I met him in 1995, freshly minted from Cuba, I arrived at a Christian run hospital, which was extremely conservative and money oriented and within a week I realized that I will not survive the four weeks I was assigned to be there. Had my friend Dr K had not rescued me, I may have left that hospital, the state where it was located and the country once and for all.
Every time we were together which was very often during that four week stay, others remarked how well we gelled into each others character and that our conversation was spicy with laughter and comments about the world around us, not just the little town or the state or the country but the world!
I went back to Cuba but our friendship continued, and I made every attempt to drive the 100 or so miles from the nearest Indian reservation whenever I had some work to do there. and each and every time without fail it was more laughter.
He is also a rare breed, a genuinely caring physician, who was marginalized by the money hungry doctors of that location so that he could no longer practice in all consciousness within the church run charity hospital. He suffered because of the system is set up in a way that does not reward good people but does those who are capricious and greedy.
But during all those years, he kept up his cheerful visage, i went up with him a couple of times when he indulged in his hobby of flying a single engine plane over the expanses of the land. Soon he couldn't afford that pleasure either.
He is one of the best Family/General Practitioners in that part of the country and soon, someone recognized that and he was able to share his time between caring for patients and teaching and directing Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners.
That is the future of rural health, he told me. PA and FNP would provide care for most people in the rural areas, Family Physicians would be in towns and provide care and supervision and slowly the government would put a barrier to the steep prices charged by the specialists and begin rewarding the front line personnel in the health care of the country.
I look forward to that, and I am in complete agreement.
I arrived on a long flight from Istanbul and then a bumpy small plane ride across the plains where tornadoes were raging. I called him up and he said.. I will be in a town about two hours flying time away, his bride of few months would be waiting for him in a town midway through. So he made plans to meet, at 7 45 pm at the regional airport close to this Indian reservation and from there we would go to the nearest Vietnamese restaurant... because of immigration policies of USA government this desolate town has Sudanese and Vietnamese migrants.. and two Vietnamese restaurants.. no decent newspaper or no bookstore , nothing in the way of art or literature.. but immigrants are brought over here.. what would they be thinking of the new country?
He and his recent bride arrived in a small one engine plane. we drove to the Vietnamese resto and the friendly conversations began full of affection and the understanding that this is a friendship that would last for a long time.. a life time to be exact.
The restaurant closed its door, the owners were waiting for us to leave and we drove back to the airport and soon they were airborne on this full moon lit night towards the west, under clear skies and a slight breeze.
It was such a wonderful evening.
there would be other times, I am sure...
not withstanding the poor service at the Vietnamese restaurant and its grumpy owners..