OPINION: Grady doctor’s birthday wish is definitely dope

Dr. Kimberly Manning, an internist at Grady Hospital, had a $50,000 birthday wish that garnered far more than she could ask.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Dr. Kimberly Manning, an internist at Grady Hospital, had a $50,000 birthday wish that garnered far more than she could ask.

Dr. Kimberly Manning was approaching a significant milestone. Two, in fact. Twenty years as an academic internist at Grady Memorial Hospital and her 50th birthday.

Even if you don’t know how significant it is to work 20 years in one place, you know making it to the Big 5-0 signals you’ve come a long way, baby, that you should celebrate in a big way because, well, you deserve it.

Back in December, just a short time removed from marking her 49th, Manning was thinking about ways to celebrate, but she didn’t want to make the day about her as so many of us do.

When she looked around her life, not much was missing. She was married to the “best husband ever,” she had two healthy sons, she lived where she wanted, she had a car that served her well and her family had just enjoyed a trip to Africa. What else was there?

Instead of receiving gifts, Manning decided to give to Grady, the place that has given her so much.

She reached out to Grady Foundation executives to flesh out the idea. Then after a few email exchanges, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“I put the idea aside,” Manning said.

If we’ve learned anything about COVID-19, it is this: It has a way of changing things and us.

As Manning went about caring for those stricken with the deadly virus, she knew this wasn’t some hypothetical that had suddenly unleashed itself. People were sick and dying.

“I was getting texts from people I know saying ‘pray for my mom’ or ‘I lost my smell, what should I do?‘” Manning remembered. “I was seeing people who lived in multi-generational homes, all of whom had asthma.”

As an African American physician, the virus was hard for her to deny and even harder to ignore.

And so early this month, with her Sept. 7 birthday fast approaching, Manning decided it was time to act.

It would take her at least until then to even come close to reaching her goal — a gift of $50,000 for Grady’s COVID-19 Response Fund, used to support direct patient care, including staff support, medical supplies, and testing resources.

“Given the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on the Black community, this is personal to me,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I hope you’ll let it be personal to you, too.”

But it was more than that even.

People talk with pride about being Grady babies, about the hospital’s storied history as a Level 1 trauma center.

Dr. Kimberly Manning, an internist at Grady Hospital, raised more than $100,000 for Grady’s COVID-19 Response Fund in less than 36 hours, exceeding her $50,000 goal.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Kimberly Manning loves Grady because of the humanity she has witnessed the past 20 years while caring for patients in the hospital and clinic — moments few of us get to see or hear about.

Happy and exhilarating moments when she is cracking jokes with staff members in the hallways between patients or singing Outkast lyrics while caring for an Atlanta born-and-bred patient, or when patients offer her words of comfort in times of loss.

“Everyone knows that Grady saves lives,” she wrote in the post. “But for the last 20 years, Grady Hospital saved my life, too. I am better for being here, serving here, teaching here and growing here.”

That in a nutshell is why Manning has had a love affair with the public hospital since, oh, her days as a resident at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

She’s a Los Angeles native so that might seem a bit hard to believe but it’s true. Her Twitter handle is @gradydoctor, and for the past 11 years, she’s been the author of the popular Reflections of a Grady Doctor blog.

Grady, she told me recently, “is my dream job.”

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

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Sometime around 11 p.m. on Aug. 7, Manning launched her Grady Health Foundation fundraising page on Facebook and Twitter.

When Manning went to bed an hour later, donations approached $5,000. When she woke up the next morning, they had doubled. When she arrived at work, they had doubled again to $20,000.

Walking into the hospital, Manning almost burst into tears.

Less than 20 hours later, she was online again recording a video to thank her donors. She had reached her goal.

“I thought I’d spend the whole month on social media pushing people to give,” she said.

To her surprise, people kept giving. The next day, donations were approaching $60,000. Late last week, the campaign topped $100,000.

By the time a colleague and Manning admirer told me about her efforts, Manning had gotten another bee in her bonnet.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if, when we get to $100,000, someone decided to match us?” she asked. “Wouldn’t that be super-dope?”

By last Thursday, Dr. Manning got her wish.

“How dope is that!” she said.

That’s definitely dope.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.