There are times when I look back into the past and think, I couldn’t have done that, could I? Then I realize that, by the grace of God, I did it and survived. Taking a journey back into my past has been good for me. On my journey back in time, I’ve chosen only the best of memories. I’m sure there were some bad ones, but time seems to have erased them.
I’m sitting in my kitchen looking at one of my most prized possessions. On a square piece of marble sits a gold-plated business card that reads:
LAKE ZURICH FAMILY TREATMENT CENTER
STEWART B. SEGL, MD
Mon – Fri 7:70 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sat 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 504 S. Rand Road
Sun 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Lake Zurich, Ill 60047
While it seems impossible, Renee and I did it. Remember, not only did I work those hours in the office, but every day started with hospital rounds and most days ended with the same.
I had a kitchen in the office. I slept on a reclining chair in the X-ray room. Sometimes, I showered in the hospital as I was so tired at the end of evening rounds that I went to sleep in a call room. During the early years, I found time to start a family. Erin, Jeremy and Lisa came along and my life fractured.
Being in the office was never work. Realistically, it was a love affair. I was in my element, with my people. My patients were my life. I had kids pouring in the front door. I did magic and they loved it! I had kids who faked being sick just to see me. I joked around a lot and found that being myself, rather than a doctor caricature, worked.
One of my life-long patients and friend recounted the following story: She was a young, single smoker and I had talked to her multiple time to no avail. Previously, I had shared with her how I quit. I wore shoes with tassels and would sit cross legged and hold the tassel as if it was a cigarette. Finally, I told her, “Look, I don’t care what you hold between your fingers as long as it’s not a cigarette. Play with your buttons, with your pen or boyfriend, just not a cigarette.” She chose the boyfriend option, got rid of the cigarettes and replaced them with a husband and 3 children.
My 3 children lived in Buffalo Grove, not in the office with me. Sure, they dined in the backroom with me, visited for lunch and dinner, but they had a life outside of LZFTC. My love affair with LZFTC started to die. When I was in the office, I wanted to be home. I wanted to spend more time with my kids than with yours.
I had created a monster, and that monster needed to be fed and I was the food. I cut the hours but that did not help. The staff and I just stayed after we locked the front doors, catching up with the backlog of patients waiting in the lobby. I promised the kids I would be home soon only to find them sleeping when I finally got there.
I hired new docs but could never find one I could call partner. One doc wanted me to pay him more than I made. I had some great docs; they were just not as dedicated to patient care as I was.
Not having a schedule was a killer. If the kids had an event I needed and wanted to be at, I couldn’t call my patients and cancel because we saw walk-ins. I started being called away on hospital emergencies. Yep, I’d go to the front desk, tell them that I had to go to Good Shepherd to see a patient, then drive fast to the Buffalo Grove field my kid was playing on or to the auditorium where my kid was in a play or recital.
My love of LZFTC was smothering my family. I opened a home office in the basement. On weekends and after hours, I would see patients in my basement. Sometimes, I’d be dressed in a wet bathing suit. I called it, “Reversed House calls.” As I realized that my house calls were a further intrusion on my families lives, I ditched the home office.
Often, Renee had to be mother and father. She also was office manager, accountant, head chef, shopper and, let’s not forget, wife and lover. She carried much of the burden of my absence. Sometimes, I wonder how much damage I did to all of them by feeding my monster, LZFTC.
Would I do it all over again? I truthfully don’t know. Like the song says, “When are you coming home, dad? I don’t know when, but we’ll have a good time then….” Listen to Harry Chapin sing, “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” It’s a perfect description of my life.
In retrospect, the Parkinson’s came with a blessing. If not for the Parkinson’s, I would still be in the office. I really expected that I would die seeing patients. If I had stayed in the office, I’d be singing the same song, only I’d be singing to my grandchildren. As is, my family has spread out over the East Coast, making spending meaningful time with all of them difficult. And, oh yes, just like the song, they now are busy with their own lives.
Whether they learned from my mistakes or it just worked out that way, they spend far more time with their children. THEY SEEM TO BE HAVING FUN. I asked Renee if we had fun and she didn’t answer me. When she doesn’t answer, the answer is really NO!
Here is today’s joke.
One day, a wife was preparing breakfast for his husband, when he suddenly burst into the kitchen and started instructing her.
“Careful!” he screamed. “I said careful! Oh my god! Put in some butter as well, will you?”
The wife was confused but she did not say anything. But the husband continued his rant, “You never listen to me. We need more butter! And where’s the salt? You never put enough salt!
“Why don’t you listen to me? Turn them. Hurry up! Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind? And where’s the salt? Just put the salt! You always forget them! Salt! Salt!”
Now his wife was really mad at him. She snapped, “What is wrong with you? You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?”
The husband calmly replied, “I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving.”