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.