Halifax boy meets his hero as Nova Scotia’s top doctor pays a visit

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A Halifax boy got to meet his hero on Wednesday when the province’s top doctor stopped by for a special visit.

Seven-year-old Hughie Dauphinee was born with a cleft lip and palate, a birth defect where the tissue at the roof of the mouth and upper lip do not fuse properly, leaving an opening. He’s been undergoing surgeries to correct the condition.

The boy found a role model in Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang, who was born with the same condition. Luckily for Hughie, Nova Scotia is a small place — the boy’s neighbour is a physician and friend of Strang. 

Hughie’s mother, Dawn Dauphinee, told CBC News that she messaged her neighbour about Strang’s performance during the pandemic.

“I sent a text saying what an amazing job Dr. Strang has been doing, ” she said. “Our moms’ group was big fans of Dr. Strang, and that Dr. Strang was Hughie’s hero.

Little did she know that the message would get passed on to Strang.

WATCH | Halifax boy gets a special visit from his hero, Dr. Strang:

Halifax boy meets his hero as Nova Scotia's top doctor pays a visit

Seven-year-old Hughie Dauphinee idolizes Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang, because he’s ‘keeping people safe’ and because they both have cleft lips and palates. 3:25

Hughie offered Strang some hand sanitizer

Strang showed up at their Halifax home early Wednesday evening. Hughie said he was only told about the visit two minutes before the doorbell rang.

“I reacted [by] bouncing off the walls because he has a cleft lip and palate and he’s keeping Nova Scotia safe,” Hughie said.

Then Hughie said he offered Strang some hand sanitizer out on the front porch. The Grade 2 student said he has been taking the pandemic seriously and heeding Strang’s advice.

Hughie said he’s been wearing a mask on the bus and, while he doesn’t have to wear a mask in class because of his age, he’s been wearing a mask at stores. 

Asked about his first impression of his medical hero, Hughie said “he’s very tall.”

Halifax boy meets his hero as Nova Scotia's top doctor pays a visit
Hughie, left, and his mother, Dawn Dauphinee, pose with his new favourite toy — a gift from Strang. (Submitted by Dawn Dauphinee)

Strang presented Hughie with an appropriate gift for the times — a COVID-19 stuffed toy. Hughie said he’s named the toy “COVID Nine Teen,” so it has three names.

After meeting — and sanitizing — his hero, the two chatted on the porch about their shared condition. “He told me about his surgeries and he only had three when he was a kid,” Hughie said, adding that he has had five surgeries. 

Hughie’s 10-year-old brother also got in on the action. He read a comic book to Strang as they sat on the porch steps.

Hughie’s mother said Strang “listened and laughed” with them during his visit.

Autograph seekers at school

Thursday was a day for Hughie to bask in the fame. “They [friends] figured it out, they saw me on the news,” he said.

Kids at school asked him for his autograph.

Dawn said after seeing “that superhero” on television for months it was nice to see him as a real person, too. She also posted photos of the meeting on Facebook with the hashtag #notallheroeswearcapes.

“It’s amazing for him to come and take the time, because Hughie hasn’t seen a lot of people with cleft lip and palate, and to have such a great role model is really special,” she said.

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