Thank you for forwarding to me the information that you have collected about your dad. Back many years ago in the early 1970s, I had invited Don to be one of the lecturers at our annual trauma symposium, which is the oldest trauma symposium in America. At the reception dinner in the middle of the program, I was able to introduce Don to my new, young partner, Dr. Anna Ledgerwood, who grew up in the eastern part of the great state of Washington. Dr. Ledgerwood grew up in farm country where her parents were tenet farmers just outside of Pomeroy. Although we were not able to confirm definitely, Dr. Ledgerwood told us that her brother Mike probably competed against your dad on the basketball court when they were in high school. Needless to say, there was an immediate lifelong connection. Incidentally, Dr. Ledgerwood is still my partner and always keeping me out of trouble.
You are very fortunate to be brought up by Don and Jane. Both are wonderful people. Recently, I had the assignment of expressing my views on the most important trauma and acute care surgeons that I have worked with in my lifetime. Rather than talk about all of the accomplishments that your dad achieved in his career, I believe that I can best summarize my thoughts of Don as it relates to this assignment that I accepted. In the carrying out of this assignment, I identified the most important trauma and acute care surgeon by decade. For the decade before Don and myself, I identified that the most important trauma/acute care surgeon in the world was Tom Shires. As you know, Dr. Shires was a very important surgeon in Don’s academic development after Don spent a research fellowship with Dr. Shires while he was still in Dallas, Texas.
The most important surgeon for my decade was Don Trunkey. I summarized many of his national and international contributions, which are all nicely summarized by other authors who have contributed to your collection of information about your dad. Thus, I call Don the world’s most important trauma/acute care surgeon who was born in the 1930s. What more can I say about your dad!
More important than all of his surgical contributions to the world, Don Trunkey is an outstanding human being. In the midst of all his scientific accomplishments, your dad was always a fun-loving individual who praised generously, accepted criticism graciously, and always was there to help somebody. As I think of your dad, I remember many situations where he went out of his way to help somebody, whether it was a student, a resident, or some stranger walking on the street without knowing exactly where to go. Throughout all of these encounters, he was always humble.
When he was at a national meeting and some admiring resident would finally build up enough courage to ask him a question, he always quizzed the resident about his background until they were able to identify surgeons that both of them knew. Don would then tell stories about that particular surgeon, and by the time they had finished their conversation, the young, shy resident knew that he had a new, lifelong friend. He would also answer the question that led to the resident approaching him in the first place.
When a practicing surgeon, be he a trauma surgeon or a surgeon who does not do much trauma, would stop to ask Don a question, it usually meant it was about a patient who had complications related to some surgical problem. Don would recognize that instantly and described some of the difficult cases he had that were similar to the patient they would be talking about. In his humility, Don would always identify some things that he did that, in retrospect, he would have done differently. The surgeon who started the conversation always felt rewarded and better informed because of Don’s lengthy discussion.
Whenever Don was discussing a paper at a national meeting, he always went out of his way to succinctly support the presenter and co-authors and then go ahead and give his own opinions, which often were different than the authors. This was always done with great dignity and with great kindness to the authors who were presenting their own biases about the treatment of some particular surgical disease.
He was always fun-loving. I remember when I was at your place, which was next to the river. And Don would talk about floating down the river with an inner tube like a teenager might do. He was never too important to have fun like a youngster and to share in that fun with his gray-haired colleagues.
One of his greatest traits was his empathy for somebody who was in the midst of a crisis. His words and the look in his eyes always came from the heart as he shared in the painful experience of the other person’s crisis.
In summary, Don Trunkey had wonderful parentage, and he chose a wonderful woman to be his wife.