Memorial service for doctor who saved children in Lake Michigan

August 8, 2012 2:14:55 PM PDT
Family, friends and colleagues remembered Wednesday a chief pediatric surgeon who drowned trying to two boys who had fallen out of a kayak. Those who knew Dr. Donald Liu say he was a brilliant surgeon with the biggest heart.

Dr. Liu is being remembered as a tireless and selfless physician. He died Sunday in a rip current in northwest Michigan. His wife performed CPR on Liu husband but couldn't revive him.

It was an emotional service. Dr. Donald Liu's family, his wife, two daughters, and son had the strength and courage to speak in front of the KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation. Each child had a letter for their father. When those letters were read, everyone cried.

Liu's oldest daughter summed it up this way: "Dad, I love you. You are my best friend, my angel, my savior, and most of all, my hero."

As his casket was taken away from a Hyde Park synagogue, the words of Dr. Donald Liu's wife, Dana Suskind, who is also a doctor, and their three children lingered.

They remembered his unconditional love, his love for the White Sox -- his son even wore the team's jersey Wednesday -- and, for all the thousands he touched, his love for children, and passion to help them.

"Dr. Liu developed a surgery for a condition called MALS, and it saved my daughter's life - and I'm here to honor him," said Marybeth Shay.

Liu saved many young lives, including Michael Gillespie's. Several of his organs grew in a sac outside his body. He had lung and heart problems. Today, Michael is 4, and his parents came to pay tribute to Dr. Liu.

"He revolved his life around saving children, ours included, and everybody else's," said Gregory Gillespie. "He was a remarkable man."

Liu, the chief of pediatric surgery at Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital, drowned Sunday after trying to save two children in the rough waters off lakeside Michigan. The children made it back safely, but Dr. Liu was caught in a riptide.

Wednesday, fellow surgeons, from Chicago and even out of state, remembered his work.

"He had a great sense of humor and a focus on doing the right thing that was always inspiring," said Memphis physician Dr. Max Langham.

"It's a huge loss," said colleague and friend Dr. Shuyuan Xiao.

Although, professionally, he was known to have the "golden touch" for non-invasive surgery, he was also known for his personality and bedside manner.

"He just made me feel comfortable," said patient Max Golembo. "I was never scared about anything. He just really made me feel at home."

"Lillian loved him...every time we came in, he would make her laugh - and that time, she was very sick - so he's a hero to us," said Sherry Porter, patient's mother.

Dr. Liu was been a member of that synagogue since 2006. He was buried at Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago.


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