Halifax surgeon sews up favoured teddy bear after boy's operation

A Halifax neurosurgeon has performed a career first, after a young patient asked him to stitch up a beloved teddy bear while the boy recovered from surgery.

Like many of Dr. Daniel McNeely's patients, eight-year-old Jackson McKie — who he's looked after since he was an infant — brought a stuffed toy to the operating room with him last Thursday.

McKie, who lives with his family in Summerside, P.E.I., has a cyst on his brain and a chronic condition called hydrocephalus.

McNeely said he couldn't say no when the boy asked him to fix a tear in his fluffy friend before the operation.

"I thought if there was something I could do to help make him feel better, it seemed like a simple gesture and I was only too happy to oblige," McNeely said Tuesday.

The doctor asked the nurses to prepare a small table with some tools, and he used leftover stitches from McKie's procedure to patch up the bear, Little Baby.

A medical resident at Halifax's IWK Health Centre snapped a photo of the heartwarming moment.

"He's one of the nicest human beings I've ever met," Jackson's father, Rick McKie, said of McNeely on Tuesday.

He said the boy was "tickled pink" when he woke up to see his favourite toy that he sleeps with every night, and he's printing a photo of the bear's surgery to frame in his room.

Little Baby's operation was McNeely's first on a toy — and he decided to share the photos as his first-ever tweet.

McNeely posted the photos to his Twitter feed (at)pdmcneely, writing "Patient asks if I can also fix teddy bear just before being put off to sleep ... how could I say no?"

As of Tuesday afternoon, the tweet had been retweeted more than 6,600 times, liked 14,000 times and had garnered more than 210 responses from people around the world, including his former residents, commenting on the kind gesture.

"I thought it might make a few people smile, that was the only intention I had," said McNeely. "I'm glad that others are enjoying it."

McNeely was happy to reunite the boy with his stuffed animal, and said the small gesture was one example of how health care providers can care for and comfort their patients in non-medical ways.

Rick McKie said Little Baby is always by Jackson's side, especially when he's in pain, and he has appreciated McNeely's care as a physician during the family's many visits to IWK.

"When we get there we're terrified to death, but every time we talk to Dr. McNeely we feel better," said McKie.

The operation was to re-open a shunt required by the boy's condition, to drain excess fluid putting pressure on his brain.