Dr. Red Duke

I learned Dr. Red Duke, legendary surgeon at Houston’s Hermann hospital has passed away.  The doc was as much a part of Houston as humidity and certainly much nicer.  Dr. Duke was on tv every week which included folksy antidotes and comments.  He became medicine’s answer to Will Rogers.  His far reaching persona resulted in a tv series which starred Dennis Weaver.  What most did not know – Dr. Duke also created Life Flight which has saved countless lives.  When you met him you would not know he had reached such stature.  Unlike many doctors he was not a prima dona nor did he have an ego larger than his income.  I met the doc when I was working a Hermann as a sitter.  A young boy – BJ had been in a horrible car wreck and was suffering from a broken back.  He was an only child and his parents were worn to a frazzle – and hired a sitter to give them some much needed R&R.  BJ was a 17 year old young man whose life was a miracle.  He recalled the events which brought him to the hospital and I was amazed he survived.  Several weeks before he and two friends had gone to the beach and were on their way back to Houston.  They stopped for a burger and within a short time the open jeep they were riding in was in a horrific wreck.  BJ said his friends ran from the vehicle but he could not, even when it caught on fire.  His friends came back for him and pulled him to safety.  As he lay on the side of the road he watched the vehicle burn and realized he had suffered serious injuries as he was unable to move.  Ten days later he lay in a private room at Hermann hospital.  His back had begun to heal but the burger had still not been digested.  BJ laughed and said “who would have thought passing gas would be the highlight of my day?”  BJ kept his sense of humor thorough out.  He knew he was fortunate and had learned to appreciate the little things so many of us take for granted.  One night a knock on the door and in walked Dr. Red Duke, who was BJ’s primary physician.  The doc was as down to earth as I had been lead to believe.  He was friendly, never talked down to me and spoke to me with respect.  He looked at BJ and asked “BJ where is that burger? I have NEVER wanted a burger so bad in all my life.”   BJ said he wished he knew.  We laughed as did the nurse who had joined us.  Dr. Duke visited with BJ and spoke to him as one would a fishing buddy. Dr. Duke and I visited a short time outside BJ’s room.  He encouraged me to contact him if I needed anything.  When I returned to the room  I noted the room had a vibrant energy which resulted from a person who lives and loves life.  BJ had gone to sleep – peacefully.  He would live to face another day.  So many years have passed since I met Dr. Duke and cared for BJ.  I know there were other BJ’s who were charmed by Dr. Duke.  Many others faced health issues, who feared the doctor’s reports.  If they were in the hands of Dr. Duke the tide of terror was soothed and calmed.  It became tolerable.  Its intensity lessened in the hands of a caring, gentle giant who carved a path very few will ever equal.


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Filed under CBS. Fox, Dr. Red Duke, Hermann, NBC

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