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Volunteer in Need Experiences Compassionate Care

Pictured, from left, are Joshua Hirsch, MD,<br> John MacDuffie and Karen MacDuffie,<br> a long-time Mass General volunteer. 

Patient Story

Volunteer in Need Experiences Compassionate Care

A Mass General volunteer writes that, after her husband suffered a serious injury while traveling abroad, they encountered a Mass General physician who treated them with memorable skill and empathy.

Karen MacDuffie
January 16, 2020

My Massachusetts General Hospital community is a very important part of my life. I have been a volunteer for about 25 years, most of them in the Gray/Yawkey Family Waiting Area and in the post-anesthesia care units, or PACUs. As a member of the Ladies Visiting Committee, I have been privileged to learn about many areas within the Mass General and to meet many of the administrators and doctors that make up this community. I have seen the caring and compassionate manner of the staff as they treat the patients – both my husband and I have been patients as well.

Dr. Hirsch said that if there was anything he could do, he’d be there.

But my concept of this community changed – grew – recently when my husband and I experienced a traveler’s nightmare: John had a serious injury in a foreign country where we did not know the facilities nor speak the language. Luckily, we were on a tour, so had a guide who could help us. But all I wanted was to be in my user-friendly, recognizable Mass General with its world-class doctors, the latest equipment and its familiar faces. That was the community I needed.

After a four-day wait for the appropriate accommodations, we arrived at the plane that could take us home. I turned to my right – and a member of my community was here – Joshua Hirsch, MD, a doctor I had seen countless times in the Gray Family Waiting Area! The relief I felt just knowing that he would be on the plane was immense. Dr. Hirsch said that if there was anything he could do, he’d be there.

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Volunteer Feels Part of Team

About two hours out of Boston, John began to feel awful! Even the attendants noticed it and asked if we wanted a doctor to meet us at the plane (our daughter was going to meet us). Then, the attendant announced “Is there a doctor on board”? Dr. Hirsch immediately came up. Of course, we were frightened – it had been a long, exhausting, traumatic experience, and John needed help! The professionalism and compassion that Dr. Hirsch showed to him, and to both of us, so exemplified what we have experienced over many years of being involved in the Mass General community.

After checking on John and reassuring us both, he asked if we wanted an ambulance to meet us at the plane and take us directly to Mass General. We thought about it and then made the right decision: We went directly from the plane to the Emergency Department, where John was immediately enveloped in questions, tests, and IVs.

He eventually had surgery, followed by a five-night stay surrounded by capable, attentive members of the community. He is recovering well at home.

As a volunteer, I see the effect of the skills and the empathy of the Mass General often. As volunteers, we are often told that we are part of the team – part of the Mass General community. That was so very evident from Dr. Hirsch’s acknowledgement of John’s situation in the Rome airport to our arrival in Boston.

While I’m sure a doctor would have done the same for any passenger, I felt very secure knowing that one of “my community” was on board, was ready to jump in if needed and was there when the need arose.

To learn more about how you can support patient care programs at Mass General, please contact us.