s ventricles and putting undue pressure on the rest of the organ’s tissues. A person can develop hydrocephalus at any age, although about one of every 1,000 newborns come into the world with the condition.
Hydrocephalus can have an effect on a person’s physical and cognitive growth. However, many children receive the right combination of medical treatments, rehabilitation and educational aids, so that they can return to – and thrive in – their everyday lives.
McKie’s hydrocephalus journey had him back in the hospital in late 2018. A familiar face was taking care of his treatment – Dr. Daniel McNeely had served as one of the boy’s neurosurgeons since he had been born.
This time around, Dr. McNeely would be fixing a shunt in McKie’s brain. The tube created a passageway, so that the fluid on McKie’s brain could escape. With that, much of the pressure on the area would dissipate.
Throughout his stay at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, McKie would have a special friend by his side. His dad, Rick, told the CBC that his son had had his teddy bear named Little Baby since he had come into the world.
The McKies got the bear as a gift when they went to see their baby via ultrasound – they then passed the plush toy onto their son. “It’s his best buddy. When he was born, he had it ever since with him. Through thick or thin,” Rick said.
Coincidentally, McKie and his bear were both in need of attention when they got to the hospital for the former’s surgery. The eight-year-old needed a shunt repair, of course, and Little Baby had a rip under the arm.
The bear’s tear was clearly on McKie’s mind as he wheeled into surgery. At that point, he decided to make a request of his doctor – one that McNeely had no problem fulfilling, no matter how out of the ordinary of a task it was.
The eight-year-old asked his surgeon if he could also repair Little Baby’s rip. McNeely had no hesitation in saying “yes” – and he said it was simple to do the job. “There’s always a few stitches that are left over from the case itself and they normally get disposed of,” the doctor said.
But McNeely didn’t stop there. He also slipped a faux oxygen mask onto the bear’s face to authentically simulate a surgery. After he had finished stitching Little Baby, he monitored its vitals, just like he would a human patient.
After waking up from his own surgery, McKie was elated to see his bear beside him recovering too. “He was so proud,” Rick said. He added, “He had Little Baby laying up in the hospital bed with him and everything.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story. McNeely later started a Twitter account and showed off his handiwork on the teddy bear in his first-ever tweet. The site’s users connected to the message and the images – they garnered more than 43,000 likes.
Of course, Neely hadn’t planned for any of the the attention he received from the world at large. “It’s not what I was looking for. I just thought I might make some people smile somewhere,” he said about his decision to share the pictures.
As for the McKie family, the doctor’s good deed certainly made them happy, so they decided to commemorate it. They printed out McNeely’s photos and placed them in frames – that way, Jackson could hold onto them.
Meanwhile, the eight-year-old recovered well from his procedure, although his dad did report that McKie had felt waves of emotion. McKie told his dad his bear was experiencing the same recovery – ”according to Jackson, [Little Baby]’s a little moody, too,” Rick said.
With the surgery behind his son, Rick was also able to admit how much of an impact the teddy bear procedure had had on him too. “It made us feel better about being there,” the “thankful” and “amazed” dad admitted.
And with Dr. McNeely’s viral tweet sent out, many of its viewers responded that they felt the same about his actions. “A few moments of your time made such a difference. You made one little boy happy and warmed the hearts of thousands. Thank you for such a kind gesture,” wrote one Twitter user.
Another said that their doctor had done something similar – and they remembered the good deed well into adulthood. “My doctor did this for me (on my stuffed Snoopy) when I was going into surgery at age 6. I’m 48 now. Proof this is something your patient will never forget,” they said.