One dicey thing about traveling is the time it takes to get a doctor if you become ill or get hurt. Not for presidents, though. Not for me either. Here’s how that goes down. It is yet another facet of friendship. Guifu Wu is a Chinese name. Indeed Guifu Wu is Chinese. In fact, he is one of the top cardioligists in China, despite his youth. Around 2007 he came to Boston to further his expertise at the Beth Israel Hospital. Guifu also wanted to improve his English speaking. We met because I had signed up to teach English as a second language. We became friends. We spoke of many things. He invited me to China. I accepted and together we visited several cities north and south, and east and west. Many adventures! Not enough space to tell them all. Here is one. In Guilin we had unidentified fish one night. Back at the hotel I broke out in a scaly rash. I looked like a fish. “Am I going to die?,” I asked Guifu. “Let’s wait,” he counseled. Sure enough the rash faded in a few hours under Guifu’s watchful eye. A few years later when the misnomered condition called BENIGN prostate hyperplasia, BPH for short, afflicted me. I was counseled to treat it surgically. Hearing a few horror stories about that operation, I sought out Guifu, now back in Guangzhou (formerly Canton) for his advice. “Have the operation,” he advised in no uncertain terms.
So too did two other doctor friends, Dr. Marinos Charalambous from Cyprus, and Dr. Michaela Schneiderbauer from Germany. Earlier I had met Marinos in Boston when he was seeking a residency in the United States despite his medical education at a medical school in Crete with a mediocre reputation. Recognizing his sincerity and strength of character, we quickly became friends. Marinos got that residency on his own, despite advice from foremost doctors here who opined he would not. He invited me to stay in his family home in ancient Cyprus, and then travel together to the vulcanized Greek isle of Santorini, scenic Crete, and Athens of the Acropolis. Great host, great guy, great doctor, who helped me when I took a few falls on that trip. I consulted Marinos when the BPH struck. Like Guifu he said in no uncertain terms, “Have that surgery.”
So did Michaela, the highly thought of surgical oncologist and loyal friend whom I had met while attending a Handel opera in Boston. A lobby chat about music led to a friendship with a wise, medically talented, thoughtful, and athletically gifted person whose close to six foot frame would likely have carried her to tennis fame had she not chosen another career. All three of those folks are youthful, generous, and warm, with whom lasting friendships were formed almost serendipitously with a touch of chutzpah sprinkled in. Did any president ever have such a terrific medical advisory team? What a life!
And who is that great and caring surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who transformed me from a dripping faucet into a firehose? That would be the eminent Dr. Shahin Tabatabaei from Tehran, Iran. In follow up visits Shahin became interested in my literary career, telling me on the last visit as we shook hands, he intended to read my book on baseball and American Jews. Maybe the next trip with a personal doc will be with Shahin to Tehran, where his folks still reside, and with whom I would feel very safe indeed in that distant land.
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