The Magic of Medicine Takes Art and Science

Melanie: I want to pick up our story where we left off in our last post! We talked about your longtime colleague and friend, Dr. Tom Graboys, and his patient Cindy Bremer Smiegal. Dr. Graboys was tragically afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.* He was only 61-years-old when he retired from cardiology in 2005.

Grandpa: Tom was not ready to leave medicine. He felt guilty for abandoning devoted patients. Praise from patients like Cindy and his colleagues poured in from far and wide. A Harvard Law School professor, Philip Heymann, wrote, “I have never dealt with a doctor whose skills, honesty, and considerateness I have admired more.”

Tom was both a dedicated teacher and a mentor to medical students, house staff, and patients. The media turned to him for reliable guidance in health matters. Despite his grave medical condition, he continued to work, ever a source of optimism, always greeting patients with cheer. I have often referred to him as “a jewel in the crown.”

Melanie: I recently called Cindy at home in upstate New York. She has quite the story! Continue reading

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“Life in the Balance:” Tragedy and Redemption

Melanie: It’s been so long since we last posted! I should let our readers know that this was for good reason. The Lown Institute held a successful conference in December that attracted health professionals from all over the world. Your 30-minute keynote speech (complete with an Obama-style teleprompter!) was ‘the’ highlight. And you were interviewed for US News & World Report and a number of other media outlets. How is it possible that you’re busier than me at 92-years-old?

Grandpa: I’ll paraphrase from my speech at the conference. As an old codger who takes a dim view of what is transpiring in medicine and our society, I remain an incorrigible optimist, convinced that change for the better — though not inevitable — is possible. That is what motivates me every day. Continue reading

When the inventor is treated with his own invention

Melanie: Recently, you went to the hospital for a rapid heartbeat. In medical language you were “cardioverted,” a technology you invented more than 50 years ago!

Grandpa: Yes, I was cardioverted twice in close succession. Both times it was for the same heart rhythm disorder — atrial fibrillation.

Melanie: What is atrial fibrillation? Can you explain the concept to someone whose scientific education ended with high school biology? Continue reading

A Hospital with Modern Technology, But No Dental Floss

Melanie: Grandpa, let’s talk about your recent hospitalization. It sounds like quite a stressful experience.

Grandpa: I underwent a successful abdominal operation. The surgeon and surgical staff were first rate. The technology was cutting edge. I was transferred from surgical intensive care to a large private room and was visited by many doctors.

Melanie: So why the stress?

Grandpa: It began with the taking of vital signs. Every four hours, a nurse’s aid took my temperature, blood oxygen concentration, pulse rate and blood pressure. During the seven days I was hospitalized these values didn’t alter a speck. My daily weights were not followed, though a must in post-operative care. Continue reading

The Health Care Crisis Needs Bold Action

Melanie: Our last post focused on the recent op-ed by Dr. Gilbert Welch in the New York Times about overtreatment. After spending a good amount of time with you, Grandpa, I feel like you have more to say.

Grandpa: Melanie, you have imbibed the spirit of a healing physician reading between unspoken lines and sensitive to non-verbal cues.

Melanie: You praised the piece and Dr. Welch’s innovative work. Quite honestly, I thought he made a great case about what’s wrong with our health care system. Continue reading