Back in December of 2009 my wife Ann did for me one of those things that wives do for their husbands when the husbands weasel out of doing them for themselves. So there I sat, literally on my 50th birthday, in the waiting room of Lakewood Family Medicine on Detroit Avenue. I had last seen a doctor for a “check-up” when I went off to college in August of 1977. Other than my chronic need to see an ENT because of long-standing issues with my ears, I was able to avoid the practitioners of the healing arts for most of my adult life. And I liked it that way.
Yet, with that intuition that only great wives seem to have, Ann sensed that I wasn’t doing well physically. Our son Kevin had died in April and none of us were doing great emotionally, but Ann was worried that there had been a physical toll that went along with the other difficulties. So, an appointment with Dr. Charles Garven was set, with blood work and a follow-up consult soon afterwards.
I knew that the news would not be great, but I didn’t expect to hear what I heard. My cholesterol levels and blood pressure numbers were really frightening and my weight was high enough for Dr. Garven to sit me down for a discussion of what to do next – and soon, really soon. I asked for some time to work things out before any drastic measures like blood pressure and cholesterol medication (in my mind “old man pills”) became a regular part of my life. He agreed. I had three months to turn things around.
Which I did. Sort of. A little bit.
For three months I ate the kinds of food that my food usually eats. Ann and I went for regular walks in the Metroparks. I lost weight and felt better. I got more blood tests and showed up again at Dr. Garven’s office, and this time I felt like all would be well.
He was happy with my effort and my results, but realizing that I couldn’t sustain the “rabbit food diet” any longer and knowing that my gains, although commendable, didn’t significantly move the needle, he put me on the “old man pills.” Those pills, along with the usual diet and exercise, and regular blood labs and twice yearly appointments with Dr. Garven have, as Ann would say – and not hyperbolically – saved my life.
In my meeting today with Dr. Garven we looked – for the first time ever – at totally clean lab results. Instead of one or two numbers, and different ones each time, being out of whack, not one result triggered a red flag. And, on top of that, I no longer think that the Body Mass Index (BMI) was created by evil, body-shaming ectomorphs. Even by their exacting standards I am now in the “normal weight” category…and without pretending that I’m 6’6”.
All of this makes me, and my family, very happy. And yet, today I am quite sad – for this was my last-ever appointment with Dr. Charles Garven. In several weeks he is retiring from his medical practice – a deserved reward for so many years of service to his patients.
Before seeing him professionally, I was acquainted with him through his two sons, Chad ’03 and Kevin ’08 – both stellar students and excellent young men. Chad is now a physician, while Kevin, after a career in critical care nursing, is presently in medical school himself. What a great tribute to their dad. Should they be the chips off the old block that I assume them to be, then they are and will be to their patients what their dad was to me – a person who, through a very gentle and thoughtful hand, guided me to a level of well-being, both physically and emotionally, that I could only have dreamed of 11 years ago. Dr. Garven wasn’t just my physician; he was, and remains, my friend.
So, thank you, Dr. Charles Garven, M.D., for your work as a true man of Hippocrates, a man who lived up to the Oath, and especially these important lines: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug…If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.” Indeed, may you long experience that joy – for you truly deserve it.