by Ann Bednarski

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December 15, 2012
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Local doctor, healer to retire

My friend, Richard D. Long, M.D., is someone I respect, admire and had opportunity to know very well. Dr. Long saved my life, and then he rekindled my spirit. I will never forget him. He is retiring.

We shared some precious moments that continue to bring joy to my life just because they happened. I have very good memories of him as my surgeon and friend.

I went to Dr. Long needing back surgery to remove a bone chip that had lodged in my spine and often prevented me from walking. It was a big piece of bone; I was scared. I religiously followed all the instructions I was given. Dr. Long's office dedicated and skilled staff prepared me well.

My friend came to stay with me for this surgery. He took me to the blood bank, and met with Dr. Long to prepare for my recovery under his care. However, the day before my back surgery, he panicked and left. I was devastated, angry and scared. Another friend took me to the hospital, where I learned they had lost my blood donations. Another disappointment; were these hidden warnings?

I told Dr. Long no one was waiting to speak with him after the surgery. He was understanding and said something consoling, but I was so disappointed I couldn't think about the surgery. That was a good place to be.

Since that first surgery in 1998, Dr. Long performed many more surgical procedures on my legs and back through 2011. We became friends in the process. I give him credit for saving my life. He recognized a serious problem, prescribed mega doses of antibiotics and immediately called in an infection specialist. I can never thank him enough.

On Christmas Eve I went to his office for treatment of my infection. He came in wearing a purple Santa's hat with "Daddy" embroidered on the border. I was instantly cheered. He told me his daughter made it for him.

A minute later he expressed concern about my infection. He called the specialist who was en route to California and said, "Please come back and look at Ann's leg." I was surprised Dr. Swartz turned around and saw me that day. That was an extraordinary act. I realized how serious this infection really was.

I went to his office often for treatment of the infection. Waiting in the treatment rooms I relaxed by studying the photos in each room. Commenting about them I learned Dr. Long had taken them in little towns of Nevada. I was impressed with yet another talent he possesses.

Over the years we exchanged life stories and adventures. He is quite the outdoorsman and enjoys challenges with nature. He told me of a hike he was taking in Mexico and drew a little diagram of what he hoped to accomplish.

Dr. Long took a genuine interest in my goals and aspirations as an educator. He supported my campaign for a seat on the school board. He not only attended some of the education forums I had presented but once brought a group of parents and teachers with him. He provided feedback and made some excellent suggestions. He became interested in my professional and private life without ever crossing the line of being my doctor. It became very easy to express my concerns and dreams.

One day I brought Dr. Long a candy bar made in Poland. He thanked me and a few minutes later excused himself. He returned with the candy bar on a paper towel sliced in bite-sized pieces. He said, "Let's enjoy this together." We did.

My Achilles' tendon was torn at a most unfortunate time, Dr. Long told me it was the "most perfect" rupture he had ever seen. With surgery he said there was a 99 percent chance of full recovery. It was the most difficult recovery of all my surgeries; he was there to ease my pain and stress.

After that surgery Dr. Long came to my house to change the dressing on the incision. My house had no heat and I was alone and scared. He came bundled up without a doctor's bag. It was rather magical to watch him empty all his pockets filled with the things he needed. When he finished, he visited with me and helped me to relax. A few days later he brought Thanksgiving dinner.

Richard Long is an outstanding man. He, as a surgeon, humanitarian and Samaritan, dedicated his life to healing. He has a strong sense of compassion and an excellent sense of purpose and humor. It has been my privilege to know him. I believe I am here to write about him because of his expertise. He has been blessed with many talents; he shared them with the people of Carson City. How fortunate for us!

Enjoy, Richard!

• Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Dec 15, 2012 02:02PM Published Dec 15, 2012 02:01PM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.