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Tapestry of life and giving

Excerpted from the Winter 2010 edition of the School of Medicine FUTURE magazine - click here to view the complete magazine

Raymond McEntyre and his wife Monique On May 21, 2009, Command Sergeant Major (USA, Retired) Raymond McEntyre wrote a moving letter to the UT Health Science Center President William Henrich, MD, MACP. McEntyre's letter detailed his experience as a patient at the University Transplant Center. "My pre and post-transplant nephrologist was Dr. Daniel Riley. My stay at the University Transplant Center was the best hospitalization experience I have ever had. The personnel were great. I will not dwell on that stay, or I would be taking away from the main purpose of my communication to you … my wife wants to show her appreciation to Dr. Riley, as do I."

Right: Raymond McEntyre and his wife Monique

Touched by his story, Dr. Henrich soon invited the McEntyres to the Health Science Center for lunch. The couple wanted to discuss what they could do to acknowledge Dr. Riley's efforts. During that meeting McEntyre shared the following:

I have been a (Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration) VA Hospital renal patient, off and on, since my retirement from the US Army in June, 1990. I have been treated by various nephrologists at the VA over these years. I began being followed by Dr. Daniel Riley in 2006. When a kidney transplant or dialysis was imminent, I had my work-up for compatibility. I expressed my desire to Dr. Riley to have my transplant performed at the University Transplant Center if he would be the nephrologist who would handle my follow-up treatment. He said he would, and subsequently, he began the process to get me on the transplant waiting list.

Since being followed by Dr. Riley at Audie Murphy, I was immediately impressed. He was always a very good listener, even during heavy patient overloads at the VA hospital. This went on until my Gift of Life transplant on January 7, 2009. After my transplant, I continued to be followed by Dr. Riley.

Of particular note is that prior to my discharge, Dr. Riley arranged for me to get my medicines from Audie Murphy. My wife, Monique, was to pick up the meds before my discharge. When she expressed to me her fear of elevators (in the presence of Dr. Riley), and that she was not sure where the VA pharmacy was, Dr. Riley escorted her to the pharmacy and back. Monique was very surprised and appreciative that he would take the time from his extremely busy schedule to assist her as he did.

Monique has accompanied me on every University Transplant Center visit. Dr. Riley continued to display that outstanding doctorpatient relationship, and he continued to impress both Monique and me. We discussed privately that we wanted to express our appreciation to Dr. Riley without crossing any boundaries.

The McEntyres mulled over several options for recognizing Dr. Riley, and ultimately, selected sponsoring the University Transplant Center's Pair Tree in honor of Dr. Riley. The Pair Tree will be featured on a wall outside the transplant center. It will have photographs of organ donors with their organ recipients (hence "pair"). It will pay tribute to those who have donated organs and those who have benefited from the organ donations.

The Pair Tree project is very meaningful to us especially because Dr. Riley is the Director of the Living Donor Program, McEntyre said. In the broad loom of the tapestry of life, many lives are often interwoven.

Rescue of two French children McEntyre shared a story and photographs from an earlier time where his life became forever intertwined with two children with whom he later reconnected as adults. In September 2004, then retired McEntyre was reunited with the two people he saved from drowning 40-plus years earlier. They presented him with a watercolor drawing of the Henry IV Bridge where they had been swept into the river.

McEntyre learned that the boy he had rescued many years earlier had kidney problems and had already undergone a transplant in France. Remarkably, McEntyre's life was once again intertwined with those of his past.

He has spent his life giving to those in need in his community, in service to his country, and with his wife's encouragement, to recognize a worthy physician.

Receiving a transplant is a wonderful thing; truly a 'gift of life.' One cannot imagine the feeling and joy unless one experiences it. However, giving a kidney generally never crosses one's mind unless a loved one or perhaps a friend is in dire need. And even then, it is not an easy decision. I admire those living who have made the sacrifice to give the 'gift of life' and the relatives who made that difficult decision for a complete stranger on behalf of their deceased loved ones. Whoever you are, wherever you are, we, the recipients, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. God bless you.


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