A Short Story for Thanksgiving
(*The original versions of content from this story were registered
by the author at the U. S. Copyright Office in 2023.)
As the pediatrician further examined his tiny patient, he noticed that when the
baby tried to breathe she was experiencing some difficulty.
“You know, I do not like the way Rusty is breathing, let’s get her over to that
children’s hospital nearby for a closer look,” he instructed.
He then added, “I will call them immediately, just to let them know they
should be expecting all of you shortly.”
In the meantime, please take her over there immediately, and I will meet
the three of you there promptly,” he instructed.
The physician and her parents had also recently noticed that Rusty’s
physical appearance began to look a bit different from her twin sister Janie.
She had also lost some of her luster as she had previously enjoyed, such as
sitting in her crib and giggling with her sister. She had stopped smiling,
and some of her spontaneous mannerisms were gone.
This was why her mom and dad had initially decided to have her examined
by the pediatrician.
Rusty’s parents quickly brought her to the hospital for younger patients.
Upon arrival, Rusty was rushed into the emergency ward for prompt attention.
As her parents walked through the front area of the large newly constructed building,
they felt the vulnerability of uncertainty that could not escape their thoughts.
They were comforted that someone they could trust and rely upon was taking care
of their other offspring. The children's maternal grandmother, who lived with them
at the time, looked after their other kids while they were at the hospital.
Rusty’s mom and dad spent the next several hours sitting anxiously on the couch
near the television set.
A few hours later, the doctor was walking towards them with a defeated expression
engraved upon his face. He was a young Irish fellow in his mid-twenties with thick
wavy auburn hair, and a pleasant demeanor.
"You must be Rusty's parents, I am one of the ER doctors,” he stated soothingly,
as he greeted them warmly.
"Yes, we are," her mother, stated with a serious tone.
"Rusty is in the emergency ward and she is currently resting comfortably,"
the youthful physician explained softly.
“Why don't we talk in my office where it is more private," he kindly suggested.
Once they were all seated comfortably, he composed himself and began to speak.
“We will not get the x-rays we have taken of Rusty for at least a day or two.
However, just from what we observed from the patient, it appears that she
is having some problems with her breathing because there is some type of
a growth in the lungs area. In the meantime, we have admitted the baby
here at the hospital for the time being. But let’s not worry unnecessarily,”
he suggested in a comforting tone.
A few days later, the same physician along with a few of his colleagues met
with Rusty’s parents to convey their findings from the x-rays.
“It appears from all the x-rays which were taken of Rusty’s lungs show that
she has some type of a growth or cyst in her right lung which is making it
difficult for her to breath properly. It also appears that these masses of cells
are pressing against her heart.”
He paused for a moment before continuing.
“We will not know for certain if the cyst is benign or not, until we perform surgery.
However, it appears from the x-rays that it is most likely benign with some fluid
built up in addition to the mass of cells,” he emphasized before continuing.
“The lungs cannot fully expand when she breathes, and this places an additional
stress on the heart. She is going to need immediate surgery to remove all the
excess blockage from both areas. Since Rusty is so small and fragile; this is
a very complicated surgery,” he explained gently with candor.
Her parents were very worried, but they decided to allow the surgical procedure.
“What other choice do we have?” her father asked rhetorically.
They soon discovered the main problem was that the only seasoned specialist,
who had prior experience to perform such a difficult operation, was retired.
As their sickly infant remained in stable but serious condition, it was recommended
to them by the staff to go home and sleep for a few hours.
When they walked past the decorated walls, they also noticed a room on the
premises where children, were playing with toys, writing on the chalkboards,
as well as making decorations for the upcoming Halloween holiday, and wondered
if their daughter would ever have the opportunity to enjoy these activities.
Her parents walked out of the corridor of this facility with overall feelings of fear
Later that day, they were awoken by the echoes of ringing sounds stemming from
the telephone which was placed on the night table near the bed.
Rusty's dad who was still drowsy, struggled to find the hand piece with his fingers.
“Hello," Rusty’s father stated groggily.
“Hi, this is the ER pediatrician you spoke with about your baby. I am sorry to disturb
you since I know you and your wife were told to go home and rest, but I have some
good news,” he stated with elation.
He then continued to speak joyously over the phone.
"The doctor I told you about, is coming out of retirement just for Rusty's operation.
At least with someone like him, she will have a greater chance of surviving. He is the
very best at this type of procedure!," the younger man exclaimed with optimism.
“Please let everyone know at your hospital, especially the retired surgeon, how
grateful we are," her dad expressed with gratitude.
"Absolutely I will," he responded graciously.
The physician then added, "We have scheduled the surgery for early tomorrow.
Because of the seriousness of Rusty's condition, we cannot wait," he emphasized.
"My wife and I will be at the hospital very shortly," her father replied with an appreciative
but apprehensive tenor.
On the day of the surgery, as Rusty's parents stepped onto the welcome mat by the
door they felt very worried.
They were immediately met by a friendly-looking handsome older man with a mustache,
who was also tall and slim.
“Hi, I am the physician who will be performing the surgery on your baby today,” he stated
kindly, as he accompanied the frightened parents down the hallway.
“Doctor, I know that you have come out of retirement just for this one operation, and I
was also told that you canceled some special plans you had made. I just want to express
that my wife and I cannot thank you enough,” Rusty’s dad thoughtfully articulated.
“That’s okay. I can always resume my retirement after the surgery, and reschedule my plans.
However, I cannot think of anything which is more important than trying to help someone,”
the older gentleman replied with kindness.
The overall atmosphere of the facility appeared to be caring, as many of the parents
were conversing amongst themselves, and would often eat their meals together in
the cafeteria when their children were sleeping, or in surgery.
"Hi, you must be Rusty's parents,” one of the other fathers greeted them.
The other man then added, "my little boy is a patient here too.”
"It is very nice to meet you," Rusty's mother replied.
"What is your child in here for?" he inquired.
"She has some type of cyst or something blocking her lungs, which is why she is
having trouble breathing," Rusty’s mom nervously explained.
"Oh, well you have come to the right place,” the other parent stated.
The three adults decided to go downstairs for something to eat.
The doctors encouraged this since they were preparing Rusty for the needed procedure.
The overwhelming circumstances of what was transpiring, occupied her parents thoughts.
They were unable to have any control as to whether their child was going to live.
While Rusty's grandma was at home with her twin sister, and two older siblings, the tiny
patient was lying in a hospital with tubes inserted into her pale arms and legs.
As she was being prepped for what laid ahead, her small body remained expressionless.
After they finished in the cafeteria, Rusty's mom, and dad, along with the other parent,
returned to the waiting room, as her operation was about to begin.
They passed the time by watching television, as well as talking with some of the other
people with sick children.
"Maybe we should have had some pictures taken of Rusty before the procedure," her
mother mentioned softly to her husband, with the tenor of regret.
“No Margaret, we will have plenty of time to have pictures taken of Rusty throughout her
lifetime," her father countered in a failed attempt to sound outwardly hopeful. His
attempted bravery, failed to mask the fact that their daughter's chance of survival was
Several hours later, a tired looking surgeon was walking towards Rusty's parents.
His blue eyes were unreadable from being exhausted.
“Well folks, Rusty is doing well. All the visible mass of cells were removed from around
her vital organs. It appears that the mass was benign, and we got it all! Her body
also seemed to respond well to the blood transfusion,” he stated with enthusiasm.
He then paused for moment before providing further comments.
“There were no signs of cancer anywhere, as we checked and rechecked, all of the
surrounding areas before the surgery was concluded, as a precautionary measure.
We will know for certain after the laboratory further examines everything I sent to them.
However, she is very fragile, and even the slightest cold or fever could affect her
chance of survival. She is going to have to stay here at the hospital for a while, until we
are convinced, she is strong enough to breathe and function on her own. In the meantime,
we will continue to give her the antibiotics in order to avoid any infections from forming.
If she survives this, I do not question that she will be able to live a long time and have
a normal life,” the senior physician reported positively.
“Whatever challenges which may confront us, we know we will be able handle it for Rusty's
sake," her father pledged bravely.
A day or so later, the caring surgeon was happy to confirm the lab had found no trace of
cancer anywhere from what they removed from the infant’s body.
Rusty remained in the hospital for several more weeks. Her parents and family members
noticed that her twin sister Janie, appeared to be missing her sibling.
Before Rusty's illness, the twins who shared a room would sit in their cribs and laugh, as
they spoke in a language only known between the two of them. Their natural bond became
evident, as during her twin’s absence, Janie would lie in her cradle at home with a blank
expression imprinted upon her face.
Her small plump body had become unresponsive to the adults who would pick her up
and cuddle her. Her playful demeanor had become nearly nonexistence.
Rusty's parents, as well as other relatives were at the hospital visiting the weak child.
They graced their love and concern for her through prayer vigils, and unconditional
During more critical times, when the patient seemed to be experiencing some other
health problems, the administration allowed her mother to stay overnight at the
hospital to help feed Rusty. Her parents had treasured each moment they were able
to spend with their baby. Each hour had become sacred to them.
They had become familiar with the hospital employees, as well as some of the other
parents on the floor. The overabundance of support and friendship helped sustained
them for what they were enduring.
Many of the families had formed a bond. At times, they had begun running personal
errands for each other when the parents needed to be accessible at the facility.
They began to exchange helpful information, and had started to socialize with one another
outside of the hospital. The camaraderie, which formed amongst the families during these
difficult circumstances, was becoming a regular fixture.
Remarkably, Rusty began to show some physical improvement.
Several weeks later, she was finally able to be taken home.
On her departure day, Rusty was dressed in clothing from some of the gifts she
She was wearing a frilly pink party dress, white tights, and tiny shiny black party shoes.
The big pastel bow tied around her front tresses, nearly had gotten lost in an array of her
thick curly orange ringlets.
The old jovial baby was gradually emerging from her gloomy past existence of being so ill.
Her regular complexion started to return, and she had continued to gain weight.
Once she arrived home, she was placed into the crib alongside her sibling's. Her presence
seemed to have rejuvenated her twin.
Suddenly, her sister began to giggle. They began to communicate with each other, which
was still a mystery to everyone else.
Two months later, on Thanksgiving morning, Rusty’s parents were awoken by some noises
coming from the kitchen, along with an aroma of pleasant-smelling cuisine.
“Honey, you don’t think that your mother is actually preparing a big feast for today
do you?” her husband inquired with humor.
“Yes, that is exactly what I think. I specifically told her that we would order something in,
so we wouldn’t have to go through all of the trouble of preparing an elaborate meal. I even
bought paper plates, cups, and napkins for this holiday, so we would not have to start
washing dishes,” his wife answered with concern.
“Well, I think your mom had another idea in mind,” Al snickered.
The couple walked towards the downstairs of their new house and veered directly
into the kitchen.
“Hi kids, I hope I did not disturb you. I’m just getting things ready for later today,”
she stated with an efficiency.
“Listen Mom, I think it’s really sweet of you to want to make such a festive dinner for us,
but I thought we had agreed that since we have all been through such a difficult time with
Rusty’s illness and operation, that we would do something more simple this year so we could
all just unwind and relax,” her son-in-law stated tactfully.
His mother-in law then turned her head so she could look at him directly, before she
started to speak.
“My little granddaughter has just survived a major health crisis, and she is continually getting
better and showing great improvement, if that’s not a reason to be thankful and celebrate
the meaning of this holiday with a magnificent meal, then I do not know what is. Besides,
I did not invite anyone else, it will just be our little family gathering for this dinner,” the older
woman rationalized, as she opened the oven door, and started to pour the natural juices from
the pot over the big turkey with a large wooden spoon.
Her daughter opened the refrigerator door and was amazed at all of the new foods overflowing
on the shelves inside.
“Mother, how in the world were you able to buy these things and carry it all home, since you
no longer drive?,” Margaret asked in astonishment.
“Oh, there is a wonderful little family-owned grocery market uptown, and they also provide
delivery services. Their prices are very reasonable. Here is the bill for everything,” her mother
clarified, as she handed her daughter’s husband the information.
She then added additional information.
“Oh by the way Al, I did not have enough money to pay for everything, so the owner said that
you can just phone in the amount due with your credit card. I also took some of the emergency
cash from the house so I could give the delivery boy a tip. He helped put the turkey into the pot
and placed it into the oven for me. It is so big and heavy, that I could not have possibly done it
myself. I did not want to have to wake you up to help in this regard, I hope you don’t mind?,”
“No not at all, that was very nice of him to come inside the house and assist you. I was planning
to go into town anyway to buy a newspaper. I will visit the market first to pay the owner, before
I go over to the pharmacy for the paper,” he mentioned.
"Please note, that most of the stores are closing much earlier today. So, if you are planning
to go into town, do so as soon as possible,” she warned.
“Absolutely!” Al replied assuredly, as he quickly exited the room and ran upstairs to start
“In the meantime, I will phone them so they will be aware that Al is going to be coming
in shortly to pay for everything you ordered. This way, they won’t close-up before he arrives,”
Margaret explained as she strolled towards the telephone.
The older lady then tapped her daughter on the shoulder and handed her a small slip of
paper with the phone number of the business.
“Mom, I also noticed that you also bought some ready-made side dishes, as well as pies,
along with vanilla ice cream,” her daughter mentioned.
“Yes honey, we are going to have a feast tonight. Sorry the pies are not my usual homemade
ones made from scratch, but I had decided at the very last moment to prepare this meal,
so I had no choice but to use store bought ones. Also, the grocery store in town had some of
the other side-dishes already made. As I mentioned, I came up with this idea so suddenly, that
there simply was not enough time to cook all of the other delicacies such as the different types
of stuffing, biscuits, and casseroles myself,” she stated apologetically.
She then paused to sit down for a moment, before continuing.
"Unfortunately, they were out of their roasted turkeys, and it was way too late to start ordering
a completely cooked one. So, I had no choice but to buy this large raw one and cook it myself.
Luckily, they opened their store much earlier today, so I have enough time to fully prepare it,”
“I know, with Rusty being so ill along with that complicated surgery, and then this tragedy
with President Kennedy being killed, we understand. I am sure the pies and the other stuff
you bought from the store will be delicious, although probably not as good as yours,” the
younger woman expressed diplomatically.
“Thank you,” as her mother acknowledged the compliment, and then waited a few minutes,
before continuing to express her thoughts.
“I still cannot believe that such a terrible situation has occurred with the President, and I am
also feeling tremendous sadness for his family,” she confided.
“Yes, Al and I feel the same way,” Margaret agreed with sorrow.
“However, let’s at least try to have a good supper, because we still have Rusty’s recovery to
be very thankful for. I hope everyone with the exception of the babies, does not load up on
food and snacks throughout the day and saves their appetites,” the kindhearted older lady
“On a separate note, as long as I am here, could you use any help?” Margaret humbly asked.
“No thanks, I am almost finished. I was still able to make my sweet potato creation that
everyone likes. I will put the coconut and marshmallows on the top of it when it is hot, and
we are ready to serve it. The only thing I have to do now is let the turkey bake for several hours.
Everything else is done, including the relish tray and the cooked vegetables. We will only have to
heat all of this other stuff up when we are ready to serve the meal later today,” the mature woman
“Well, why don’t you take a nap since you have been up from early this morning. I will keep
my eye on what’s cooking in the oven, and Al will look after the kids when he returns from town,”
her adult daughter offered.
“Okay, I can use a few hours rest,” her mother expressed appreciatively as she started to take
her apron off.
“I will wake you up later today when we are ready to start the meal,” Margaret promised.
Later in the day, her husband added a panel extension to the table, so there would be more
room to accommodate all of the trays of the culinary additions he knew would later be placed
on the table.
During the late afternoon hours, the family sat at the table.
The tabletop was attractively decorated. There was a cute centerpiece placed in the middle.
It was a lovely flower arrangement inside a beautifully painted turkey-shaped container.
Other more traditional holiday decorations were also displayed.
“Al, did you buy that centerpiece?” his wife cheerfully probed.
“Yes, that was the least I could do. I walked passed the flower shop and noticed it. The florist
assured me that the container was made with some type of unbreakable material instead of
ceramic, so it is suitable to have around younger children should they accidentally bump into it,
or drop it,” he assured.
“It certainly is stunning, and after the flowers are gone, it could still be used for future celebrations,”
his mother-in-law stated with a complimentary tone.
“What else did you buy?” Margaret asked lightheartedly .
“Well, while I was at the drug store, I saw some coloring books and crayons for this holiday
and Christmas, that I bought for Irene and Danny. I thought they might enjoy them,” he
The patriarch of the family then started to speak in a more serious and sentimental tone.
“Before we eat, let's just take a moment to express our thanks that Rusty is alive and
getting better every day. And we should feel especially grateful to the surgeon who saved
her life, along with everyone else at the hospital, who assisted in caring for our little baby
girl,” he expressed in appreciation with a sentimental tone.
He then paused for a moment before continuing.
“I think we should also include the President’s family in our thoughts and prayers.
From what I had seen on television these past several years, he seemed to be a
good man, and certainly was a wonderful leader,” Al stated respectfully in admiration
with a somber undertone.
His wife and mother-in-law nodded in agreement before he started to carve the turkey.
The three adults, along with their two older children began to enjoy the elaborate meal,
as the twin babies were both sleeping blissfully nearby.
“Where are the “twins”,” Danny asked in a childlike tone.
“Well, they are little babies. They already had their dinner. However, they were tired and
needed to sleep. They are not a big kid like you, who is almost four,” Al answered with
a chuckle as he patted the little boy’s head.
A short while after they all enjoyed their special meal, the two older youngsters started
to become sleepy.
While all of the children were snoozing comfortably, Rusty’s parents and grandmother
decided to take a peek into the twins’ bedroom to check on the former patient.
The three adults walked softly towards the room and gently opened the door a bit more.
They all just stood in the doorway and lovingly gazed at Rusty who was slumbering peacefully.
More importantly, she was breathing normally as her little tummy went up and down with each
breath, just like her twin sister’s.
During the months that followed, Rusty continued to show tremendous improvement.
Three months later in February, Rusty and Janie reached their first birthday.
“I think Rusty will be with us for a long time,” her father stated joyfully and confidently,
as they were all feeling very optimistically about her future.
This fictionalized story, which was inspired by actual events, and is dedicated
to the memory of Willis J. Potts, M. D., along with the author’s parents, grandmother,
and big sister, (named Irene for the story).
This short story is in tribute to Dr. Potts from the Children’s Memorial Hospital,
in Chicago, Illinois. (Currently known as Lurie Children's Hospital.)
(Readers can learn more about his accomplishments on "Wikipedia", as well
as from other online sources.)
On September 19, 1963, Dr. Potts performed a lifesaving operation on the author
of this story, who was seven months old at the time.
In addition to his skills as a surgeon, Dr. Potts treated the author and her parents
with warmth, courtesy, and kindness, during that difficult time.
The author would also like to acknowledge the other physicians and/or members
of the medical team, who contributed to her care in September of 1963, at the
Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Joseph D. Boggs, M.D., (Director of Laboratories).
Paul H. Holinger, M.D., Dino G. Maurizi, M.D., C. Mazzucco, M.D.,
Harvey White, M.D., and J. J. Weitzman.
Drs. Armagon (or Armagan), Bass, Brennan, Ditmore, and Donnellan.
(*The first names of these doctors were not provided in the author's medical records.)
Bernard Hankin, M. D., (was the author’s personal pediatrician).
Nurses, J. Dehian (or Debian), C. Rosenbaum (or Rosenbom),
and J. Nowicki, along with the other nurses, medical staff, anesthetists,
and technicians, etc.
An additional acknowledgement in regard to the current staff at the hospital
in 2023, who undertook the task of locating the author’s medical records from
September of 1963, and making certain the information was properly sent.
On a separate note, the author would also like to thank her twin sister
(named Janie for the story), who lent her support and encouragement in regard
to this project.