Growing it Forward

Alexander McRae

Alexander McRae Vaughan, Alexander, and Nora Frances McRae

Alexander McRae was only 11 weeks old when he developed a raspy cough that just didn’t sound right.

Alexander’s concerned mother, Nora Frances, took her baby to the pediatrician, who immediately put mother and baby in a car and had a nurse drive them to Children’s of Mississippi.

“A doctor was at the door waiting to take Alexander when we arrived,” Nora Frances recalls. “To this day, we have to give credit to the pediatrician who sent us to Children’s. He knew this was something that was beyond his own ability to treat and that we needed immediate help from specialists.”

Alexander was diagnosed with a massive pulmonary hemorrhage that was causing bleeding in his lungs. Nora Frances and Vaughan McRae’s tiny baby was drowning in his own blood.

“They didn’t think he would survive,” Vaughan says.

While doctors were able to diagnose Alexander’s life-threatening condition, they didn’t have the equipment needed to treat the 11-pound baby. In those days, the specialized ventilation equipment needed to treat an infant his size simply did not exist.

“A steady stream of nurses worked 10- to 15-minute shifts over many hours, pumping air into Alexander’s lungs by hand,” Nora Frances says. “What touched me so was the stamina and determination of those nurses to keep him going through the night until his doctors found a solution. The ingenuity of those doctors and the dedication of those nurses saved Alexander’s life.”

A quarter century later, Alexander McRae still spends time in the hospital, but now it’s as a medical student at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine.

“I grew up hearing my mother tell me the story of how I was saved at Children’s of Mississippi,” Alexander says. “Every year on the anniversary of the day I was admitted, she tells me the story again, and she still gets so emotional, even all these years later. Lots of times when I was growing up, we would meet someone, and my mother would introduce that person as, ‘one of the doctors or nurses who saved you’ or ‘one of the people who donated blood for you.’ I was too young to remember any of it, but I think hearing that story over the years is one of the reasons I’m interested in medicine. There were doctors at Children’s who had that specialized knowledge that no one else had. I’m interested in becoming a surgeon, and part of my motivation is so that I can have that same kind of knowledge and use it to relieve pain or cure a patient no one else could help.”

“As any parents would be, we’re proud of Alexander’s decision to become a doctor,” Vaughan McRae says. “Alexander will have the opportunity to save lives because Children’s was there to save Alexander.”

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