A celebration of family medicine: How Disney literally saved my life
By Javier “Jake” Margo Jr., MD
A couple of summers ago, on a rare day off, I was working on a detailed email advocating to keep the electricity on for our not-for-profit community center, when my son James, who was 7 at the time, walked into my office — or as my Harry-Potter-centric friends have dubbed it, the “Room of Requirement,” because anything you need can be found there.
He and I were the only two people in the house since my daughter, Ella, was at Girl Scout Camp and my wife, Lisa, was at work. He had given up trying to teach the cats play catch when he walked in, stopped just short of my elbow, stared silently with his big brown eyes, and asked, “Daddy, will you play with me?”
I asked James to give me a few minutes to finish what I was doing, knowing we had to be on the road shortly.
Now I know many of you have received that same question in one way or another. With all the distractions of technology: messaging, voicemails, emails, prior authorizations, prescription refills, and yes, sometimes being creative as to how to pay the bills or meet payroll, it’s so easy to miss those little moments. As family physicians, I think we get to experience or share in more of those moments: invitations to birthdays, weddings, quinceañeras, anniversaries, and even funerals, because we are so integrated into our patients’ lives. Many of our patients are our friends and family.
Many people who undergo a brush with the great beyond say they feel different afterward. They feel changed. They often circle their wagons and spend more time with their family, go on wild adventures, change careers, maybe they go travel the world with their favorite person or people.
I, too, had my own brush with the great beyond just last March, when my family and I spent spring break aboard a Disney cruise ship.
I believe in God. I know many of you do in some way or fashion. And this isn’t going to be a sermon, though I will be sprinkling in a little of my beliefs here and there because “A scout is reverent.” (I am forever and always a Boy Scout.)
What did I want to do after my experience? I wanted to spend time with my family, also with my TAFP family. I really wanted to be at our TAFP Interim Session that April, but I was just starting back on my first full day of work in the emergency department back home in Rio Grande City after having been septic on the high seas three weeks earlier. Actually, I was already septic when I boarded the ship, I just didn’t know it yet.
Now I know we are all doctors, so I won’t go into the details of my exact symptoms, but one of my doctors was so excited about having a possible adult epiglottitis on board the ship that he was literally writing the paper in his head as he examined me.
I’d like to thank Dr. Bart, who first saw me teetering on that exam table on day one in the infirmary, Dr. Angus and Dr. Arnot, along with the entire nursing staff, who brought me back from the brink. What do all these physicians have in common? They are all family doctors.
Why am I proud of that? Because when I am asked what I do for a living, I say I’m a family doctor. I don’t say I work full time in the emergency department, perform operative obstetrics, and the accompanying comprehensive newborn care in a rural hospital on the U.S.-Mexico border while also serving as the team physician for two local high schools. I say I’m a family doctor.
After my little adventure on the high seas, I can truly say I have a little more appreciation of those little moments. I look at them as little blessings from God, or if you will, little reminders of those precious things we often take for granted.
I wanted to be at the TAFP Interim Session because for me, many of those little moments have happened here, in my 21 years of being a part of this great organization. When we get together, we do so much more than sit in committee meetings and attend lectures. We pile into cars to go see a movie. We laugh together over great meals. We share silly jokes and pull silly pranks. We make memorable moments together.
There’s so much more that unites us than divides us. As members of TAFP, we provide a community, one in which you can feel comfortable and welcome, whether you live and work in the Panhandle or the Gulf Coast, West Texas to East Texas, down in the Valley or somewhere in between. As I walk around conference centers and hotels at our meetings, some of the greatest things I see are the random outbursts of hugs as friends reconnect and quickly begin chatting excitedly.
It’s so easy to fall back into our regular patterns of behavior. I know I did after my experience in March. The routine is comforting, often mindless, tapping at a keyboard, lost in the memory of a patient encounter. But let’s try to be present in the moment, to watch for those little precious occurrences that memories are made of.
As Gandalf said to Frodo in J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
I am humbled and honored to serve as TAFP President. I look forward to an adventurous year and I know we’ll make great memories together. And I want to invite you to be a part of this community we share, whether it’s being a mentor to another physician, being a preceptor in the Texas Family Medicine Preceptorship Program, donating to the TAFP Foundation or the TAFPPAC, or whether it’s simply sharing your time with us, your TAFP family.
What will you say, when I ask, with all the enthusiasm and anticipation of a 7-year-old, “Will you come play with me?”