“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
You’ve probably heard that line before. It’s from the 1975 movie Jaws. The character Captain Brody says it the first time he sees the great white shark for himself. At a gala honoring him for his decades of work fighting Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL), Dr. Michael B. Sisti compared that moment in Jaws to the moment a patient gets a diagnosis of VHL.
It’s a scene he says he’s seen played out in his office over and over through the years, as a patient realizes he’s up against a bigger struggle than he had realized.
VHL is a genetic condition that causes patients to battle recurrent tumors over their lifetimes. Over 36,000 people worldwide are affected by the disease. The VHL Alliance was created to foster research and education to cure this disease.
The Alliance honored Dr. Sisti at a dazzling black-tie gala fundraising dinner at the Plaza Hotel.
Fifty of his colleagues were present, as well as Dr. Sisti’s wife and three children, and many of his friends and patients. It was a fantastic turnout to show appreciation for Dr. Sisti’s work.
This is a cause close to Dr. Sisti’s heart. He has spent decades working with VHL patients, providing them with life-saving treatments and helping them to live longer and better.
In fact, one of the leaders of this event, Manuel Greco, has been being treated by Dr. Sisti for the past 14 years, since Manuel was 17 years old (see his story here).
At the gala, Dr. Sisti spoke about this pernicious disease and compared it to the shark in Jaws: a monster that is hidden, cunning, and a mortal threat. He compared himself to the shark hunter trying to kill the monster, and the VHL Alliance to the researcher trying to understand the nature of the monster.
But the hero of the story, Dr. Sisti said, is Captain Brody, who doesn’t want to be there, isn’t interested in the shark, and just wants to go home.
“When I think about what it is to be a neurosurgeon and go out and hunt and kill these monsters, and work with researchers who are trying to understand the monster, and the heroes—what they want to do is to get away from the monster and go home to their beautiful wife,” Dr. Sisti said in his speech.
“And that’s why we’re here tonight,” Dr. Sisti said. “We’re going to buy a bigger boat for Manuel, so we can get him home to be with his beautiful wife.”
Congratulations, Dr. Sisti! Your hard work is very much appreciated.
You can While you’re there, you can scroll over to see Manuel Greco tell his story about having VHL and working with Dr. Sisti.