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Dr. Alan Kerr, the father of pediatric cardiac surgery in Palestine
Dr. Alan Kerr,  the father of pediatric cardiac surgery in Palestine

When I was in college my mom worked for United Airlines and I got to fly for free. I took a semester off to hitchhike around New Zealand, sleeping on beaches and contemplating what I wanted to do with my life.  A year later, I would be on a trip to Palestine during the first Intifada, and within a few more years, starting PCRF.  I didn't know any of that then, of course, and it was my first time out of the USA.

Dr. Alan Kerr at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, operating on sick babies during the 2nd Intifada.

I could not have picked a better country to connect with my soul about my life's mission and purpose. Hitchhiking is a great way to understand a people, and I found Kiwis to be kind, simple and proud, much like my brethren from the Midwest where I am from.  For the past 20 years, I've had the honor to work with one of the greatest humans on the planet, the father of cardiac surgery in New Zealand, Dr. Alan Kerr. His kind stoic demeanor reminds me of so many Kiwis I met during my tramping around the South Island.

With Dr. Alan Kerr at the Palestine Medical Complex, April 11, 2019.

He's back this week for his 40+ volunteer mission, supporting the local team at PMC and bringing with him donated equipment for heart surgery. Dr. Kerr has saved the lives of hundreds of Palestinian children with heart defects over the years and often put his life in danger to do so, like volunteering during at Shifa Hospital during the 2nd Intifada, which was crazy even by Gaza's standards. (One night I nearly drove him and his wife Hazel into an Israeli tank when it suddenly emerged out of the fog.) He's a role model for me in so many ways and symbolizes the true humanitarian spirit of helping others that gives our lives meaning and purpose.