Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Urgent message ...

I lost a dear, dear friend this week. He died of congestive heart failure. He was only 61 years old. He was in great physical condition - worked out regularly, took vitamins, drank healthy stuff, had a positive outlook and good humor, as well as a loving family and a very rewarding medical practice.

His only real vice was what killed him. He and I had talked about it several time over the last two years. He had an addiction that, despite his conscientious efforts to keep himself healthy for his family, friends, and patients, was slowly killing him.

It was not an addiction to drugs nor any sort of insidious cancer that took his valued life and deprived his wife, children, and grandchildren of their provider and comfort. No drug stole him from his patients who depended on him to faithfully keep their pain manageable and to keep them alive for their own families.

But his cause of death was a direct result of his addiction, and he freely admitted to me several times that it was bad for him, possibly even killing him. But he could not give it up.

My best friend was addicted to meat and, although as a physician he knew the horrible effects of animal protein and cholesterol on his cardio-vascular system, he could not beat the addiction. I remember him saying, "Yes, Bobby, I know it's bad for me, but I just can't live without my steaks and grilled chicken." And, as of this last Monday, he could not live with them.

His wife is devastated. His daughter is broken hearted that he will not see the birth of her first child in four weeks. His other children are bereft of their father's advice and assistance. Even his dogs, who worshiped him, are torn as they wander from room to room and around the yard, whining as they search for their master.

He had so many plans and projects. He and his wife had booked a long weekend at the beach, just to rest and spend precious time together. His beautiful yard has several just-begun and half-finished landscaping projects around every corner. His very successful medical clinic stands empty, staff and patients reeling from the sudden shock of losing their leader and healer. He had just finished putting together a beautiful solid wood, hand carved bedroom suite for his newest granddaughter to be born next month. He talked to me just weeks ago about looking forward to new Christmas decorations he and his wife were planning.

None of that will happen now.

He was a very good man. So many people say that about so many others that it becomes almost meaningless. But he was a very good man. He laughed a lot. He was almost always smiling. He would call just to say he was praying for me sometimes. He refused to shake hands when he could give a bear hug instead. He remembered details about discussions we'd had years ago and he would ask about those issues I'd forgotten about myself.

He brought his wife flowers every week of the 11 years they were married. He worked diligently at making his marriage happy and secure. He loved her children as much as his own. He left sweet notes for his wife, who now finds them again and weeps over her loss.

He knew meat was killing him but he could not give it up. Meat. Steaks and chops and grilled chicken. It took him away from us.

Please, for your family and your friends, step eating meat - IT WILL KILL YOU!

Bob Collins, STEPcoach