Remembering JFK: Dr. Kenneth Salyer - New York News

Remembering JFK: Dr. Kenneth Salyer

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DALLAS -

Today Dr. Kenneth Sayler is a world-renowned surgeon specializing in facial-cranial reconstruction. But 50 years ago he was a resident at Parkland Hospital and part of the team that tried to save President Kennedy after he was shot.

Dr. Sayler has had a distinguished career in medicine over the last five decades. His most famous case was in 2005 separating the twins from Egypt who were conjoined at the head.

It required a series of delicate surgeries, including one marathon 36-hour procedure. But the two boys are continuing to grow and thrive.

Today Dr. Sayler points to the events 50 years ago this week as "pivotal and powerful" in shaping the physician he would become.

"I was excited to have JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy in Dallas and I was sorry that I couldn't go down and watch the parade," he said.

He was a first-year resident at Parkland in neuro-surgery rotation.

"It gives me chills just thinking about it. Fifty years ago it's exactly like it was. Kennedy's car pulled in, put him on the gurney and took him to Trauma Room No. 1 where we tried to save his life," he said.

He remembers the first lady in a pink dress spattered with blood.

"I see her standing in Trauma Room No. 1, standing in the corner the whole time we were working on JFK," he said.

The president's hospital room was packed with maybe 15 doctors and nurses. But as soon as he was pronounced dead, Dr. Sayler said everyone started to leave.

"And then a Catholic priest came in and gave the last rites of the church. He left and it seemed it was just the two of us with the president. She came over and I just nodded. I said nothing to her. She said nothing to me. I think we were both just totally distraught, totally in shock," he said.

Dr. Salyer witnessed a ring exchange. A sketch of what he remembers seeing is published in a book he wrote titled, "A Life that Matters."

"To see this occur in my hands while I was there affected me for the rest of my life," he said. "It was a turning point; it was a motivational point for me. I was determined to carry on in the spirit of JFK to make a difference in my life and lead a life that mattered."

Dr. Sayler said the events made him realize just how precious and delicate life is.

Since then he's been a pioneer in plastic surgery and cranial facial reconstruction, establishing a world-renowned practice in Dallas. His foundation treats children all over the world and tackles the high-risk cases that can't be helped anywhere else.

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