Recalling His Inspiration, A Neurosurgeon Thanks A Teacher | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Recalling His Inspiration, A Neurosurgeon Thanks A Teacher

Play associated audio

This story originally aired on Weekend Edition on Sept. 25, 2011.

As a middle-school student in the 1980s, Lee Buono stayed after school one day to remove the brain and spinal cord from a frog. He did such a good job that his science teacher told him he might become a neurosurgeon someday.

That's exactly what Buono did.

Years later, a patient with a tumor came to see Buono. The growth was benign but interfered with the patient's speech. "He can get some words out," Buono recalls, "but it's almost unintelligible. It's almost like someone's sewing your mouth closed."

"I'm talking to his wife, and we tried to lighten up the situation," he continues. "They started asking me about myself." They asked Buono who inspired him to become a surgeon, and he told them about his old teacher, Al Siedlecki, back at Medford Memorial Middle School in Medford, N.J.

The surgery was a success. The patient's powers of speech returned. "He's just excited and happy and crying and wanted to just hug me," Buono says.

"You make sure you call that teacher," the patient told him. "You make sure you thank him."

So Buono did. Siedlecki hadn't heard from Buono since he was in high school.

"I want to thank you," Buono told him.

"I was flabbergasted," Siedlecki remembers. "I said, 'Of all the people in your entire career, you want to thank me?'

"It was the same feeling I had when ... my kids were born," Siedlecki continues. "I started to cry. It made me feel really important that I had that influence."

Lately, Siedlecki admits, "I almost am afraid to say that I'm a teacher to some people."

Not anymore, he tells Buono, "because you called me. I'm a teacher, and I'm going to help as many people as I can to find their passion too."

Audio produced for Weekend Edition by Brian Reed.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Investigating The Drug Trade In 'Cartel Land'

A new documentary tells a riveting story of the way power and violence intersect along the Arizona border and in embattled Michoacan, Mexico.
NPR

Why The World Might Be Running Out Of Cocoa Farmers

West African cocoa farmers earn less than $1 a day. Those low wages could jeopardize the future of chocolate labor, as young farmers find better opportunities to earn a living, a new report warns.
NPR

Donald Trump Controversy Highlights Influence Of Hispanics In U.S.

NPR's Rachel Martin speaks with Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, about Republican presidential candidate Trump's remarks on Mexican immigrants.
NPR

Pilot In Solar-Powered Plane Sets Aviation Record

André Borschberg, flying Solar Impulse 2, set a new record of 120 hours in the cockpit on a journey from Japan to Hawaii.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.