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  • Writer's pictureRandall Fisher

Doing the right thing

Sometimes you fall into the right opportunity to do the right thing. When it works, it sure feels good.

I met Dr. Jeff Gelfand, an orthopedic surgeon, at a chance meeting in Annapolis. He heard me lead a short discussion about what it takes to create a charitable organization, or the lawyer acronym of a “501(c)3.” Those types of organizations are special to those who work with and for them because donations to them are tax deductible. Dr. Gelfand, I come to learn, had been working with a fellow orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Tom Harries, on charitable projects in foreign countries. They were traveling to foreign countries teaching doctors how to perform hand or foot surgeries. They had just finished a trip to Romania and had also been to Bolivia.

Dr. Gelfand asked what it would take to create their own 501(c)(3). They had affiliated with other groups trying to work through a “directed fund,” but were struggling with getting funds directed to allow them to travel to the field to get the work done that they thought they could accomplish. Dr. Gelfand’s and Dr. Harries’ enthusiasm for their project was infectious, so I volunteered to help them set up Helping Hands of Maryland, Inc. The doctors recruited the appropriate volunteers for the board; we designed the appropriate package for the government to review and the Internal Revenue Service blessed the package.

This is where the warm fuzzy from doing the right thing comes in.

Dr. Gelfand, at a surgical conference, met Dr. John McFadden, a specialist from Souith Carolina in toe-to-hand transfers. Dr. Gelfand asked him if he would consider working with Helping Hand to treat a patient from Bolivia that had lost her thumb. Dr. McFadden agreed to volunteer his services.

Speeding the film forward, the surgery occurred this summer. It seemed to go well, but you don’t know until you know. Dr. Gelfand, in trying to provide followup, sent an inquiry to see how the patient was progressing. This week, the doctor in Bolivia that works with the Helping Hands team sent this message:


I see (PATIENT) almost every day. She is doing a therapy and she is doing very well. She start moving the thumb and grasping with it. The bone is already healed, and has some sensory feeling.

If you want to understand why this creates this nice warm fuzzy, try picking up a glass of water with your thumb taped to your palm. You’ll get the idea real quick.


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