Krista Vernoff Shares Her Father's Story Through Death of Harold O'Malley

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George Dzundza and T.R. Knight
We've received multiple emails regarding the message appearing before the end credits of "Six Days (Part II)," which read "In Memory of Bob Verne."

This man is not the actor who played Harold O'Malley, whose name is George Dzundza (pictured, with T.R. Knight). It is the father of Krista Vernoff, executive producer of Grey's Anatomy and one of its principal writers. In writing the two-part "Six Days" story line, Vernoff drew upon her own experience with her dad's short, losing battle with esophageal cancer.

Bob Verne's story is told through Harold O'Malley, and Krista's grief is shown, in part, through George. Here's what Vernoff has to say about it on her official blog about the episode:


The card at the end [of "Six Days"] was a tribute to my father. He died six years ago at the age of 56 after a very short battle with esophageal cancer. He called me one day at my office at Charmed and told me he thought he had the flu. A week after that he had surgery on a massive tumor at the base of his esophagus.

Before the surgery he was laughing and celebrating with family. He had a profoundly positive attitude. After the surgery, he had a massive scar down his belly and was intubated and pale, and upon seeing him, I, who thought of myself as quite strong and educated and capable of handling that moment, started to shake and then hyperventilate and had to be helped out of the room.

During the week we waited for him to recover, we learned that kidney function was of the utmost importance and I became obsessed, absolutely obsessed with his urine output. I checked that urine bag like 50 times a day.

At one point, the doctors gathered the family to tell us that my Dad had a kink in his breathing tube and that they might not be able to get a new one in. They told us we needed to prepare ourselves for the possibility that this was it. We stood out in the hallway and waited, holding our breath, terrified.

There was another family there in the hallway, the family of a 16 year old boy who'd been shot on the street on his way home from work in what was feared to be gang related violence, though his family insisted that he was a good kid, that he wasn't in any gang.

They were as scared as we were as they waited for news of condition. We talked to them for awhile, made small talk, then fell silent. And after a long, pregnant pause, one of the teenagers of the family looked over at a member of my family with a very disturbed look on his face. And then he said "Dang. Somebody just farted. And I think it's this old white guy right here." My family laughed harder than we have ever laughed in our lives. And my dad lived through the reintubation.

He lived for three more days.

When the surgeon sat us down to tell us that it was time to let him go, he explained that Dad had come to him â€" behind our backs â€" on his way into the OR actually â€" and begged him to proceed with the tumor removal no matter what. My Dad believed, truly believed, that he could fight that caner, that he could live, if only they would remove the tumor.

The surgeon did as he wished. And I have yet to completely forgive that surgeon for that decision. Because my dad's body was riddled with cancer. Plus he had a liver condition and a heart condition. There was pretty much no way for him to recover from a surgery that traumatic. And the surgeon knew that. I believe in forgiveness, I do. I'm a fervent and avid believer that resentment, unchecked, leads to illness and spiritual misery. But I also believe that that surgeon cut my dad in half because he wanted the practice. It wasn't the right call.

He knew better. My Dad didn't. The scene in which George yells at Bailey and Richard - that scene didn't happen in my life. Writing and shooting that scene was wish fulfillment for me. What happened in my life is, we went into my Dad's ICU and put our hands on his body and sang him Beatles songs while the nurses turned off the machines.

When they pulled the intubation tubes from his mouth, my sister and I put our faces to his mouth so we could feel the last of his breath. And then he died. And I became a member of the Dead Dad's club.

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


This was a very heart breaking show I havn't cried this much since my mom passed away three years ago. My mom was a seven year cancer survivor but died shortly after having heart surgery. But Izzy made an interesting point about her millions being worthless because there is'nt anything you would do to keep your friends from going threw the grief but you can't. It shows that all you can do is be there for your friends.


As children, we inherently know that our parents will die, however the intellectual acknowledgement of this does not take away the indescribable heartache of supporting our parents when they are in pain, and in providing hope among the stark realism of hospitals and sick beds. The details of reality that so quickly become everyday activities, like becoming obsessed with checking a urine or colostomy bag or demanding a certain kind of jello, are so terribly surreal. Death is not always apparent in these situations -- it lurks, leaving clues that sometimes we simply cannot see because of our sheer ignorance of sickness and disease, or due to our need to be positive, to see and believe in the little successes like finding the strength to sit up or roll to the side when the nurses are changing the sheets. Just minutes before my father died, he lifted his arms, tubes spilling down from his wrists and elbows, pleading to that he be let go. "Let me out of here", he declared with passion and fear in his eyes. Moments later he was in the ICU. Minutes later my mother and I were on the phone with my sisters who had just returned home thinking he would be fine, needing to decide whether to put him on life support or let him go. Those who leave and those who are left behind share courage in the process of illness and in death. We are also bound by a very quiet loneliness that persists through our very altered lives. How do we describe the experience? It can sound so trite and rote, like a series of simple events that lead to a conclusion. We know that the process of dying is more than that. And on Gray's Anatomy, we were reminded of some of the most remarkable moments in our lives -- the extraordinary moments of laughing together in hospital rooms, the bringing together of old friends, of laying our hands on those who are finding passage to a world beyond our own.


I recently lost my favorite aunt to liver cancer in almost the same way as your dad. She went in with the best attitude you could have when going into survery to remove a cancerous tumor. But just like your dad and George's dad, she didn't survive. For the first few days after surgery she was fine, but then it all went bad, her organs started to fail and she never recovered. We finally had to let her go after 3 weeks. I really loved this episode, as hard as it was to watch and relive my aunts last moments, it just shows that it's okay to cry and to remember them... it helps me heal at least. And it also shows that everyone has to figure out for themselves how to live in this world without their loved ones in it. My family is still working on that one. Krista, thank you for sharing your story with all of us. I also hope George can help me come to terms with my loss as well.


I became a member of the Dead Dad's club on February 28, 2006 and watching George's dad die was a mirror image of my father passing! I held my breath till I thought I would explode and then I cried like there was no tomorrow! He was like Krista and George's dad, with the tumor and the kidneys along with the other issues. You watch and pray for a change that will make a difference. What you wouldn't give for that miracle?? Its not even been a year yet and its still so hard to deal with. I hope George will help me as the days go by. Cristina made me feel better strange as it may seem. She's such a bizarre bitch at times, but I just love her. And just a short note for IW! You are an ignorant man and how dare you judge anyone!!


OMG!! I cried for 20 minutes after watching the show! I'm sorry to hear that Krista had to go through all of that!! It must have been really tough :( I lost my father when i was 16 (5 years ago!! My dad died at home with his family around also and i was there to see his last breath! He left like a candle! So peaceful!! I think the show touched alot of hearts becuz i know alot of people lose family and friends from cancer. Thank you for a great episode! ONe of my favorites! All the actors did great! Especiallly Christina! She surprised me at the end! And i gotta love that George!! Awesome show! Grey's Anatomy is the Best show ever invented! keep up the good work !


I'm on exchange in France right now (I live in Australia) and I haven't seen my parents for just under two months. Watching that episode made me homesick for the first time in months, but it made me miss my dad so much. Terrific job.


yeah, nobody knows what it is like until they experience it too. i was with my dad holding his hand as he took his last breath. cancer took him, and there was nothing that could have been done to change that. i am sorry for your loss. the scene between cristina and george at the end captured the way i have felt since my dad left perfectly. thanks for putting my feelings into words.


My father died much in the same way- and this is the 2nd anniversary of his death. While it was very difficult to watch this episode- it also helped me to come to terms with the tears I was holding in. Thanks for the story.


I lost my mother to esophageal cancer as well so the story line was riviting for me - we chose not to do the surgery and opted for an experimental treatment, but she died two months later without any warning or expectation - from the same cancer eating through the wall of her aeorta. Krista, Thank you so much for telling your story as I've always wondered "what if" we had chosen the surgical option. There's no telling. But the line you gave Christina at the end as she's speaking to George was so true. And it felt very caring to this viewer. Thank you.


I too am a member of the "Dead Dad's Club". My father died after a 6 months fight with Lung Cancer that we knew was terminal. I too would like a transcript of the last scene. What Christina said to George made me realize that it is ok to still miss him.


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)

Burke was- He took something from me. He took little pieces of me, little pieces over time, so small I didn't even notice, you know? He wanted me to be something I wasn't, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me Cristina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn't Cristina Yang anymore. And even then, I would've married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time. And now that I'm finally me again, I can't. I love you. I love you more than I loved Burke. I love you. And that scares the crap out of me because when you asked me to ignore Teddy's page, you took a piece of me, and I let you. And that will never happen again.