Why This Mom’s Letter To Her Son’s Heart Surgeon Is So Special

Sometimes, all we need to say is a simple thank-you. That is exactly what Jillian Benfield did.

A new mother who learned that her nine-month-old son needed open-heart surgery, she wrote a thank-you letter to the heart surgeon who did the operation.

Her son, Anderson, was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect. Dr. John Nigro, a pediatric cardiac surgeon at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, was to do the operation and walked Benfield and her husband through it.

But even with a doctor explaining the process to you, heart surgery is heart surgery: a scary prospect.

“I can’t think of something more terrifying than a doctor cutting open your child’s heart, but thankfully everything went well and Dr. Nigro made us feel calm and at ease,” Benfield said to TODAY.com.

“After coming home from the hospital and having time to process and deal with what Anderson had just gone through, I was so overwhelmed by the change I saw in him and wanted to let the doctor know how grateful I was.”

Then, she posted a thank-you letter on her blog. Here is an excerpt:

“Dear Dr. Nigro,

I didn’t want to meet you. In fact, I was angry on the two-and-a-half hour drive to your office. See, I was told that my son’s heart defect would most likely not require open heart surgery. Then, all of a sudden, it felt like a bomb went off and the explosion sent my husband and I to your office a few days later…

I asked you this, ‘Have you ever lost a baby from this heart surgery?’ You looked down and said, ‘Yes.’ There was one little girl, one among thousands, who also had Down syndrome, who went home and died in her sleep. Even though the loss was more than a decade ago, I could tell it still pained your heart. That’s when I knew you were the one…

On the day of surgery, you saw I was emotional, you gave me a tissue and assured me it would be okay. You were more than confident. This is what you do. Day in and day out you save our children’s lives. If my son were born in the 80’s, his life expectancy would have been around 25 years old. Now, it is in the 60’s. This is in large part because of people like you…

I know that you have dedicated your life to save others. For however broken our medical system seems to be, you are the bright spot. You spend the majority of your life surrounded by either the walls of the OR or the CICU’s because of a calling, a calling to change lives and enhance futures.

When we are kids, we are taught that super heroes come with big muscles and capes. As an adult I’ve realized they often times come in surgical caps and scrubs. Thank you for your enormous dedication. Thank you for all of those years you sacrificed perfecting your craft. Thank you for making my son’s broken heart whole. Thank you for making your life about making his better.”

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

Dr. Nigro responded and said how much Benfield’s thank-you meant to him and his team. And, post-surgery, Benfield has noticed a positive change in Anderson—he is more alert and smiles non-stop. “He has this infectious joy about him that he spreads to everyone he comes into contact with,” Benfield said to TODAY.com.

Benfield’s letter is a great reminder to us all to remember to say thank-you. The small gesture can have big results for everyone involved.