A goodbye to healers who listened-Squirrel Hill mourns and heals

In early October of 2018 I received an email from a physician I had never met. He had written a book and asked me to read and review it on my blog. I agreed and soon received another email with a PDF copy. I read it and posted a review here.

A couple of weeks later I was horrified by news that another mass shooting had occurred, this time at a synagogue in a community called Squirrel Hill. A few days later, I realized I had seen that name before.

The physician who wrote to me, Dr. Jonathan Weinkle, practices at the Squirrel Hill Health Center. And he is Jewish.

Pitchwerks podcast - #115:Dr. Jonathan Weinkle

Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Squirrel Hill is considered a historic center for Jewish life in Pittsburgh. It is home to more than a quarter of Jewish households in the Pittsburgh-area, according to a Brandeis University study of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community.

I wrote to him and was relieved to learn he was safe. He had attended a Bat Mitzvah there just the week before the attack.

And as I had feared, some of the victims were friends and colleagues.

I’m not going to repeat the details of the horrific event as it was widely reported in the news. Here is a link to a news report.

How a deadly shooting unfolded at the Tree of Life synagogue

One of the victims I had learned about through our professional organization, the American Academy of Family Physicians, AAFP. Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz’s death was reported on the organization’s Facebook page. He was a friend and colleague of Dr. Weinkle.

Also killed was dentist Dr. Rich Gottfried who worked at the Squirrel Hill Health center where Dr. Weinkle practices.

a building with sign-Squirrel Hill Health Center
THE SQUIRREL HILL HEALTH CENTER

Dr. Weinkle eulogizes his friends

Dr. Weinkle wrote reflections about his two friends and colleagues, shared them with me, and graciously consents to my sharing with you.

 

This message was posted on the Squirrel Hill Health Center Facebook page

Dr. Rich Gottfried

The Hebrew letters often hint at a common object: bet hints at bayit, a house.  Gimel hints at gamal, a camel.  And shin?  Why, shen, of course – tooth.

I like to think that the reason for this is that shin, or rather sin, which is the same letter with the dot moved to the other side, is also the first letter in sameach, happy.  And what do we do when we are happy?  We smile and show our teeth.

My colleague Rich Gottfried smiled all the time; as people spoke at his funeral, or around the office this week, almost all took note of his smile.  He was the Hines Ward of dentists, it would seem – always smiling.

Rich brought happiness to people through their own teeth, too.  Poor dentition is a major source of shame for people, afraid to smile or look someone in the eye for fear of having their decayed teeth be the only thing the other person will see.  For a person without dental insurance, or without substantial means, dental work or even preventive care can be prohibitively expensive.  A Hobson’s choice – shame, or bankruptcy?

Rich listened to that struggle.  Even when he was in full time private practice, he blocked off time to do pro bono work for the uninsured .  And as he and his wife Peg Durachko, who was not only his life partner but his dental partner, wound down their practice as they approached retirement, they brought their services to us, at a community health center that treated many people who had never seen a dentist in their lives. 

They overcame the fear that one dental cleaning might lead to all the teeth falling out, and got things set right for the first time ever.  Culturally competent dentistry – now those are healers who listen.

Shin stands for something else, too – Shadai, the almighty God.  It is the letter on every mezuzah on every Jewish door, reminding us that God has our backs, and that we need to refresh ourselves on what God wants from us every time we enter or leave a room.  And for Rich Gottfried, what God wanted from him was to be a blessing to others around him, through his talents in taking care of their shin-ayim.

a Jewish passover seder plate with a lit cancle
photo from the Lightstock.com collection, an affiliate link

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz

“Do not console a person whose deceased relative lies before him” Pirke Avot 4:23

Well, now we have begun to bury them; the time of consolation for the families and community of my murdered friends has begun.  They are no longer lying before us and we must begin to fix their memories in our minds.

Among the dead October 27th were two men who epitomized the title of this site: “Healers who Listen.”  A third still clings to life and with God’s help may recover to help the rest of us heal.  Over the next three days I will remember each of them.

Jerry Rabinowitz was laid to rest yesterday, October 30th.  In the hour before the funeral I was with a friend who told me that Jerry had been his doctor.  With a wry smile, he told me,

“The first time I went to him we were in there for an hour and a half – and the first thirty minutes had nothing to do with my health.” 

He listened to get to know the person sitting in front of him before diving into the rabbit hole of the purely physical.

At the funeral, Jerry’s partner Ken Cieselka spoke of “their finest hour” as a practice – the late 1980s, when they began caring for patients with HIV/AIDS.  The disease was then incurable, and the people suffering from it were then considered by many to be untouchable. 

But not by Jerry and Ken.  They listened to the voice of suffering that no one else would ease, and understood it was their responsibility to do so.

At the synagogue, Jerry heard gunfire.  In that sound, he did not hear a warning to get out.  He heard people being hurt, of people who would need his help. 

There is a Jewish concept that the choleh l’faneinu, the ill person in front of us, should get our attention first.  For Jerry even being aware of that person’s illness or suffering, even in danger, even where he could not see them, put them l’fanav, right in front of him, where he had to help them. 

He listened, and met his end as he lived his life, caring for people.

I assume Jerry did not have a chance to read Healing People, Not Patients; it was only published a month ago and he was as busy as I was.  The truth is that he did not need to read my manifesto of compassionate, personal healing.  He lived it; he could have written it himself.

a male doctor talking to a middle aged woman
Dr. Weinkle with a patient

 

 

 

 

Here are profiles of Dr. Gottfried, Dr. Rabinowitz, and the other nine victims of this attack.

Tree of Life Congregation Shooting Victims

Dr. Weinkle concluded his note to me, writing,

“ The good news is that unlike other pogroms that have afflicted my people over the centuries, this one was carried out by a lone wolf and the majority of our neighbors are on our side, not the side of the perpetrators. There is strength and hope in that beyond measure.”

Visit Dr. Weinkle’s website , Healers Who Listen

sharing the HEART of health

Thank you for joining me to honor Dr. Weinkle’s colleagues. Please share this post and my review of his enlightening book, HEALING PEOPLE, NOT PATIENTS.

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The Point of It All, A NEW BOOK by Dr. Krauthammer

I admired and followed Dr. Charles Krauthammer’s writing and was sad when he passed away this year.

(This post contains affiliate links which, by paying a commission if used for a purchase, help fund this blog. )


Spanning the personal, political and philosophical — including never-before-published speeches and a major new essay about the effect of today’s populist movements on the future of global democracy — this is the most profound book yet by the legendary writer and thinker.

My review of his memoir THINGS THAT MATTER has been one of my most viewed posts. If you haven’t read it I recommend it as well as his newest and unfortunately his last work. I know it’s on my list to read in 2019. 

Matt Winesett offers this review of the new book

Charles Krauthammer’s Uncommon Greatness

In memory of Charles Krauthammer, M.D. 

I don’t remember the first time I read an article by Charles Krauthammer but once I did, I never missed a chance to read more. Dr. Krauthammer recently passed away from cancer and I among many mourn his passing.

His Washington Post syndicated column appeared in my local newspaper on Saturdays;  I would read it aloud at breakfast so my husband and I could discuss it.

DR. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER-IN MEMORIAM-WWW.WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

Invariably, there would be one or two words or phrases we didn’t understand so I would look up the definition- this despite  both of us having graduate degrees.  We were alternately entertained, enlightened, and enthralled by his way with words.

As a physician, I am intrigued and inspired knowing  Dr. Krauthammer completed medical school and residency after and despite sustaining a spinal cord injury which caused quadriplegia (paralysis from the neck down, preventing use of his arms and legs).   (This no doubt made his treatment and recovery from cancer surgery all the more difficult.) 

In his memoir, he explained how a caring professor did whatever it took to help him get through medical school after his injury, including lectures at his bedside while he was still hospitalized.

He did not use “M.D.” or the title “Dr.” after he changed his career from psychiatry to journalism, but I think he should have, he earned it.  He mostly wrote about politics and social issues but occasionally would address medical issues. (These and others in this post are affiliate links to Dr. Krauthammer’s books. )

Here are excerpts from a sampling of his Washington Post columns that discuss medical issues. 

After watching videos in which  The price of fetal parts was discussed over lunch, Dr. Krauthammer wrote

“Abortion critics have long warned that the problem is not only the obvious — what abortion does to the fetus — but also what it does to us. It’s the same kind of desensitization that has occurred in the Netherlands with another mass exercise in life termination: assisted suicide. It began as a way to prevent the suffering of the terminally ill. It has now become so widespread and wanton that one-fifth of all Dutch assisted-suicide patients are euthanized without their explicit consent.

ultrasound image of a 4 month old fetus
a prenatal ultrasonographic image of fetus at the four-month point in its gestation; public domain image used courtesy of the CDC/ Jim Gathany

There is more division about the first trimester because one’s views of the early embryo are largely a matter of belief, often religious belief. One’s view of the later-term fetus, however, is more a matter of what might be called sympathetic identification — seeing the image of a recognizable human infant and, now, hearing from the experts exactly what it takes to “terminate” its existence.

The role of democratic politics is to turn such moral sensibilities into law. This is a moment to press relentlessly for a national ban on late-term abortions.”

After Another massacre, another charade  he said this about guns and laws about them.

gun metal barrel
Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com

“So with the Roseburg massacre in Oregon. Within hours, President Obama takes to the microphones to furiously denounce the National Rifle Association and its ilk for resisting “common-sense gun-safety laws.” His harangue is totally sincere, totally knee-jerk and totally pointless. At the time he delivers it, he — and we — know practically nothing about the shooter, nothing about the weapons, nothing about how they were obtained.

In the final quarter of his presidency, Obama can very well say what he wants. If he believes in Australian-style confiscation — i.e., abolishing the Second Amendment — why not spell it out? Until he does, he should stop demonizing people for not doing what he won’t even propose.”

In this tongue-in-cheek (pardon the pun)  post Food fads: Make mine gluten-full

 he “preaches skepticism” about most current dietary advice.

various types of bread
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Exhibit A for medical skepticism, however, remains vitamin C. When Linus Pauling, Nobel laureate in chemistry (not nutrition), began the vitamin-C megadose fad to fend off all manner of disease, the whole thing struck me as bizarre. Yes, you need some C to prevent scurvy if you’re seven months at sea with Capt. Cook and citrus is nowhere to be found. Otherwise, the megadose is a crock. Evolution is pretty clever. For 2 million years it made sure Homo erectus, neanderthalensis, sapiens, what have you, got his daily dose without having to visit a GNC store.

Sure enough, that fashion came and went. But there are always new windmills to be tilted at. The latest is gluten.

Now, if you suffer from celiac disease, you need a gluten-free diet. How many of us is that? Less than 1 percent. And yet supermarket shelves are groaning with products proclaiming their gluten-freedom. Sales are going through the roof.”

Charles Krauthammer-THINGS THAT MATTER
available as an audiobook from the iTunes Store

I enjoyed listening to  Dr. Krauthammer’s memoir THINGS THAT MATTER: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics  

His book is a collection of  his more memorable opinion pieces as well as a memoir of his life, including medical school, his life-changing injury, psychiatric medical practice, his  journalism career, hobbies (chess and baseball) and life with his family.

According to Amazon-

Now, finally, the best of Krauthammer’s intelligence, erudition and wit are collected in one volume.”

In his last piece for The Washington Post, barely two weeks before his death, Dr. Krauthammer wrote,

“I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”

I am sad he left, but grateful that he shared his “intelligence, erudition, and wit” with the world.  May we all find the loves and endeavors that make life worth living and live intentional lives as well as he did.

Tributes to Dr. Krauthammer, a few of many

from the NATIONAL REVIEWCharles Krauthammer, R.I.P.

from THE NEW YORK TIMES – The Example of Charles Krauthammer

from the WEEKLY STANDARDThe Quick Wit of Charles Krauthammer

Please share this post and share about your recollections of  Dr. Krauthammer’s work.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me. Dr. Aletha

stethoscope with a heart

In Oklahoma, a time to mourn and a time to dance

With  other students from a local  ballroom dance school, I competed in a dance sport competition in Oklahoma City.

An annual event, the Oklahoma Challenge Ballroom Dance competition draws dancers from Oklahoma, surrounding states and as far away as Toronto, Ontario. Many return every year to compete against dancers who have now become dance friends.

The competition occurs at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City and we stay at an adjacent hotel. Nearby is the Bricktown historic district with trendy restaurants, hotels,clubs, shops and the Chesapeake Arena, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

Also not far away is the site of the biggest “challenge” the city and our state has ever faced- the 1995 domestic terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building. On a spring morning in April, a terrorist parked  a rental truck on the street in front of the building; the truck contained a  5000 pound bomb made of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.

A morning of terror

At 9:02 am April 19, 1995 the bomb exploded, destroying one side of the federal building, damaging several adjacent buildings, injuring 680 people and killing 168 people, including 19 children.

Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil; it remains the worst domestic terrorist attack.

A day of remembrance

On April 19, 2000 ,the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated ; the Museum opened a year later.  I have visited several times, and always come away having seen and learned something new. If you ever travel through Oklahoma, I recommend you put this on your must-see list. When you come,  here are some of the images you will see and experience. 

OKC memorial and federal building in the distance

the West Gate of the memorial looking northwest toward the new federal building

Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum entrance

Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum entrance

window at the museum

window from the museum overlooking outdoor memorial


Memorial pool and chairs

168 lighted chairs sit on the south lawn of the Memorial.


gold statue shaped like a chair

There is a gold chair for each person who died from the bombing that day.

A lifetime of honor

In the days ,weeks and months following the attack ,we learned all the details about the bombing- the perpetrators, the victims, the rescuers, the survivors.

168 Oklahomans lost their lives there that day, including 19 children.

My husband and I visited the site after the wreckage was imploded and the site was fenced off. The fence became a makeshift memorial, as people left mementos of all kinds- dolls, stuffed animals, photos, pictures, flowers, crafts, flags, shirts, letters.  

We have visited again since the official memorial  and the museum were established on April 19, 2000. Sections of the fence were left intact, and people still leave mementos; others became part of the museum collection.

2016-03-07 12.05.50 2016-03-07 12.08.17 2016-03-07 12.12.19 2016-03-07 12.11.04

A long section of the original fence has been left intact, as well as parts of the original federal building wall.

sections of damaged wall

sections of damaged wall

Until 9/11, it was the deadliest act of terrorism on United States soil.

"We search for the Truth" written on a wall.

On the wall of the Journal Record Building which was also damaged by the blast; the museum now occupies part of it.

The perpetrators were caught and brought to justice. The driver of the truck was convicted, sentenced to death, and died by execution. The another remains in prison for life.

That day in Oklahoma City showed the best  in our state and our country as people, some with no training , risked their lives to help rescue people who were injured and trapped inside. Firefighters and police came from all over the United States to help. People donated food and first aid supplies.

children and adults visiting a wall decorated with handprints

Schools regularly bring students to visit the memorial and museum

colorful hand painted tiles from children

Tiles hand painted by children were sent to the city as a show of support and sympathy.


bright colored flowers along a wall

Pansies are popular in Oklahoma in the fall and spring.

I was proud to be an Oklahoman then and now, and still grieve for the lives we lost that day.

The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree, an American elm, survived the blast and is part of the Memorial.

 

statue of Christ with head bowed

statue of a grieving Christ, in the courtyard of a church across the street from the memorial

 

There is

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Ecclesiastes 3:4, ESV 

Remarks made by Governor Frank Keating at the Memorial Dedication , April 19, 2000

“We remember that moment that is framed forever by these twin gates. Our place of remembrance is filled with those symbols (ribbons, angels, flags) and also filled with love-the love of countless Americans whose ideas and support and contributions helped create this beautiful memorial.

On April 19 five years ago the flag of our nation was flying over the Murrah building. It is flying over our memorial today, and flies proudly in our hearts.

For those who perpetrated this act, we have one message:

In America you can speak and vote and complain, but there is no right to maim and bomb and kill…and if you think you’ll bring that flag down, there is your answer.

We are all Oklahomans today, and we are all Americans. May God continue to bless our beloved land. “

quote from The Official Record of the Oklahoma City Bombing, published by Oklahoma Today Magazine 

In a previous post, I shared how that day unfolded for me.

I will never forget the Oklahoma City bombing.

remembering the heart of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

Remembering the Oklahoma City bombing- Tuesday Travels

 

April 19  is the anniversary of the 1995 bombing  of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which remains the deadliest domestic “homegrown” terrorist incident in the United States.

I lived there in the 1970s while in medical school and residency at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and visit frequently. These are my memories of that day.

“I will never forget the Oklahoma City bombing”

On April 19, 1995 I was seeing patients in my family practice office  in Tulsa Oklahoma when my medical assistant  told me a bomb had exploded in Oklahoma City, 90 miles away. We didn’t have computers, smartphones or internet so I turned on a radio and heard news reports that shocked and saddened me.

A massive bomb had exploded at the Federal building in downtown Oklahoma City , something I thought only happened overseas. Who would bomb a building in Oklahoma?  we all asked ourselves. Several employees heard from friends or relatives who lived in or near OKC, as we call it; some said they felt their homes shake several miles away from the blast site.

Oklahoma mural

A mural representing Oklahoma culture decorates downtown Oklahoma City today

 

 

 

 

As I drove home from work that afternoon I encountered a traffic jam on a usually easy drive; I assumed a car wreck was  tying up traffic. Instead,  cars of people  trying to get into the local Red Cross blood donation facility created the backup; when I finally drove past I saw a long line of people waiting to enter.

I picked up my 10 year old son from school and realized the teachers had not told the students . I explained to him what had happened , as well as you can explain something so horrible to a child.

He looked at me and said, ” Mom, the 5th graders went to Oklahoma City today.” I remembered seeing the charter bus parked at the school that morning for the annual field trip to the science museum in OKC. Since I knew the museum was not downtown, I assured him the children from his school were safe.

Bricktown in Oklahoma City

Bricktown area of OKC with Cox Convention Center and Devon Energy Center tower behind

 

Chesapeake Arena

Chesapeake Arena, home of our popular Thunder Basketball team

 

 

They next morning as usual I turned on the television to watch the morning news while I dressed for work. I can’t believe now that I wondered if there would be any news of the bombing on national television; it had dominated our local news the evening before.

I turned to the Today show and found that it was broadcasting from OKC, as were all the major networks ,and devoted the entire broadcast to the bombing. I think that was my first inkling what a momentous event it was.

They interviewed a doctor from St Anthony Hospital, just down the street from the Murrah Building- he was one of my medical school professors, the first time someone I knew personally was on national television.

 

window at the museum

window from the museum overlooking outdoor memorial

Memorial pool and chairs

Field of Empty Chairs beside the Reflecting Pool – Each gold chair represents a deceased victim.

 

 

In the following days, weeks and months we learned all the details about the bombing- the perpetrators, the victims, the rescuers, the survivors.

168 Oklahomans lost their lives there that day, including 19 children.

 

My husband and I visited the site after the wreckage was imploded, when the site was fenced off.  The fence became a makeshift memorial, as people left mementos of all kinds- dolls, stuffed animals, photos, pictures, flowers, crafts, flags, shirts, letters.  We have visited again since the official memorial  and the museum were established on April 19, 2000.

 

 

 

 

2016-03-07 12.05.50 2016-03-07 12.08.17 2016-03-07 12.12.19 2016-03-07 12.11.04

 

a long section of the original fence has been left intact, as well as parts of the original federal building wall.

 

sections of damaged wall sections of damaged wall

 

 

 

Until 9/11, it was the deadliest act of terrorism on United States soil.

 

OKC memorial and federal building in the distance

The West Gate of Time. the Reflecting Pool  and looking  northwest toward the new federal building in the distance

 

 

That day in Oklahoma City showed the best  in our state and our country as people, some with no training , risked their lives to help rescue people who were injured and trapped inside. Firefighters and police came from all over the United States to help. People donated food and first aid supplies.

 

children and adults visiting a wall decorated with handprints

Schools regularly bring students to visit the memorial and museum; these are visiting the children’s area

 

colorful hand painted tiles from children

Tiles hand painted by children were sent to the city as a show of support and sympathy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was proud to be an Oklahoman then and now, and still grieve for the lives we lost that day.

The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree, an American Elm, survived the blast

 

a video remembrance:

20 years later: Remembering Oklahoma City

 

"We search for the Truth" written on a wall.

On the wall of the Journal Record Building which was also damaged by the blast; the museum now occupies part of it.

 

statue of Christ with head bowed

statue of a grieving Christ, in the courtyard of a church across the street from the memorial

 

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is privately funded. The memorial is free and open to the public. An admission is charged to tour the museum. According to the website-

 

“The Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) organization which owns and operates the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The Foundation is the caretaker of both the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and the Memorial Museum. It does not receive any annual operating funds from the federal, state or local government. Museum admissions, store sales, the Memorial Marathon, private fundraising and earnings from an endowment allow the Memorial and Museum to be self-sustaining.”

Thank you for joining me to remember and honor those injured and killed in the Murrah Building and the heroes who rescued them.

                                               Dr.Aletha