Remembering a Healer

What is a “healer?” Is it a physician with encyclopedic medical knowledge? A doctor who possesses fabulous dexterity in performing complex procedures? One who sacrifices their time and health for patients? Is it having the wisdom and love of man to reach and mend the soul of others? A healer is all of these and all of these were Randy Siegel.

Randall Louis Siegel MD, May 17 1960 – March 3 2012, died where he brilliantly served, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.  Dr Siegel leaves his wife Corinne, and two daughters, Emily and Sarah.  Dr. Siegel’s legacy is colleagues and patients who are poorer for his passing, but immensely enriched by his life.

Randy, as he would insist on being called, worked in a field of medicine that by its nature does not lend itself to close patient – physician relationships. He was a highly skilled and aggressive Invasive Radiologist. He somehow forgot to stay on the other side of the x-ray machine.

A “Special Procedures” Radiology Suite is a bizarre place.  As hectic as an emergency department, it is cold and sterile as an operating room. Thrust under harsh lights, patients are surrounded by gowned strangers in masks. Kafkaesque, doctors start inserting needles and tubes.  For some patients, “Specials” can be terrifying, painful and demeaning.

Out would come a teddy bear of a man, cherubic smile on his lips and glint in his eye, Dr. Siegel. With a firm enveloping handshake, a big hug and a constant ridiculous sense of humor, he made every patient welcome.  Randy could breakdown fear and establish a bond. He gave long, careful explanations and was an empathetic listener. Patients (and doctors) felt his respect and love for each of them. They were safe under his care, as he held hands and hearts.

Randy was infinitely patient and kind, but he was a fierce general in the battle against suffering and disease. He was a highly skilled technician and radiologist, and taught those around him to be better caregivers. Randy would never say he was too busy or the hour too late. If Randy knew there was need, he would be there. Because many patients who got to know him would accept no other radiologist, this lead to long days. Those who worked closely with him know that the only thing that got worse as the hours ground by, were his jokes.

Several years ago, Randy became ill, requiring complex and painful medical care. He strived hard to return to the work he loved. As his co-workers would have predicted, Randy saw his disease as an opportunity to give better care to patients. When describing a procedure he was about to perform, to place an IV device called a Mediport under the skin, the explanation included opening of Randy’s own shirt to show the port in place. He came to personally understand the side effects of medical treatment.  He shared this knowledge with his patients and used it to calm and educate. Just as he had his entire professional career, Randy was willing to sacrifice himself to relieve the suffering of others.

Remarkable as Randy was a physician, he was even more a family man.   As he struggled to care for patients, he worked twice as hard in his personal life.   He balanced commitment to his patients with limitless love for his soul mate.  He was the consummate father for whom his children meant everything.  Perhaps part of Randy’s great strength as a doctor, was his close understanding of the family bond.  The love they shared, he shared with the world.

Family, staff, colleagues and community shed many tears this week over the death of Dr Siegel. To lose such a mentor, friend, leader, motivator and physician at such a young age is a senseless tragedy. However, behind that deep loss, we understand that this man was a healer. He changed the lives of thousands of patients both by his own hand and by those for whom he was an example. Dr. Randy Siegel’s impact on our community carries on, but it will be a while before we again meet such a man.

21 Comments

  • lyn hobart
    Wonderful. This is a man that touched all our lives and will always be remembered with love.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      I will certainly miss him. jcs
  • Ray Nolan
    what a wonderful story, thanks for sharing it
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you ... it was the very least I could do in his honor. jcs
  • Sherry
    Randy was also a wonderful and thoughtful son. His Mom, Phyllis, spoke often of all his accomplishments and enjoyed watching him take on the role of husband and Dad.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      His family was at the center of his soul. jcs
  • Sandy Stein
    Beautifully Said. In these few words you managed to capture the essence of Randy. The void he left will never be filled. I feel badly for all those that never knew him.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      That is the great sadness of losing him so young... he had so much more to offer. jcs
  • Denise Nolan
    What a wonderful tribute to your friend and colleague. He obviously led a meaningful life and touched many people who will always cherish his memory. What more can any of us wish for? Regards, Denise
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you. He will be forever missed. jcs
  • Emily Siegel
    As Randy's daughter, I can't tell you what a gift it is to read these kind words of my dad and know with all of me how true they are. While it was always obvious to me how much he loved going to work every day, it was even clearer that as his family, we were always without a doubt #1. Many people say they were lucky to know him, whether it was for 20 seconds or 20 years but I feel that I am truly the luckiest. I hit the jackpot: I got to have him as my dad and in me there will always be a piece fo him. Thank you Dr. Salwitz for this beautiful note. I will have it with me always. Emily Siegel
    • James Salwitz, MD
      I was honored to know and work with your Dad. I will always treasure the time we had together and what he taught me. I am glad my words are of some comfort. It comforts me to think you will carry part of him forward. Jcs
  • Randy was a special person, Jim. You have said it beautifully. He will be sorely missed.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Thank you. So bizarre to lose someone so special. jcs
  • Jill Glassman
    To read this is to feel the true essence of who Randy was to all of us. We, as his extended family, will always remember the laughter and the joy he brought into all our lives and we will live our lives in a much more meaningful way, simply because of who Randy was and what he stood for every day! Michala, Jordy and DJ will never forget their Uncle Randy! Love, Jill and Peter
  • Paula
    Just wonderful...thank you...Paula
  • Renee and Jrry M Glassan
    Renee and I read your wonderful tribute to Randy. We are his In-Laws. We were fortunate to know Randy since he was a teenager. He was always an interesting and informative individual to know and love. We considered him our fifth child. Your Tribute expresses the essence of Randy and we will cherish his memory and your thoughts. He will always live in our hearts and minds
    • James Salwitz, MD
      I am glad I was able to capture some of the man that was Randy. He touched me and so many others. jcs
  • Marcia Stein
    Thank you, Dr. Salwitz, for your beautiful tribute. My cousin Randy touched the lives of so many, and how sad that so many others won't have the opportunity to know his special persona. Its been almost a month since that dreadful day in March and while the pain we're all feeling may diminish somewhat in the days and months ahead, the void will never be filled. How lucky we all were to have had Randy in our lives; I will cherish the memory of my parents' godson for the rest of mine!
    • James Salwitz, MD
      I too feel lucky to have known him. jcs
  • Emily Solar
    Dr. Salwitz, 3 years has passed since you wrote this piece. Today marks 3 years since we lost my dad. I just wanted you to know that your writing is one of the few things that have comforted me throughout this time. I read this often, show it to others to help them understand who my dad was and what I am missing. And I read it again today, and as I always do, it makes me feel closer to him. Thank you for your kind words 3 years ago, and for gifting my family and I the comfort of knowing how appreciated and loved he was by others. Love, Emily

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