Daniel McNeely is a pediatric neurosurgeon, so he’s used to fielding questions from nervous parents and patients.
But it was a first for him when an 8-year-old patient had a specific request as the child was being wheeled to surgery while clutching his stuffed animal: My bear is ripped. Please stitch him up.
McNeely, who works at IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, assured the boy he would, and he took the task seriously. After McNeely performed surgery on the boy’s brain, he placed the bear on a table, put on blue gloves and used leftover stitches from the child’s surgery to repair an underarm tear on the bear, which is named Little Baby.
Then in another first, McNeely — who had never tweeted before — went on Twitter Sunday to post a photo of the moment that had been captured by a resident. He wrote, “Patient asks if I can also fix teddy bear just before being put off to sleep... how could I say no?”
The photo quickly blew up on social media, and by Thursday had more than 29,000 likes and 13,000 retweets. The doctor told CBC News that he was surprised by all the attention.
“It’s not what I was looking for,” McNeely said. “I just thought I might make some people smile somewhere.”
On Twitter, McNeely joked about putting a mask on Little Baby.
“Neonatal face mask - helps to preserve the teddy bear’s anonymity!,” he wrote.
McNeely said it was no big deal to stitch up the bear.
“There’s always a few stitches that are left over from the case itself and they normally get disposed of,” he told CBC News.
The boy, identified by several Canadian news sites as Jackson McKie, has a cyst on his brain and a chronic condition called hydrocephalus, according to Global News. The surgery was to drain fluid and relieve pressure on his brain. McNeely has been treating Jackson since he was a baby.
“He’s one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met,” Jackson’s father, Rick McKie, said of McNeely, according to Global News.
McKie said his son was thrilled when he woke up to see his stuffed buddy, which he takes with him everywhere he goes, had been stitched up just like him.
McKie told the Global News that his family deeply appreciates McNeely’s medical care over the years, as well as his human touch.
“When we get there we’re terrified to death, but every time we talk to Dr. McNeely we feel better,” McKie said.
This week, McNeely also sent some good vibes across social media, as commenters appreciated how he went out of his way to make his young patient happy.