I have known such great men over the years. Most were patients I have cared for. So many of them I met because their wives pushed them in to the office. When they finally got there, they often shared why they were so reluctant to come. Many thought I was just this kid and I had to win their respect with my skill. Once accomplished, they came in and confided in me.
They appeared to be healthy hard-working husbands and fathers. I, unfortunately, diagnosed quite a few with untreated hypertension, cancer and diabetes. It can be the hardest thing a man does when he admits he has an illness. I found what I though was just a cyst on a patient’s back. It turned out to be metastatic kidney cancer. He was so strong through the ordeal. Most concerned about his wonderful wife. She was my patient. It was not a long illness and he had no long battle. We did not have many treatment options.
My favorite couple was one of my most tragic cases. Mr. C ‘s wife had multiple medical problems. Through it all he was there. She developed a blood clot in her leg and then we finally diagnosed cancer of the kidney. We transferred her to the University Hospital but she died during surgery. He was devastated. Every visit was not about his medical problems but about the loss of his wife, soul mate after more than thirty years of being together. He was comfortable enough after all this time to reveal how lost he felt. He was overwhelmed by the advances from women who wanted to take his wife’s place. He was surprised because many of them were her friends. I tried to be helpful and not offend him. I told him he was such a good husband that they wanted to have the same loving relationship. He was not ready. I found myself giving him tips on how to handle these lovely church ladies many of whom I knew because they were patients or I knew them through my work in the community. He would just say “She was a beautiful woman and no one can replace her.”
One of my colleagues, Dr. S, entrusted the care of his beloved wife to me. It was a compliment but I felt I had failed the first time I admitted her to the hospital. I soon learned that he had been taking IV bags on vacations just in case she had a problem. She had decided he needed support. She was devoted to him. She would tell me stories of the old days when doctors lived in the hospital housing. She was a nurse and that is how they met. She held the family together while he was always in the operating room. They lived on what she earned because residents had meager salaries at that time. He was the beloved surgeon. She had managed his office and his life. When she died, I remember telling him to take care of himself. He had retired. His daughter-in-law hugged him and said that was her responsibility now and she was honored to do it. He had been there for everyone. He planned to leave no money for his children and they knew that. He made sure that he and his wife had everything and she enjoyed life. They gave to the community and he would never complain if a patient had no insurance. He left his children more than money, it was a legacy of his hard work and total love and devotion to them and his community.
Mr. A cared for his wife who was disabled and in a wheel chair after having a stroke. He was a devoted caregiver and thankfully he had help from his family, friends and a home health aide. His wife had been a dynamic women and quite fashionable. At each visit, she was dressed in one of her many stylish outfits and always her favorite perfume, jewelry and a hat. When his wife died, I was concerned that he would just give up. I think his friends and family felt the same way. They all came to her funeral and made sure he knew that people loved him. He was showered with requests for him to visit friends and relatives all over the country. Those making the request went one-step further and sent plane tickets. The first few months he traveled. They all managed to keep up their active support for a number of years. He thrived with the attention. His faced glowed with gratitude.
We always think the smoker will get lung cancer. Sometimes, it is the innocent one who spent all those years saying, “Please stop smoking.” Finding out that the lung mass in the non-smoking wife is cancer can be devastating to the family. When that cancer is one typically associated with second-hand smoke exposure, it is especially hard. She died from her cancer. He had to go on and struggle through her loss and unfortunately, emphysema. His daughters took care of him because he was a loving father and husband.
Fathers Day is a time to honor those men who love and support their families. I remember admitting a dad who had developed pertussis (whooping-cough). The Pediatrician admitted the infant daughter. He was so upset that he had been the one to make his child sick. We explained this can happen. Back then it was a few cases and now there are more.
Loving husbands and fathers make a difference during difficult times. My husband spent many days taking our son to the Pediatrician alone for shots. It was difficult for me to get away from my training and later the office. He did the soccer games, tennis lessons and all the homework. He was the Book Fair volunteer; he and another Dad would make sure the kids made smart book choices. He was the chaperone on the school trips. He made all the visits to the orthodontist for braces, found the Barber for the haircuts and scheduled the music lessons. He cooked all our meals and even did the laundry.
Happy Father’s Day!!!!