Speaking on stage at a Veteran’s Day event for hospital staff, Dr. Richard Brilli started telling a marvelous story about a “miracle kid” from Portsmouth Naval Hospital in the late 80s.

In the audience, Tim Duer was about to fall out of his chair–realizing that the kid was him, 26 years later. He was suddenly looking at the doctor who saved his life, and the two had even been working in the same hospital.

The ‘miracle kid’ from the story was 19-years-old, healthy, and serving in the United States Army when he suddenly came down with a life threatening lung infection that quickly progressed to multi-organ system failure. At the time, Dr. Richard Brilli determined the young man’s probability for survival was zero percent.

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Duer’s father spent 3 weeks by his son’s hospital bedside while Tim’s doctor did everything he could to save the patient’s life. The soldier’s father recalls promising his son, “I’m not leaving until you get through this.”

Hopeful that he could increase the young man’s chances of survival, the determined Columbus, Ohio doctor put him on high-dose medications to drive his blood pressure to above normal levels.

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“As a physician in the ICU we always know the statistics. That’s not how you take care of patients. You don’t take care of patients based on statistics, you take care of the person in front of you.”

Despite the grueling odds, the doctor’s strategy worked. After weeks in the ICU, Tim was finally healthy enough for release.

26 years later, Duer, now a veteran, was hired to work in Information Services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Just a few weeks after he was employed, the hospital held the event which reunited the men.


Duer’s heart raced as he listened to his own story of survival being retold by Dr. Brilli, now the Chief Medical Officer at the hospital. Afterward, he walked up to the doctor and launched the unexpected, heart-warming reunion.

Dr. Brilli choked up when recalling the moment. “The most remarkable part for me is it just tells me how lucky I’ve been and what a God-given gift it was that I got to go to medical school, and do what I do… It’s amazing to me.”

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Duer–now a husband, father, and grandfather–struggled to find words that could express his gratitude.

“How do you thank the guy who saved your life 26 years later; what can you say? I think a new word needs to be invented other than thank you, because it’s a thousand times stronger than thank you.”

(WATCH the video below, from Nationwide Children’s Hospital)

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  1. I was lucky enough to have a physician save my life when I was a young child. I was in severe respiratory distress, and I ended up needing a tracheotomy. I was already blue when my parents got me to the hospital, but quick thinking of the resident who was there that night saved my life past the point that many might not have tried. When I was 21 and on the verge of marriage, I decided I needed to find this doctor and thank him for the life for which I was so grateful. I did some research and found him, and he was still practicing within driving distance of my home! So, one beautiful day, I went to his office. I told his receptionist who I was and why I wanted to see him, and asked whether I could just see him quickly in between patients. She said yes…

    So, there we were all standing in the hallway. The whole staff was waiting for him to come out of his appointment. I approached him and said, “Hi. I don’t know if you remember me, but when I was five you saved my life in the emergency room. I just wanted to tell you in person that I am So grateful for this life, and I am so thankful that you were there that night and knew how to save me!” He got this amazed, wondrous look on his face, and said, “OF COURSE I REMEMBER YOU!” …and then we all just started crying. It was a beautiful moment, and I was always so happy that I found him and connected with him. Being a doctor is difficult and laden with responsibility, but once in a while your skill leads you to participate in a miracle, and that has got to be the most rewarding feeling of all.

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