From surgeon to patient: Kansas City man's life and mission plays out in big screen documentary

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - "I'm okay with dying," Jeff Piehler says on film. "I can say that because I am so grateful for what the process has given me."

That's not an outlook many people given a terminal prognosis would have.

"I miss his friendship, I miss him as a companion," said now widow Jean Piehler. "I miss his participation in our children's lives, that's what I miss most."

But, Jean said that perspective on life and death is what her husband Jeff chose to have.

"The message of living life to the fullest and accepting the fact that we are all going to die and given that fact, that you should if possible, maybe not embrace it, because it's a daunting thing, but have the ability to plan ahead, to think about it as a reality, and how do you see your end," she explained.

Part of Jeff's end was to share that message and the last moments of his private life publicly in the documentary Patient, A Surgeon's Journey.

WATCH: The movie trailer

"He gave a lot of thought to the gift of knowing you are going to die, so you enjoy every day," said the director of Patient, A Surgeon's Journey, Aimee Larrabee. 

Larrabee spent months capturing Jeff's story.

"I's truly a gift to families forever to just be able to say, 'wow we watched this family go through this', and there's beauty in this, there's pain in this, but it's incredibly real," Larrabee explained.

While she set out to teach others about his life, she said she's the one who ended up learning.

"It really has changed my perspective," she said. "You put things into perspective and you appreciate the gift of everyday. What I've learned is to enjoy life. To remember that this is a fleeting time here and to tell people how I feel."

It's a message from a man with a big life and not a lot of time to live it. 

"Every life has a story, you have a beginning and an end, What counts is how we live the middle," says Jeff in the documentary.

Patient, A Surgeon's Journey

Tivoli Cinemas
Thurs., Oct. 1
7:30 p.m.
$8.50

After the film, filmmakers, physicians and family members will do a Q and A with the audience.

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Terra Hall can be reached at terra.hall@kshb.com.

You can also follow her on Twitter.

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