DAVE MATTINGLY, HOST:
Time again for StoryCorps. Today we'll hear middle-school science teacher Al Siedlecki and his former student Lee Buono. It's been a long time since Lee has been in middle school. He's a neurosurgeon now. But recently he came to StoryCorp with Al, whom he calls Mr. Si, to talk about a patient that reconnected him with his favorite teacher.
LEE BUONO: This patient comes in and he's got a benign tumor. It's pushing on his speech area. He can get some words out but it's almost unintelligible. It's almost like someone's sewing your mouth closed. So I'm talking to his wife, and we tried to lighten up the situation and they started asking me about myself. And they asked me who inspired me.
So, of course I mentioned you. We had the surgery. He gets his speech back and he's just excited and happy and crying and wanted to just hug me. And he said you make sure you call that teacher. You make sure you thank him. So I called you.
AL SIEDLECKI: I picked the phone up and you go, hi, it's Lee Buono. I said, Lee, what's going on, man? I haven't heard from you since you were in high school. And you said, I want to thank you. I was flabbergasted. I said, Of all the people in your entire career, you want to thank me? It was the same feeling I had when my kids were born.
And I started to cry. It made me feel really important that I had that influence on you. Lately I almost am afraid to say that I'm a teacher to some people. But I'm not because you called me. I'm a teacher, and I'm going to help as many people as I can to find their passion too.
MATTINGLY: That's Al Siedlecki with his former student Lee Buono and StoryCorps in Medford, New Jersey. Their story will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Get the StoryCorp podcast at NPR.org.