A Tribute To Dr. David Sadler

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Two days before last Thanksgiving, my father-in-law was stabbed while sitting in the day-surgery center at Good Shepherd Medical Center. A nurse died in that attack and three others were wounded. My father-in-law, Harris K. Teel, lived nine days but ultimately died as well. A defendant awaits trial on capital murder charges.

The reason Papa Teel survived a direct stab wound to the heart and had a chance of recovering was because of an extraordinary surgeon and human being, Dr. David Sadler. He brought Papa Teel’s heart back to life, sewed it back up and refused to give up even when others in the emergency room, as Dr Sadler told us, advised him it was hopeless. He saw a spark that others did not, a trait his partner, Dr. Jay Chastain, said was typical of him — Dr. Sadler just would not quit. Hours later, my father-in-law’s heart was beating strong.

Dr. Sadler met with us several times each day in those first frenetic days. He sat with us and wept, holding my wife’s hands, praying along with us for God to work a miracle. He was clearly exhausted, red-eyed and sorely in need of sleep. Once he slumped down on the couch and told us that he just needed some rest.

Drs. Sadler and Chastain are pioneers in open-heart surgery in Longview. They have saved countless lives in East Texas, including members of both of our families. But until this tragedy we did not have such an intimate encounter with a physician.

I can say, and my wife and family who endured this tragedy will agree, that we have never met a person quite like Dr. Sadler. We saw not just how he cared for our loved one during this horrific time, but how he looked after his other patients in the surgical intensive care unit. He exemplified what is best about being a doctor, from what we witnessed.

I recall him walking in to talk to us after the surgery, looking worn out. His eyes were red, but he was upbeat. He had repaired Papa Teel’s heart and things were looking up, he said. The tricky part was if his brain would respond. He was optimistic. We prayed, he wept with us, and we all knew we had found a special man, a true healer.

He became a constant presence in our lives. We saw him often in that SICU during the nine days we practically lived here. He usually looked exhausted, often admitted being exhausted. Once as he held my wife’s hands, his eyes brightened as he shared the joy of his grown children and that his daughter was about to make him a grandfather. His blue eyes danced with delight at the impending “reveal party,” when the gender of his first grandchild would be announced. It was to be a baby girl, since born.

Sadly and bleakly, my wife’s family had to accept, on the advice of Dr. Sadler and other physicians, that Papa Teel would not recover. Unfortunately, Papa Teel had gone too long without oxygen to the brain. Dr. Sadler was loath to surrender hope, but finally told us to accept what the other doctors were saying. I believe his heart was broken nearly as badly as ours to make that choice.

Our family has regularly remarked since on how grateful we were for the incredible kindnesses and efforts he put forth trying to save Papa Teel. He was such a kind man, and we have never seen a doctor like him anywhere.

On our morning walks, the backyard of his lovely historic home backs up to one of our neighborhood streets we walk upon. Dr. Sadler bought the historic Bramlette estate — 25 acres located in our neighborhood. The rear of the property is visible on our morning route. We learned that the care and love he put into restoring the estate and its grounds mirrored the passion he put into his life as a surgeon. He had returned to his family roots; his father was a farmer.

Dr. David Lee Sadler died June 2 in his sleep at the home he loved. He was only 65. I did not know him well at all, not as intimately as many people in town, but our family spent an intense nine days alongside him fighting to save someone we loved. I can say that no doctor has ever invested as much emotion or effort in trying to keep someone alive as he did. I believe Dr. Sadler did that every day for all his patients.

We mourn his passing and want to tell his loved ones — especially his infant granddaughter, who may someday read this — that Dr. Sadler was an extraordinary doctor who left his mark on this world. God bless a good man in his passing.

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