When one Houston doctor couldn't get to his hospital, he jumped in a canoe.

When Houston doctor Stephen Kimmel was called in to Clear Lake Regional Medical Center for an emergency surgery Tuesday, he quickly realized he'd have to improvise.

Though his own house was flooding, the pediatric general surgeon raced toward the hospital, mindful that his teenage patient, Jacob Terrazas, could suffer permanent damage if his testicular condition wasn't treated immediately.

When a flooded highway prevented Kimmel's car from going any farther, he joined forces with two volunteer firefighters, armed with a secret weapon: a canoe.


The group paddled down what was, just one week earlier, a crowded highway, and dropped off Kimmel roughly a mile from the hospital. He walked the rest of the way through water that swelled to his waist.

Kimmel with Terrazas and family after the surgery. Photo by Clear Lake Regional Medical Center.

"Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes," Kimmel said in a press release. "This young man’s life would have been changed for the worse forever if we hadn’t been able to perform surgery when we did. In the end, it all turned out very well."

The catastrophic early days of Hurricane Harvey have seen dozens of stories of volunteers from Houston and beyond going to extraordinary lengths to assist their neighbors.

On Monday, over 100 members of the "Cajun Navy," a Louisiana-based group of volunteer rescuers, descended on the city and ferried residents to safety in personal watercraft.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

That same day, a group of Houstonians formed a human chain to rescue a neighbor in labor.

Thanks to Kimmel's long, damp slog, Terrazas' surgery was a success. The 16-year-old is expected to be released from the hospital soon.  

"This has been a long night, but this place is wonderful," Terrazas' mother, Yesenia, said of the hospital and its staff.

She and her son will soon be on their way home with good news. All thanks to one doctor, two seafaring firefighters, and their determination to get the job done.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.