My Worst Visual Memory


My fellow pediatric residents at a municipal hospital in NYC in the mid-70s probably remember this horrible story very well.

A child was brought to the emergency room with extensive burns to one side of the face. She must have been two or three years old. The smell of burned flesh and hair was horrific and her pain was beyond belief. The other doctors and I had to hold back our tears as best as we could.

My job was to take a history from the mother who had accompanied the child in the ambulance. She told me that because the child had “misbehaved,” the father tied her to the bedroom radiator. When the heat later came on later at night, the right side of the child’s face was stuck between the radiator and the wall, and she wasn’t able to move away from the heat. By the time that her mother realized that her right eye and cheek had been melted away and scorched, it was too late.

This child became a long-term patient on the pediatric ward. She required numerous plastic surgical procedures and was eventually fitted with a removable prosthesis which fit well into the reconstructed area of her face. It had a beautiful false eye which matched well with her other side.

One time as she was playing in the children’s playroom, she became angry at one of the other children.  In a fit of rage, she yanked off her facial prosthesis and threw it on the floor. There it sat for a minute, staring up at us with that almost realistic-looking eye, until her nurse picked it up and replaced it.

I’ve often wondered how a child or for that matter anyone could ever recover from such a horrible intentional act of violence.

I can still picture that eye and cheek lying on the floor. Not my favorite visual memory! 

The Other Dr. Kraft

Very early in my career when I was just a young pediatrician in Palm Beach county, I was in an exam room seeing a patient when my nurse knocked on the door.

“There’s someone on the phone who said she needs to talk to you, but I had trouble understanding her because of her accent.”

“Can it wait?” I asked.

“No, she said it’s very important. “

“Hello, this is Dr. Kraft,” I said as I picked up the phone.

“Dr. Kraft, ” my caller said with a very heavily accented pronunciation.

“My name is xxxxxx xxxxxx from the XXX spa in Palm Beach,” she said, expecting me to recognize her name or her spa’s name.

“I’ve heard about you from so many of my clients on the Island.”

That’s Palm Beach lingo for some who wants you to know that they are from the town of Palm Beach, the island off the coast from the mainland West Palm Beach.

The Town of Palm Beach, known as “The Island,” just off the coastal city of West Palm Beach

I did have a few families who lived “on the Island,” as they loved to call their ritzy enclave, but I already was getting the feeling she was mistaken if she was talking about clients in a spa.


“How can I help you?” I asked.

“I wanted to meet you personally,” she continued, “since I’ve heard you do such mahvelous things with breasts” (with the emphasis on the word “mahvelous“). It was then that it clicked.

There was another doctor with the name Craft who was a plastic surgeon. Our paths never did cross in my 35 years in practice, for obvious reasons, but I always chuckled when I heard when a patient had been referred to me by someone on “the Island.”

I still have my own personal reason for laughing when I think of Billy Crystal and his SNL “Mahvelous” skit.

Billy Crystal