Dr. John Derry was an arrogant man. He belonged to that elite class of privileged white men who don’t break out of their circle. His back story is so stereotypical it’s almost a joke.
John was born to Harrison and Elaine. Harrison was a captain of industry, Elaine a socialite. John was well-loved, raised well, did well in school, he excelled at sports and was exceptional in all areas except one; he had no heart.
Even as a young boy, he was cold and unfeeling. It’s not like he tortured kittens, he wasn’t cruel, but he wasn’t kind either. John Derry simply didn’t care about other people.
That’s why it was a shock to everyone who knew him that he chose medicine as a career.
Dr. Derry was all business when it came to his patients. His saving grace was that he was a brilliant doctor and his practice grew without the benefit of a compassionate bedside manner.
When John was in med school he was intrigued by rare blood diseases and made hematology his specialty. By age forty-five he was world renown as a top specialist in his field.
As his reputation grew his inbox did too. Every day there were requests from people and even other doctors asking him for pro bono treatment. The answer was always “No.”
One brisk day in early December 2009, Dr. Derry was in the Atlanta airport on a connecting flight to Palm Beach International. He was not in medical mode, rather he was looking forward to meeting up with some college friends for a guys golf weekend.
Picture the scene. The haves and the have nots. Those waiting to board the plane headed to one of the wealthiest enclaves in the world, the island of Palm Beach. Others in the airport each to their own destinations.
Mary McCormack was definitely not headed to Palm Beach. Atlanta was her home and she was a holdover from the previous arrival. She was still on the plane when she switched her phone from airplane mode and saw an urgent message from her daughter Jan.
For forty-five minutes Mary spoke to Jan in hushed tones on a seat at the gate where Dr. John Derry was waiting to board the plane for his weekend get away. They sat back to back. Dr. Derry couldn’t help but hear every word of Mary’s side of the conversation.
A lot of what he was hearing was unexpectedly familiar. Oddly familiar. Shockingly familiar. It was to be John Derry’s life-changing moment.
Mary was talking about his newest most promising medical trial for terminal patients with hematological disease. She was describing in great detail all she had done in a desperate (and failed) attempt to get Jan accepted for the trial, or for Dr. Derry to take her on as a patient.
Then Mary prayed with her daughter, thanking God for the miracle to come. Praying to God with praise for His provision. And finally she prayed for Dr. John Derry. Though he turned them down, she asked God to continue to grant favor and blessings on the good doctor. She called him a man of God with life-giving skills. She called him God’s chosen one. Mary ended the call with one humble plea: If it is Your will dear Lord, let Jan be healed.
She looked up when she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Dr. John Derry himself standing right in front of her. She wasn’t surprised, but she was divinely ecstatic.
John Derry, being Dr. John Derry, got right down to business. He handed his business card to Mary and told her he would treat Jan and include her in the trial. And then he did something he had never ever done ever before, he lowered his head, and thanked God for his gift.
As far as life-changing moments go – this was a big one. A new found faith for most people is deeply personal. But when one of God’s chosen hears the call it affects lives all over the world.
That’s what John Derry did. He trained other doctors, partnered with a leading university in research and he opened specialty clinics in nine countries. He found a way to provide care for patients in need no matter their financial situation or his own availability.
Here’s the kicker. He never did get any nicer. His personality didn’t change. He was just as cold on the outside as he always was. John’s change happened to his inside. It was as if God flipped a light switch that day in the Atlanta airport. From one split second in time John Derry’s inner light continues to shine brightly until the day in the distant future, when the Godly doctor, hero to many, returns home to his Maker.
by Susan Diamond
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