Spartan Race

Monday, July 19, 2010

In praise of my partners

This is a bit of a departure for me. I'm writing this post that's partially rant and partially high praise. We're going to start with the later. I'd like to talk about a friend of mine, who just happens to be one of my Internal Medicine residents. I'm writing this because I'm proud of him, and because I think he's setting a great example for others. The story started a few years ago, when his brother had an untimely myocardial infarction at the age of 35. Luckily, his brother survived, and is doing well. At that time, though, it made this resident start thinking about his own life. He decided to get in shape, and I he's done a great job of doing it.

Several months ago, I told him that we'd run a 5k together, and he took me up on it. He started running. To date, he's lost about 30 lbs, and he tells me he feels better than he has in quite some time. I got a text from him a few weeks ago telling me that his resting heart rate was in the high 40s and that he was running 6 minute miles, but that at that pace, he had to rest for a few seconds after about a mile and a half. I immediately sent him a text back that said he had eclipsed me, I can't run six minute miles, but that I'd still run in the same 5k with him. A couple of days later, we happened to be on call together the same night. I ran in to him about 1AM, and we started talking about running. I mentioned that he was going a good bit faster than I am right now, and he said that he didn't think that 6 miles per hour was all that fast. At that point, I realized that something had gotten lost in translation...

We haven't run a 5k yet, but he can do it. We're in the process of figuring out exactly which one were going to do. He also doesn't know it yet, but he's going to run a half marathon next spring, because I'm going to badger him into doing it (and he'll be my junior partner by then, which means I'll have some influence). And my hat's off to him. By the same token, my senior partner (who's only my senior by three years) started running a few years ago. He's now got a half marathon under his belt, and he's getting ready to have a second one this fall (he's running the inaugural Disney Wine and Dine Half). I'm very proud of him, too. That means that of my five partners, 3 of us will have at least run a half marathon by the spring of 2011. And I fully realize that I'm putting a lot of pressure on my most junior partner. These two guys, who are much better doctors than I am, have recognized the importance of taking control of their lives and their health. I wouldn't call either of them health nuts, but they are real people with very busy schedules who have made time to exercise and have been very successful. They are role models. No questions asked.

Now, for the rant part of my post. I want to contrast my two partners with something I've witnessed too many times to count. Far too many people are out of shape. I'm not talking about people who have a poor body image, or people who have an increased body mass index. I'm talking about people who are unhealthy. I've run marathons with folks of all sizes and shapes. I remember vividly walking to the start of the Disney Marathon three years ago with a 50 year old man who easily weighed three hundred pounds. Prior to that Sunday event, he had run a 5k on Friday, run the half marathon on Saturday, and was back for the marathon on Sunday. It doesn't matter what anybody says, that man was an athlete. I have the utmost respect for folks who don't have the traditional size or shape of a runner, or weight lifter, or triathlete, but are out there giving it their all. They are the true heroes of any 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon. I'm talking about the folks who are out of shape, doing nothing to change it, and expect the rest of us to adapt to it.

This point was driven home for me by my trip to the grocery store this evening. One of the unfortunate side effects of being an internist is the fact that you can make medical diagnosis in elevators, on buses, or waiting in line at the bank. The women in front of me in line was riding on a scooter. She had lower extremity edema - likely from congestive heart failure. She had a midline scar on her chest, likely a result of bypass surgery. She was complaining of her knee and back pain to the clerk. I'd estimate that she weighed 350lbs. What did she have in her cart? Twinkies, Doritos, full sugar soft drinks, and frozen pizza. And a lot of them. I know it can be very difficult to lose weight and/or get in to shape. I know it isn't easy, but you have to take some responsibility for your own health.

I see a similar phenomenon every time I go to Disney World. Disney has a very appropriate policy of allowing folks with special needs to go to the front of the line for attractions. This policy also extends to the buses to and from hotels. Of course, I have no issue with an individual who has a special need being accommodated on Disney transportation. I support it fully. Far too often, however, I have seen someone who is in a motorized scooter simply because they have too high of a body mass index to actually walk around the park. I've actually seen people misalign their scooters on a ramp, climb off of them, physically pick up a several hundred pound scooter and manipulate it onto a ramp or lift, and then climb back on, all the while smoking a cigarette. A lot of these people jump in front of dozens of others in line because they are supposedly have a special need. Really? This person needs to be moved to the front of the line because they are impaired? Their knees hurt because they weigh too much, so they get special treatment?
On the other hand, I see the 80 year old grandmother wait in line with everybody else. I see the veteran with an artificial limb stand so a young mother holding an infant can sit. I see folks who weigh more and have every bit as much osteoarthritis not get a seat on a bus because a 30 year old with an increased body mass index has decided that they deserve special treatment.

Frankly, I'm tired of it. If you are too heavy to walk around comfortably, I'm fine with you using some sort of a device with a motor to get around a park, but don't expect to be moved to the front of the line because you don't exercise and eat poorly. And by the way, I'm a physician, I understand that some folks have medical problems that prevent them from being able to control their weight. I'm also here to tell you that those folks are the exception and not the rule - and they also tend to be the folks who eat well and exercise to the best of their ability, but just can't make any head way. I'm not talking about these folks. I'm talking about the folks who have a hot pocket in one hand, and ice cream cone in the other, and are driving their Jazzy with their knees.
I'm sympathetic. I know it isn't easy. But get up off the couch. Walk. Take the stairs. Lift weights. Run. Swim. Do something active. Eat better. Sometimes, I'd rather have the Krispy Kreme too, but I conciously try to choose the apple more often than not. Switch to diet drinks. Drink more water. That said, I'm all for personal freedom. If that's the way you want to live your life, fine, but don't expect the rest of us to adapt to your self-caused disabilities. If you change your ways, you'll feel better. You'll live longer. And you'll have a better time. Mu.


  1. Well put Dr. Quack! Excellent post.

  2. Great post! Far too often the "handicapped" are so only by their choice. Plenty of others disregard that designation and lead full, active lives.