Voices of the NIH Community

“It’s ok to love a patient”

EB Jackson and surgeon Reid Thompson remember EB’s husband, Todd Jackson, who died from brain cancer in 2014. Reid, who had treated Todd ten years earlier, recalls his devastation when he learned about the re-occurrence and the futility of further treatments, and EB reflects on Todd’s passing. Todd’s battle against cancer inspired him and EB to launch VICC Ambassadors, a group of philanthropists committed to winning the battle against cancer by awarding Discovery Grants to promising researchers.


Reid Thompson: One of the great joys when I think about Todd and our relationship was meeting someone who was so frightened.  He had such a problem, 12 seizures a day, never had another seizure after that surgery for years and years and years.  He was able to go run a five mile race, went to business school, met you, fell in love, renovated a house, traveled the world. 

EB Jackson: And then in 2013, we welcomed our daughter, Allie, Alice Elaine Jackson into the world.  I saw a level of strength and a depth of commitment in Todd that was truly remarkable.

Reid Thompson: And I think what I learned, you know from Todd was the great joy that a neurosurgeon could experience walking him through this really complicated problem, doing this amazing surgery and restoring him back to life.  Every time I saw him I felt that joy. 

But then things took a bit of a turn.  The tumor had exploded; it had come back in a way that was unimaginable.  It was a tiny, relatively small tumor in the beginning but not something that I had really anticipated, and when I saw the scans, I just burst into tears.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was devastating.

EB Jackson: And then I remember that we all cried together.  I think that’s what’s so profound about our friendship and what this meant to Todd and continues to mean to me.  You know, half of the word ‘healthcare’ is ‘care.’  You have to care about the people that you’re serving.

Reid Thompson: Todd was very special and he was very special to me and he taught me that it is okay to love a patient, you know, to have a relationship with a patient.  It’s different than just the traditional sort of doctor patient relationship and I think that’s a good thing.  I think that’s why many of us went into medicine and it’s hard and I don’t think we should, as physicians, steel ourselves to that.  I like to feel that emotion.  I think it makes you a better doctor.

EB Jackson: In those last couple of weeks he said, “I just wish I had a little more time with Allie,” because he was following her developmental milestones.  He said, “She may not remember me, but she will know me.  I’m her father and she’ll know me.”

Reid Thompson: Oh, she’s got his eyes.

EB Jackson: She does have his eyes.

Reid Thompson: For sure.

EB Jackson: Todd’s passing was the most sacred moment of my life.  It was remarkable.  He was awake in the middle of the night and he was asking for Allie, so someone brought Allie to us.  And he held her and he held her little hands and he held my hands and he said over and over how much he loved her and me and the life that we had and then he went to sleep.

And about four hours later it was just he and I and I became aware that he had stopped breathing, but his heart was still beating.  I remember thinking, should I shake him?  Should I try to wake him up?  But I knew exactly what to do.  I knew.  We had talked about it.  I mean he couldn’t have orchestrated his own passing in a more perfect way. 

I miss him every day but, he’d be pretty mad if he thought that I wasn’t keeping on keeping on.

This page last reviewed on February 27, 2023