From A Friend: Elena Schneider

I am one of Greg’s Harvard College classmates. I only knew him casually in college. He was charming and very witty, and I always enjoyed chatting with him, though I never had the chance to get to know him that well.

At our Ten Year Reunion in June of 2009 I was lucky enough to reconnect with him a bit. It was great to see him, and he seemed to be thriving. We talked about many things, but he was so modest he never mentioned to me that he was a resident in surgery at Stanford, which is right near where my parents live.

Fast forward to December of 2009, and there my father and I were in Stanford Hospital, waiting outside the operating room while my mother was having brain surgery, and Greg just happened to walk by. It was one of the most difficult moments of our lives.

In a week or two my mother had gone from having a nagging headache to being disagnosed with a subdural brain hematoma, admitted to the hospital, and told she needed surgery for what was potentially a very dangerous condition. In the weeks that followed she would experience a slew of frightening complications that had her in neurological ICU at Stanford for some time. Just at the moment that Greg walked by, my father and I had received a confusing message that after four or so hours of surgery, they were beginning her surgery again, right when we thought it was supposed to be ending. With no other information at that time, my dad and I, understandably, were panicking that something had gone wrong.

No doubt Greg was on his way to something pressing he had to do, but he was amazing to us. He came over and sat down with my Dad and me, and talked us through the situation with such tremendous kindness and humanity. He helped us figure out what was going on and was a great comfort to us at a truly difficult time. When my mother got out of surgery, he visited her in ICU, and then reported back to my father and me. He continued to check on us several times over the ensuing week and to make himself available to us in any way he could.

I will never forget watching Greg sit there with my dad outside the operating room, listening to him, looking him in the eye, answering his questions like he was the only person in the world. At a moment when my father was terrified that something had gone wrong (I had tried just about everything to distract and comfort him and failed), Greg somehow, improbably, man to man, managed to bring my father some calm and peace. I was so impressed by Greg and felt blessed to know someone who was so talented and accomplished and yet such a generous and wise soul.

Christmas Eve last year, around 8pm, I was driving out of the Stanford hospital parking lot with my dad, after a very long day at the bedside of my mother (who has since fully recovered, we are grateful and lucky to say). I happened to see Greg walking along the side of the road in his scrubs. I stopped the car and got out to say hello, offer him a ride, or Chinese food if he was up for going out with us, and to thank him again for everything he had done for us. He very graciously declined –he was exhausted and still buzzing from an improbably long number of hours in surgery. He needed to get some fresh air, decompress, and sleep. I also think he was a little startled at how enthusiastic my dad and I were to see him, and how much his gestures had meant to us. (I literally had jumped out of the car I was driving in the middle of the road, left the engine running, and rushed over to say hi and thanks…) But that’s how I will remember Greg—incredibly hard-working, humble, unassuming, compassionate, and with such a powerful gift to help and comfort people.

On behalf of my parents and me, and so many other friends and patients whose lives Greg touched, I want to say thank you to the Feldman family, for raising such an extraordinary young man. I want to thank his friends and mentors for helping him to become the wonderful person he was. Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank you, Greg, for the gift of your friendship and care, more powerful than probably even you knew. It is hard for my family and me to understand how you could be gone, and we could have made it safely to the other side. I know I speak for many when I say how lucky we were to have known you during the tragically brief time that you were with us and in our lives.

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