Social Media Campaign Reunites Man With Childhood Nurse

She's still nursing 42 years later, but she remembers 10-year-old from 1973.

— -- Gary Bentley had open heart surgery when he was only 10 years old.

But it's not the pain, or even the fear he recalls from that hospital stay in 1973.

"There was a nurse when I came out of intensive care," said Bentley of Killen, Alabama. "She was on my floor right after I recovered and she was very sweet to me.

"She brought me little gifts. I don't really remember what they were, but the one thing she brought was a smile and encouraging words everyday. She also played little games with me. I got so attached."

Hospital staff had transferred Bentley from the ICU to another unit.

The now 52-year-old told ABC News he was sad to leave the nurse who originally cared for him post-surgery.

"I tried to go back down to see her, but being a kid, they wouldn't let me," he said. "We took a photo and I carried that picture through three foster homes. It even made it through a house fire."

"I said 'what's the chances of finding her?,' it's been 42 years," he said. "My wife posted it on her page and asked family and friends to share the photos. I was worried that she might not want to be found."

Almost 7,000 shares later, a local news site picked up Bentley's story.

Just two days later, the search for nurse Kathy was over.

"Her daughter emailed us Thursday night and Friday morning we finally made contact," said Bentley. "We met yesterday at a park. She's still the same sweet nurse Kathy I remember from years ago.

"We talked about her family and my family, he said of Kathy, who's still nursing today. "Of course we talked about 42 years ago, we can't believe it went so fast. Looking at the picture brought tears to both of our eyes. She said she was going to keep it on her desk where she would see it everyday. She also said that my family and I made her feel like a princess."

While he said he hasn't had a scare, Bentley continues to see his doctor annually for heart checkups.

In addition, he said that he will forever cherish the moment that him and nurse Kathy reunited.

"She went beyond her job. My dad was a non-functioning alcoholic and when mom left, the state stepped in and took over and me and my siblings away. Nurse Kathy didn't know about my situation or my home life. She could just tell there was a little boy who needed a smile."

Today, Bentley owns his own business breeding turtles in Alabama. He's been married for 34 years and has two children and three grandchildren.