The last time Dr. P. Mark Li went to the OR to perform surgery, the staff at Lehigh Valley Health Network lined the hallway for the outgoing chief of neurosurgery, just to let the specialist know how special he was.

"I've never met anybody like him," begins Dr. LuAnne Procyk, the director of clinical operations in neurosurgery at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

His colleagues say Dr. Li had a unique ability to reach people. Not just in an operating room, but in a recovery room or a board room.

"He could talk physics with the brightest of the bright, and he could talk fly fishing with patients that were in the exam room," Dr. Procyk says.

Stefano Camici, a neurosurgery specialist at LVHN, adds, "always ready to give support and understanding, which was very important, especially in his position."

When Dr. Li was diagnosed with ALS, the entire hospital felt the shockwave.

"While you always know what the outcome is of this, you always live in some sort of denial," Dr. Camici says.

Even these doctors did not expect the news they dreaded, coming so soon.

Dr. Li died this week, and in a post where LVHN said their family was feeling overwhelming grief, an extended family - of dozens of patients Dr. Li helped - showed up in the comments, to offer comfort with their own stories of his kindness and compassion, many saying, they owed their lives to him.

"He was our backbone here and that's our impact," Dr. Procyk says.

Dr. Camici says, "He was a fantastic surgeon, a fantastic person and we're going to miss him."

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