Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fishing, and the Kindness of Strangers

The ability of the internet to catalyze spontaneous events is not limited to Rickrolling or snowball fights. I want to tell a story of the power of the internet, and how it can harness all that is good in people, allowing total strangers to reach out to someone in need and do something special.

One of my patients is a 19 year old young man whose cancer has proved resistant to most every treatment he has tried. Last year, when he was in remission and feeling well, Make-a-Wish granted his wish to go deep sea fishing with his family. T had a great time, and his only regret was that he did not hook a fish large enough to need to be “strapped in.”

Last month T and his mother met with our team (me, the fellow, the nurse, and the social worker) to discuss participating in a clinical trial. The discussion was very frank, and it is clear T knows we no longer believe we can cure him. He told us he just wants to live long enough to go fishing one last time. Specifically, he wants to fish for tuna, and to hook one large enough that he needs to be strapped in to reel in the fish.

I don’t know anyone with a fishing boat. But I do have accounts on Facebook and Twitter. So I used Facebook to put out the word that I needed help finding a charter fishing boat for my patient to fish for tuna. One thing led to another, and within a few days I had the phone number of a fishing boat captain in North Carolina. This man hasn’t met me and hasn’t met T. Nevertheless, he offered the use of his boat for T and his family to go fishing, donating his time and offering to pay his first mate’s fee as well. All he asked was for some help with the cost of fuel. Enter Kind Stranger #2. This other man, someone neither T nor I has ever met, gathered together some friends and raised enough money to cover the cost of the fuel for a day’s fishing trip.

So, with the help of 21st century technology, we were able to arrange for T to go fishing for tuna off the coast of North Carolina, at no cost other than the gasoline to drive down there. Thank you, Captain S and Mr. K. The world would be a better place with more people like you in it.

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Morah Mary said...

"I depend on the kindness of strangers" - Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire.

That phrase sounded pathetic when said onstage... but sounds so wonderfully apt when applied to T's story. Thanks for sharing the happy outcome - and may the lives of Captain S and Mr K be blessed.

rlbates said...

My brother in Florida might be able to help.

Elizabeth Munroz said...

I hope the clinical trial gives surprising results and T can continue fishing in the future.

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