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Doctor, When Was the Last Time You Saw a Doctor?
Nestor A. Ramirez-Lopez, MD
ISMS President
Nestor A. Ramirez, MD, MPH

I want to share with you a short tale, almost like an Aesop's fable, because it has a moral at the end.

Shortly after I was sworn in as ISMS President in April, I began having issues with my left big toe. The toe started turning red, then blue, then black as gangrene set in.

I was admitted to my local hospital, where I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and 90% blockage of flow in my left femoral artery.  For a short time, it seemed like my blood pressure and my blood sugar were racing to see which could stay above 200 longer!

As a physician reading this might guess, my toe was amputated, a stent was placed in the left leg, and insulin, antihypertensives, anticoagulants and severe dietetic restrictions became my new reality.  I'm very fortunate to have access to world-class medical facilities near my home, and extend many thanks to the physicians and support team who helped to stabilize me and guide me toward a new path for personal wellness.

I left the hospital about 2 months ago after a 5-day stay, and it took me a couple of weeks to get back up to speed.  I’m happy to say I’m doing well and making significant progress.

All in all, I have lost thirty-seven pounds (and two ounces from the toe), my pressure is stable, my glucose has not been over 140 for over 1 month, and I am happy that I got a second chance at a full and satisfying life.

As I mentioned above, I’m considering this my own personal fable.  Every fable must also have a moral lesson.  Now for the moral of the story: This happened because I had not taken care of myself, neglected my own symptoms, postponed vacations, worked long hours, and delayed seeing a doctor.

Does any of this sound familiar? Does it remind you of your own personal situation?

We all hear the words "physician burnout" a lot these days, and they often conjure up thoughts of nervous breakdowns and deep depression.  But burnout can take many forms, and avoiding your own basic health and wellness needs is a red flag that should be addressed with urgency. After all, how can we expect our patients to follow our guidance for their health if we are not diligently taking care of ourselves? I know as well as anyone how difficult that can be, so I've include links below to a few resources on physician wellness from our American Medical Association.

I hope that others can learn from my story and avoid losing something much more valuable than a toe. Consider my fable a personal plea: Illinois doctors, PLEASE take care of yourselves! If you neglect your health, you, your family and your patients will suffer much more than if you had worked less, took occasional vacations, and simply enjoyed life.

You may recall from my last column that my motto for my term as president is "ISMS: I Believe."  Those simple words can mean many things.  For me, it helped in my recovery knowing that I am a member of a special vocation.  I believe in ISMS because the doctors of ISMS believe in me and my well-being.  We also believe in you.

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