What is a Hero?

Growing up, I always thought I knew what a hero was.  At first, my heroes were Batman and Superman.  Later, as I learned to love sports, my heroes became talented athletes who played on my favorite teams.  Even as a young boy, I felt character was important for these people, but I never stopped to wonder what contribution, other than immense superhuman strength (as seen in the fictional characters of comic books) or athleticism (as seen in the sports “stars”), these heroes made to society.  I would wait for hours before and after games hoping to meet these people, take a picture with them, and get their  autograph with so I could frame it.  I never stopped to define the actual word and reflect on its meaning.

According to Webster’s Dictionary,  a hero is “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability, an illustrious warrior, a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities, one who shows great courage, the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work, the central figure in an event, period, or movement, or an object of extreme admiration and devotion”.
I guess my original thoughts on the word would fit this definition.  However, my thinking evolved as I matured. Between my first and second year of medical school, I was fortunate to work at a camp as a medical assistant.  This camp was unique as the campers all had cancer or had siblings with cancer.  There I learned amazing life lessons that I continue to carry with me today.  Most importantly, I realized that the word hero meant something more to me than it did when I was a kid.  See, I got to meet many of my heroes that summer.  My heroes became those brave children who stared disease in the face and won (or were still actively fighting).  In my mind, their achievements outweighed those accomplished by any of the sports stars that I admired in my youth.

I continue to be blessed by meeting more and more heroes each day in my epilepsy clinic  – Not only children with epilepsy, but also their amazing, supportive families.  These heroes possess far more strength and courage than any superhero or professional athlete. They have to make very difficult life decisions on treatment options and trust those around them to provide the best advice for their medical needs.    For this and much more, they have the admiration and devotion of not only myself, but all of the staff in The Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

If you would like to meet my heroes and many others just like them, they will be present at each mile in the upcoming Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon.  If you want their autograph or picture, I will bet they would not mind the interruption at all.  In my opinion, that is worth framing any day.

Anup D. Patel, MD
Anup Patel, MD, works as an attending physician in the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He has a focus on medical management of complicated epilepsy. He is the father of a five year old boy and six month old daughter. In his free time, he loves listening to music and watching sports. Follow Dr. Patel on Twitter @PedsEpilepsyDoc where he shares helpful epilepsy information and helps spread awareness!

5 thoughts on “What is a Hero?

  1. My son Austin is a patient of Dr. Patel’s and he is amazing! He does wonders through the complex epilepsy clinic and trying to help my son who has a very huge diagnosis list including HIE, Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy including Infantile Spasms. he can definitely put the pieces to the puzzle together and he is a super hero!

  2. Michelle Webb on said:

    Dr. Patel,
    Your article hits home and is inspiring. It represents what I think many feel in their lives. You have the ability to connect with your patients and make a huge difference. You are one of the most positive people I have ever met. I am grateful to know you and want you to know you are doing such great things! Kudos to you!

  3. Gina Lyons on said:

    Dr. Patel,

    You reign supreme when it comes to being a hero!

    We have struggled through MANY arduous times during our epilepsy expedition with our son,Keerich. You were always there to offer your kind heart and expertise to make the craggy road a little smoother.

    I can’t thank you enough for taking us under your cape & showing us that those who possess the power to help others not only work wonders in Gotham City……but also do so at Nationwide Children’s Hospital!

  4. I think for every kid the first heroes are Batman and Superman, I am sure for some people they stay heroes the whole life. Thank you, Dr. Patel for your words and comparison of children with heroes, your meaning is truly important for them and their parents.

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