A Tribute to Dr. Abe Van Der Spek



By Scott Newport, Dad of a child with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Noonan’s Syndrome

The label “DNR” is a scary one. Recently, at Mott Children’s Hospital, our family had to face the reality of our son Evan’s DNR status.

As we waited for the team to take Evan back to surgery, in walked Dr. Van Der Spek.

“Hello folks, I am the anesthesiologist today for Evan and I would like to talk with you.”  As I looked at this mid-aged fellow in light blue scrubs and a hair net that looked stolen from the hospital’s cafeteria, I wondered what we were getting ourselves into!  

“Before we take Evan, we need to talk about the DNR,” Dr. Van Der Spek said. “We need to know how far we should go if Evan’s heart stops in the O.R.”   

I’m not sure what gave Dr. Abe the compassion and insight he exhibited during that conversation, but I began to feel confident that he was solidly on our team and that he was about to be part of an ongoing Mott success story.

After the surgery, Dr. Abe showed up. I asked him, “Did Evan turn blue at all?”  

“Oh yeah,” Dr. Abe replied. “You know, kids like Evan who have bad hearts do better when we use the Ambu bag instead of ventilation. So we did that.”

“What happened?” I stammered.  

“He turned a beautiful color of not-so-blue and we finished up the procedure,” Dr. Abe replied with a wink.

When we finally got home that night, I collapsed into bed. My mind began to wander, going over the events of the day, the significance of the DNR order, and then reminding myself what our family has decided that DNR stands for. It’s actually become somewhat of a motto for our family. In our household, we say that DNR stands for “Do Not Retreat.”  As I finally fell off to sleep, I knew that Dr. Abe is a man who lives by our family motto, too.

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