Sully and Rory
From a very young age Rory had a fascination with airplanes. He was a flying fanatic.
At age 10 Rory received the present of a flight simulator. He spent hours flying from one airport to another updating us all on which airport he thought was the safest, which had the shortest runway and lots of other interesting facts about airports that he flew in and out of.
For his 12th birthday present Rory lobbied hard to have a flying lesson. With our hearts in our mouth we watched him take off from a small airport on Long Island. He was ecstatic.
On January 15, 2009 Captain “Sully” Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. From that moment on Captain Sullenberger became Rory’s ultimate hero. Rory kept a copy of Sully’s book on his nightstand. He spoke endlessly about his hero and completed a school project about Captain Sullenberger that year. He dreamed about being the daring pilot Sully was. He wanted to save lives and change the world as Sully had done.
In reading Captain Sully’s book, “Highest Duty,” Rory read about the man behind the hero and he continually stayed abreast of issues that Sully felt strongly about including patient safety. This truly influenced Rory’s thinking on life.
One of the first people to contact us when the news of Rory’s death became public was Captain Sully Sullenberger. He left a message for us saying:
‘I read Rory’s story in the NY Times today and it has touched my heart in several ways; from his common love of aviation and interest in my landing on the Hudson River, to my own passion and interest in patient safety issues. I have been advocating tirelessly on preventing medical error, and doing all I can to bring awareness to this issue. There are major changes in the medical industry that can and need to made to ensure this does not happen again. Please accept my sincere and deepest condolences for your family’s loss. Rory sounds like an amazing kid.’
Warmest regards, Capt. Sully
Rory would have been honored to hear his hero spoke so profoundly to his memory.
In January 2013 we met with Captain Sully Sullenberger and his family – they are living proof of humility and goodness in the world. Rory chose his heroes well.
Sully, as Maureen Dowd wrote in her New York Times article is an advocate for applying “lessons learned in blood” in aviation safety to patient safety. “If something good comes from Rory’s death, it will be that we realize we have a broken system,” he told me. “Patient care is so fragmented. For the most part, medical these human skills that some deride as ‘soft skills.’ So there’s insufficient sharing of information and ineffective communication.”
On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the “miracle on the Hudson” we met again with Captain Sullenberger. The watch company Jean Richard had launched a special watch, the 208, to commemorate his epic flight. Sully had asked that a portion of the sale of the watch be shared with the American Red Cross and the Rory Staunton Foundation. We were honored.
We are in this fight together. We both seek to ensure that the catastrophic medical mistakes made in Rory’s treatment never happen to another family.
“Rory was a remarkable young man,” Sully told Rory’s uncle Niall, “we should ensure that his death was not in vain and that some good can come from it.”