Paul Murphy is a young man of few words and tremendous actions. His stoicism compliments his strong build, but through it all shines his generous heart in meaningful ways both big and small. After receiving an unexpected diagnosis four years ago, Murphy’s gratitude for his care team in Pediatric Neurosurgery at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) is now set in concrete.
In his senior year of high school, Paul, then 18, of Waltham, Mass., started having terrible headaches. At first, doctors thought he had migraines, but the headaches persisted over the next few months. In March 2013, a CT scan revealed that Murphy, now 22, had a 3”-wide astrocytoma, a type of benign brain tumor.
In the spring, Murphy had the brain tumor removed and continued to come back to MGHfC for regular check-ups. During a visit in the fall of 2017, he informed his neurosurgeon, Ann-Christine Duhaime, MD, about his new job as a concrete finisher in his hometown – a stop along the way in achieving his dream of becoming a firefighter for the City of Waltham.
“Wow, I’ve always wanted to put my handprint or put my initials in fresh concrete,” said Duhaime at the visit. “Wouldn’t that be fun?” At another checkup six months later, Murphy loaded up his car with everything he needed to make that a reality – concrete powder and a wooden frame he built by hand, complete with a custom glass overlay.
The care team watched as Murphy mixed the concrete in the hallway behind the Neuro-Oncology clinic, waiting anxiously to press their hands into the glossy gray surface. One by one, Murphy, his mother, Duhaime and three other providers on his care team left handprints with their initials beside them. The completed project now hangs in the waiting room of Pediatric Neurosurgery for all to enjoy.
“What I love about this is that it’s unadorned, unadulterated and genuine, just like Paul,” said Duhaime, director of Pediatric Neurosurgery and Neurosurgical Trauma and Intensive Care at MGHfC. “We were all so touched by his gesture and that he remembered and attended to a simple, offhand comment about making a handprint.”
For Paul, it was a simple way to give back. “I thought it would be fun for everyone, just a little something to remember,” he said. “Dr. Duhaime and her team are great and this is how I thanked them.”