The main goal of this blog is to think about the darkest time of our history until now: the Holocaust, the Nazi cruelty against the Humanity. //
El principal objetivo de este blog es hacer reflexionar sobre la época más oscura de nuestra historia hasta ahora: el Holocausto, la barbarie Nazi, enemiga de la Humanidad.
“Well, I’m thinking about his hands,” remembered Dr. Pat Berger. “I mean, he was a surgeon and so his hands were very important. But, he had very small hands, and I always thought of them as being kind of pudgy hands — and I liked to hold his hand. “
Dr. Robert Berger was a cardiothoracic surgeon whose wife held his life-saving hand. He was a scientist who debunked the medical results of Nazi experiments. He was an early researcher into an aortic valve replacement that avoided the hazards of open-chest procedures. He was every incarnation of a physician.
“I think it was his destiny,” Pat said. “Absolutely. I think he wanted to save lives that he hadn’t been able to save before. That’s one way of putting it. He did work a little in the resistance [during WWII], and he saw horrible things, horrible things. So, I think having a field where he could be on the edge of life and death, that was just up his alley.”
Dr. Berger never discussed his early life as a Hungarian Jew in World War II. But it snuck past his vigilance into his dreams.
“The Nazis would come in and disrupt everything he was doing," Pat said. "Even years after he wasn’t doing heart surgery, he’d ‘do’ heart surgery at night. But sometimes the Nazis would come in and mess it up. It was upsetting to him to have these terrible dreams. He learned fairly early that if he would get up and out of bed and start doing things that he’d feel better, that he’d get back into the real world.”
Watching the news one night, he heard some ethicists debating the morality of using Nazi experiments on hypothermia to save present-day lives.
“And Bob said to himself, 'What kind of data could they have gotten in the 1940s on the equipment that they had in those days that could be really beneficial today?'" Pat remembered.
He hunted the reports down through the archives of the Nuremberg Trials and through law school libraries. Dr. Berger scrutinized them with a scientific eye and then published his conclusions. They were not only unethical — they were absolutely inaccurate. Disproving them so definitively might have been one way he wrestled with his own dreams.
Dr. Berger married late. He loved his daughters, and loved his wide circle of friends (each of whom thought they were his closest). But the man who, at 17, had fled a German displaced persons camp in one country for life in another, never wanted to leave home. The family was in Bermuda once when a plane flew overhead.
“He looked up,” Pat said, laughing, “and said ‘Oh, I wish I was on that plane going home.' And I thought, 'Oh my god, here we are in the beautiful water, sailing, and he wants to go home and do his surgery!' "
For Dr. Berger, the mantra was patient care — always. When surgical patients died, he suffered for it. But he practiced less invasive forms of care, too.
“Especially in his later years, when he wasn’t doing surgery anymore," Pat explained, "he had a list of people that were sick — not a real list, but a list in his head — and he would call people regularly, every day sometimes, depending on the situation. ‘So how you doing? How’s your son doing? Is he still in the hospital?’ You know, that was his regular routine."
Restoring lives was in his very small, great hands; looking after them was in his very large, great heart.