Selfless Son Honors His Healthcare Hero

Teen’s birthday mission brighten’s dad’s day

Helping his son, Adam, open what looked like a giant birthday present, Kenneth M. Wener, MD, had no idea it was a decoy. Before Adam tore the wrapping paper off of the box, Dr. Wener turned and asked his wife, Liz Hait, MD, “What did we get him?” As the chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, the COVID-19 pandemic had kept him too busy to notice what Adam was planning. Instead of making a list of gifts he wanted for his 18th birthday, Adam asked his closest friends and family to contribute to the Lahey Healthcare Heroes Emergency Response Fund in his father’s  honor.

Inside that box was a novelty check reminiscent of the ones presented to sweepstakes winners. Dr. Wener was surprised to see it made out to the hospital in the amount of almost $13,000. He saw his name in the memo line, and his jaw dropped.

“Father, you’ve been working for eight straight weeks,” Adam said as his dad marveled at the check. 

Dr. Wener looked up and told his family, “I’m going to cry.”

“No crying,” Adam responded as he hugged his dad.

The moment, captured on video by Adam’s 14-year-old brother, Matthew, was a bright spot in a time when life during the pandemic was too busy to stop and enjoy the little things. “He gave every patient 110 percent,” Hait explained. “It took its toll. He loves infectious disease, this is what he lives for. But he was exhausted.”

For Wener and Hait, seeing their son act so selflessly when his father was so stressed and so many rites of passage were taken away from him was an indication that they were raising their boys correctly. “He, like so many teens, has had so many reasons to be angry and frustrated,” Kenneth Wener said. “To turn this disappointment and celebrate his 18th birthday in this special way was such an incredible gift. I am so very blessed.”

70 people made gifts in Wener’s honor. Contributions to the Healthcare Heroes Emergency Response Fund provide support to frontline staff. Between mid-March and mid-July, they cared for more than 600 patients with COVID-19 — 352 of them so ill they needed intensive care. 

With Dr. Wener working so hard on the front lines of this public health emergency, the gift carried extra significance. “It was really special,” Hait said. “Ken couldn’t speak for about an hour, actually.”