Better than Taylor Swift: A visit from Isabella is burn doctor’s greatest reward

Dr. Kevin Foster knew something was up.

Two hundred people packed the hospital auditorium. His family was there.

And then he spotted Isabella McCune, who’s 9 and his most challenging patient, sitting in a wheelchair, grinning at him.

Foster couldn’t believe she was there.

He sat in a seat reserved for him, between his wife and Pat Kardos, the nursing director at the Arizona Burn Center, where Foster is the medical director.

He doesn’t like surprises. Not even good ones.

He leaned toward Kardos and said, “I hate you right now.” She laughed. They have been friends for a decade.

Kardos and 16 other colleagues had nominated Foster for the 2018 MIHS Physician of the Year award. They had kept it a secret until Tuesday.

Isabella had come to cheer him on.

Foster sees Isabella almost every day. She’s been in the burn unit since an accident in March left her with third-degree burns over 65 percent of her body. Singer Taylor Swift came to visit Isabella in May. 

Her care has been complicated, her healing painful and slow. 

Yet Isabella lights up every time she sees Foster, even when the news is bad. He doesn’t always feel like he deserves her devotion.

Standing in front of the auditorium, Foster thanked his colleagues. Every day, he walks the hallway lined with portraits of those who previously won this award. He’s honored to be included.

And then Foster turned to Isabella.

An infection she had been fighting for months was gone. He had scheduled her again for surgery. 

But she wore regular clothes, not a hospital gown, over her bandages, and her hands had healed enough to clap for him. 

“Isabella,” Foster said, “The fact that you are here means I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.” He didn’t trust himself to say more without crying.

Instead, he kissed her on the top of her head.

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