Each year, she bakes a special cake for him, piping heart-shaped red icing with little black stitches for a decoration on top.
Every year since 2006, she bakes a cake for her dad’s heart surgeon, Dr. James Fingleton, to say “thank you” for saving his life.
Owner of Mad Hatter Bakery, Audra Lalli, 50, is grateful that her 80-year-old dad, Michael, is still with her and can still help with odds and ends around her shop in Newport.
He says he’s never felt better.
Fifteen years ago, Michael, then 65, was in decent shape, living an active lifestyle, golfing and working at a funeral parlor; until one day in July 2006, he felt pains in his chest.
“They told me everything was alright when I went to the first doctor,” Michael told The Epoch Times. “And I went on the golf course, played golf—but I took a cart this time.
“And then the day later I got another pain.”
The next day, he was given news that would mortify most anyone: he would need quadruple bypass surgery. Michael’s heart wasn’t damaged; just his arteries were clogged.
The good news? Michael’s cardiologist recommended a great surgeon who had performed thousands of such procedures, whom everyone spoke highly of—now especially Michael.
“Just the way he came on, it wasn’t all business, it was like a friend,” said Michael. “He said, ‘You’re going to be fine,’ and took a look at the X-rays, they saw everything that was going on.
“And he said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do it tomorrow.’
“I felt good about it but, I—eh, a little nervous about cracking my chest and going in.”
The nerve-wracking night before the operation, they entertained him with a 3D animated demonstration of the surgery, which actually put his heart at ease. Michael knew he was in good hands.
Thankfully, the operation went off without a hitch.
And he hasn’t had any pain since.
“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Michael said. “Just until last week, I retired from my job at Memorial Funeral Home.”
Which, he added, was “a good workout.”
After her dad’s recovery, Michael’s daughter decided to thank Dr. Fingleton the best way she knows how. Every year on July 20 for the past 15 years, she bakes a cake saying “Thank you Dr. Fingleton,” which Michael hand delivers to his office.
“Every year I thank him, and I can’t thank him enough,” he said. “He’s just a great person, he saved my life.”
The cakes vary slightly each year but feature the same signature heart and stitches motif. For this year’s cake, Audra changed it up by baking 20 cupcakes, each iced with the number 15 for the anniversary.
“It’s just like we’re friends, not just a doctor patient relationship,” Michael said. “It’s just a real friendly thing once a year.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I think it’s really remarkable, and I always call him afterwards,” Dr. Fingleton told NBC. “It means a lot to me, and I always thought that it’s very sweet that he remembered our efforts in helping him.”