A Physician’s Christmas Story with Dr. John Crosby

by Jen Barna MD | Life Journey, Podcast

In this episode, we hear a physician’s Christmas story. Dr. John Crosby shares a special story of a Christmas miracle that we hope touches your hearts as much as it touched ours.  

“I’m going to get choked up here, it was almost like a Christmas Carol.” -John Crosby MD

In today’s episode, Dr. Jen Barna talks with Dr. John Crosby for a special Christmas episode. You will hear how Dr. Crosby enjoys working over the holidays and why. One of the reasons is because it is generally quiet and non eventful. But that was not the case one Christmas Eve. Dr. Crosby shares a special story of a Christmas miracle that we hope touches your hearts as much as it touched ours.  

Dr. Crosby is a  family doctor in Cambridge, Canada near Toronto. He is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and Family Medicine at McMaster and Queens Universities. He is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario in London. He has spoken worldwide 124 times on curing burnout by using time management. He is also a consultant to the Ontario Medical Association on physician efficiency and the Canadian Medical Protective Association on avoiding malpractice and college complaints and also a Royal College specialist in emergency medicine.

To get Dr. Crosby’s ebook and audiobook or free mentoring, email Dr. Crosby at [email protected].

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Dr. Crosby: I’m going to get choked up here, it was almost like a Christmas Carol.


[DocWorking theme]


Jen: I’m Dr. Jen Barna. Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m here again today with Dr. John Crosby, a Canadian family practitioner and author, blogger, mentor, father, and husband, Dr. Crosby, welcome back to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.


Dr. Crosby: Thank you. Greetings from the far north.


Jen: So glad to have you here from the far north, especially to talk about the holidays.


Dr. Crosby: It’s actually 17 degrees Celsius here, which means about 60 degrees. It’s like California here. So, global warming is happening. We don’t have any snow at all. Also, Canada owns the North Pole as well. So, we better get some soon.


Jen: Yeah, absolutely. You’re closer to the North Pole than we are. So, we defer to you on expertise related to the Christmas holidays. It’s super warm here actually as well. We don’t have snow in Massachusetts yet either. It’s rather odd. We were talking about this ahead of the episode and some of our conversations, and one of the things that you mentioned that’s a great hack for efficiency and time management, and something that you do on a regular basis is work over the Christmas holiday, which if you don’t mind, I’ll have you explain your reasoning behind that, again to us. And then, having worked a number of Christmases over the years, I would love to hear if you have any particular stories that stand out from those experiences.


Dr. Crosby: Yeah. Thanks for having me on. I really enjoy doing this. And hi to all our American viewers. I was born a mile away from the United States, just north of Detroit. So, I’ve grown up on your TV and radio, and still watch CNN. Yeah, one thing I always do to cut down stress at Christmas is to work between Christmas and New Year’s. I  volunteer to take everybody’s call, like five different family doctors and four nursing homes. Everyone thinks I’m wonderful and this great guy but actually, no one ever calls me. So, I get these accolades and never do anything because the patients and the nurses never think you’re working. So, they miraculously get better and really don’t need any care that week. We don’t do any routine stuff. So, I’m just there for the odd, urgent problem and emergencies go to the emergency department. So, somebody with a bladder infection really praises me if I can send them out an antibiotic over the phone, they don’t have to sit in Emerge for seven hours. 


Then, I take a week off in summer instead of that. So, it’s really good. I get tired of family as well. They always say, “Fish and family start to smell after three days.” I have wonderful children, and grandson, and great family but we all start getting on each other’s nerves after three days and nights of Christmas dinners, and Christmas meals, and stuff like that. So, I’m quite happy to get back to my nice quiet office and be alone here. Everyone thinking, I’m a wonderful guy and I’m actually just reading the new books that they give me for Christmas. 


But one really wonderful thing, I’m going to get choked up here, it was almost like a Christmas Carol one year. I had this young guy and it was just a few days before Christmas, and my secretary actually saved his life. He’d actually had a brain tumor when he was 12, and now he’s about 30 years old, and it was cerebellar, and Jen you will know what these are like being a radiologist. But usually, a terrible prognosis and especially in a kid. But he lived, and he did really well, and had very little deficit at all, like almost nothing, had this wonderful life. Then, he came in when he was about 30, and he’s acting really strangely and weird, and you’re just going to write him off as stressed or something and my secretary is really good. She’s been with me 29 years and she said, “He’s not acting right. This guy never calls, he’s never a problem, he’s not a hypochondriac or anything, something’s wrong with him, you know?” 


He’s had a brain tumor before. Why don’t we get a CAT scan? And I was telling you before, it takes two months to get a CAT scan in Canada because everything’s free. So, you have to line up. I called the radiologist and begged her to take him, and there were no findings or anything. She could have told me to take a hike. There were no neurological findings. It was just a change in personality. So, she did them, thank the Lord, and he had a huge frontal lobe tumor. And as you know, frontal lobe tumors can present just with personality changes. There’s nothing to find neurologically. It was like the size of your fist. Then, I found a neurosurgeon in Hamilton, which is a city 30 miles away from us. We don’t have any neurosurgery at all in our area of 700,000 people. So, we have to depend on the big centers near us and you have to get through an obnoxious resident who usually makes you feel small.


Thank God. These are all Christmas miracles. The resident was nice, which is the first time I’ve ever met a neurosurgical resident who was nice in my 49 years of doctoring. I was a neurology resident for a year. So, I know more neurology than the average GP. And then, I got the neurosurgeon on the phone, and he was nice. So, I had a three bagger here and so, he said, “Send him right down right away,” because he was actually in danger of coning at this point, he was starting to show raised intracranial pressure. So, he got down, they took it out on Christmas Eve, and I’m going to cry. He’s still doing great today. So, that was my Christmas miracle.


Jen: Now, we’re both going to cry. 




Jen: That is a wonderful story. Wow and wonderful timing, and it certainly is the type of story that makes you glad to be in this profession. I’m also thrilled to hear that it has a happy ending.


Dr. Crosby: Thank goodness. The nice thing about being a GP is you see these people. I still see him every year, years later, and that’s wonderful. When I was an emergency doctor, you never see anyone, again, except the really bad actors you don’t want to see again. We used to call them frequent fliers. But the nice thing about Emerge too is you look after everybody in the world, you never say no to anyone. So, that makes you feel good.


Jen: Yeah, true. Every specialty has its pros and cons. I would say, for me, breast imaging is the best of all specialties and subspecialties because I do get to see the patients year after year after year, and see them after they recover if they do have breast cancer, and see them for many years after that. I don’t have to manage all of the difficult diseases that you manage, all of the diabetes, and blood pressure, and pain management, and the more difficult things that people have chronically.


Dr. Crosby: The nice thing about being a family doctor too, and why I still love it after 49 years is, people really get to know you. At Christmas, you know, the Jamaicans bring in rum, and the Russians bring in vodka, and little old ladies bring in their wonderful baking, and the Portuguese bring in their homemade wine with which you can use as paint thinner. It’s really nice. I had an old farmer once that brought in a turkey for me. But it looked like it had been shot running away and had its wings spread, and we couldn’t get it into the freezer or anything. So, we donated it to charity. But the thought was there.


Jen: That is wonderful. Yes, I did know someone once who was paid in turduckens. Are you familiar with turduckens?


Dr. Crosby: No. What are turduckens?


Jen: It’s like a duck stuffed inside of a turkey. I’m not exactly sure what the specifics are, but he was quite touched. 


Dr. Crosby: It’s like the old-fashioned family doctor. 


Jen: Yes, exactly. Well, Happy Holidays to you and your family, and I hope that nothing so serious happens this year when you’re doing that work and I wish your patient a long life and excellent health from here. Thank you for sharing.


Dr. Crosby: You’re welcome. Happy Holidays, everybody.


Jen: Thank you, and Happy Holidays from DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you for joining us.




Jen: As a busy physician, you’re managing a lot. A lot of people depend on you. Your patients, your colleagues and staff, your family to get up every day and do all of the things that you do is an accomplishment. But when is the last time you stopped and thought about, “Where am I going with this, what would I like to see for myself in one year, in five years, in 10 years? What if you had a group of experienced coaches and a community of physicians there to support you to help you figure out what matters to you, not just at this point in your life, but going forward this year, next year indefinitely? What if you had that support to help you find a way to integrate what matters to you in your career or with what matters to you outside of work?”

Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you for being here. Please check us out at and please don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thank you for listening.

Board-certified practicing radiologist, founder and CEO of DocWorking, and host of top ranked DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast

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