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.


YOu see, this is the reason why the show has gained tremendous popularity. Because it is a show that speaks to an audience from all different background, it connects people and bridge them despite social, ethnic, religious division. And Six Day Part 2 is a perfect epitomy for something like this. I mean, who does NOT have a father? Whether you have a great relationship with your parents or you are estranged from them. This episode does poke at something that is so deeply sensitive inside you. It makes you ask yourself what kind of relationship I want to have with my father, with my mother, with my siblings, with my friends, with the ones I love and value. So yeah, I hope the show will keep on growing in this direction and not be afraid of expose controversial issues and bring up debates. And I do hope they will do an episode on gay, lesbians. Not every single American understands homosexuality completely. IW is certainly one of them I guess...and they can be afraid and it is ok NOT to understand. And yeah, I hope the whole faggot incident can be dropped, it really does tarnish the image of the show, neither TR, IW or KH acted professionally...


As many people who have already commented, I'm also a member of the Dead Dads Club. 2 years ago in May, 11 years of kidney failure. It's not rare for me to cry during an episode of Grey's Anatomy, but this one probably caused me to cry the most because of the story line and the personal connection. Especially the exchange between George and Christina at the end, about people outside of the club trying but not understanding, etc. The episode was well written and well done, as usual, but definitely much more personal knowing that the writer actually went through that.


i meant kiss his dad ..


that scene in this past show where george's dad died was the most emotional i have ever been with a show. i too .. like some of you .. thought i would be able to handle the scene but nah. my eyes watered as soon as the camera his mr. omalley .. and then when georges mom leaned down to kill his dad .. i completely lost it. i couldn't even control my crying .. it was kind of weird. cause usually i'm a stong emotional person. but not with that. so sad to hear that it was actually a true story ..


Thank you so much for that beautifully written episode. As always, the music and the talent, the way the episode is filmed...everything was perfect. TR Knight's performance was amazing. I am grateful to say that I am not a member of the club, but I actually felt pain for George's loss. I also have to say that I was so upset by the GG incident and I was concerned that it would impact the show, but TR and Isaiah are such talented actors that I forgot about the outside world for that amazing hour. Thank you again for this show.


that was such a beautiful episode and i cried during it. i'm a new member of the Grey's family and i'm loving it!!!


One of my favorite grey's episode... cried every time they showed george's father... that was why it felt so real because it really did happen in real life! I get teary eyed whenever i think about it now... i'm more of like the meredith in the show and can relate to her more... my dad and i have a formal relationship having a falling out years back... i missed him terribly after watching the episode.


That was the best writing and acting that i have ever seen in my life. Krista you should be nominnated for a pulitzer.....Greys has become a family institution with my wife and I. we also had a mircle at christmas. my sons fatherinlaw was diagnosed withh pancreatic cancer. he was operated on the tuesday before christmas. on christmas day he got the lab results and the tumor was benign. there is only a less than 1% chance of that. ....Krista im glad you were able to find some closure in writing the last episode. Mya God bless and protect you and thank you for sharing with us.....


Thursdays show was quite moving. My father passed away in 2000 and it's comforting for me to know that other people do go through the same things. Thank you for sharing yours with everyone on greys.


I just lost my grandfather, who was a father to me, on January 9th due to brian cancer. Watching this episode helped me immensly deal with all the emotions I have been feeling. When George said he didn't know how to exist in a world where his father didn't, that is what I have been feeling since my grandfather passed away. Thank you Krista for sharing your story, none of my friends have been understanding what I've been feeling because they don't realize my grandfather was a father to me and watching this episode I felt like someone understood.


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)

There's a reason I said I'd be happy alone. It wasn't 'cause I thought I'd be happy alone. It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart, I might not make it. It's easier to be alone, because what if you learn that you need love and you don't have it? What if you like it and lean on it? What if you shape your life around it and then it falls apart? Can you even survive that kind of pain? Losing love is like organ damage. It's like dying. The only difference is death ends. This? It could go on forever.