DR. PATCH ADAMS: “One can never promise to cure; one can promise to care 100%.”
I have been working on two boxing stories simultaneous: Magomed Abdusalamov vs. Irish Mike Perez and Prichard Colon vs. Terrel Williams. Both would tragically be the final bout for a talented pugilist. Ignored by the boxing community are the true heroes of these bouts which are the Emergency Room doctors and staff who must be prepared for a battered pugilist requiring immediate care. Usually, Emergency Room doctors receive an Evander Holyfield and/or Dwight Muhammad Qawi, who have spent 15-rounds trying to furiously punish the other, so must quickly tend severe dehydration, broken bones, cuts/bruises and then safely transfer them from emergency status onto stable condition. Emergency Room doctors may or may not like boxing – agree or disagree with its legality – but are expected by boxing fans to be detached professionals who perform miracles. This story is about an Emergency Room doctor in Rize, Turkey and her dream passing specialization exam to become pediatrician, a Russian immigrant to United States, a Cuban defector living in Ireland and a famous American doctor who wants people to know they rarely provide medicine which cannot be duplicated by every day, compassionate individuals.
DR. CEREN SULTAN ALTAY: “I’m at my obligatory medical service in Rize (Turkey). Rize is in Karadeniz and between the Black sea and mountains geographically. Very beautiful place. I’m working every day and it’s hard to work every day…. At hospital, we work so hard. Yet, guess what I decided to do? Staying here, earning money at the same time and also studying for the (specialization) exam again – you know we never quit. You must see the patients here. I work at Emergency Room, but 80% of the patients are not emergency situations. Some of them come and say, ‘The child clinic is full of patients and I couldn’t get the number because of fullness. Could you please send us at emergency situation?’ I say, ‘No, because there is a limit for emergency situations. I can send to doctor directly from ER and you are definitely in emergency situation.’ People think they can make us do what they say. Some of them go mad at me because I have just 3-minutes for a patient, but they always expect for a very detailed physical examination. This is IMPOSSIBLE. Just 20% of patients are myocardial infarction, acute abdomen, etc. People always fight in front of the door and open the door and yell at me. They are really crazy…. I think I should get used to study permanently. I just feel lonely in Rize where I work but you always make me happy anyway…. I think I am in depression for a while. I don’t want to study again. Every day I try harder, but it’s really hard to concentrate on it again. Help me.”
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Dr. PATCH ADAMS: “I’ve never made a penny being a doctor, so that makes it not my job. My sense of a doctor is that one is a presence caring for health – so I’m never not a doctor.”
Ceren loved the 1998 movie, “Patch Adams”, starring Academy Award winner, Robin Williams. At the time of her first viewing, she was a Yeditepe University medical student. The movie focused on Patch’s life as medical student. The movie reached her heart. Medicine is serious life-or-death business, but Ceren had wondered whether the sternness, cruelty, petty political power-hungry infighting was truly necessary. The movie said it is okay for doctors to laugh and make others laugh. The movie said that doctor’s care is not an esoteric concept, but medicine in itself. I began to call her ‘Patch Adams Altay’ because she swore to one day change medicine in Muslim culture – and in particular, Turkey – forever. We had the greatest ideas for her work at Teddy Bear Hospital. She would dress as Wicked Witch from her favorite childhood book, “Wizard of Oz”, as doctor visiting children. The kids would be scared and then Ceren would explain – just as actress Margaret Hamilton once did on American television kid’s show “Mister Rogers” – that even witches are people – so she could understand children are afraid of doctors just like witches – but Wicked Witch and doctors are human beings. Or – even better – Ceren would dress as Santa Claus near Christmas time and pass out presents to kids at hospital. This was before we learned Patch once dress as Santa Claus, too. Well, of course, some medical people in Turkey thought this was brilliant but larger power insisted she was not serious as doctor – while conscious of any budgeted money/credit for someone else – nixed her ambition.
Ceren’s charisma was enough to become President of European Medical Students Association. Europe refuses to allow Turkey into its collective monetary union. Fortunately, the younger medical Europeans do not believe hatred against Muslims is justifiable. Ceren is as Muslim as I am Catholic. We were born to something we refused to reject. She rarely attends Mosque. I rarely attend church. She has read the Qur’an – and I have read the bible – but neither of us believes religious faith is about rejecting others. We embrace there were those before us with wisdom. Both books revere Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus, except one book views Him as Prophet and other as Messiah. Ceren and I eat when our religion says it’s wrong, but neither of us believes this has anything to do with morals.
Through the years, I had never seen the movie which so influenced her life. One day, I saw “Patch Adams” video at the 27th Avenue and Glendale Walgreens bargain bin for $5. I purchased it. I tried to have an open mind. The movie was tremendous financial success but American critics despised it. The two most influential movie critics in USA – Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (based from Chicago) – gave the movie “thumbs down”. They not only disliked movie, but hated with intensity. Siskel & Ebert were in agreement it was worst movie of 1998. Roger Ebert wrote several books amongst two were named, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie and Your Movie Sucks. I didn’t care. So I watched the movie only to enjoy Ceren’s enjoyment. I liked it! Especially, I was mesmerized by the tense scene when the late-Academy Award winner, Philip Seymour Kaufman scolds Robin Williams (Patch) for not being serious while Williams wonders whether distanced, rude, cold-hearted emotions is only approach to being doctor. I have habit of viewing credits upon movie’s conclusion. At the very end, I noticed attribution for Mike Farrell and Barry Kemp. I knew this was the actor from “M*A*S*H” because not only is it one of my favorite television shows, but I love “Coach” (The Day I Met Frank Gifford) and knew Barry Kemp was its creator. The lead actress of “Coach” is married to Mike Farrell and he had appeared in an episode. Because of my affection for “M*A*S*H” (Ain’t Love Grand), I knew Farrell enjoys interacting with fans, “Just call me Mike,” but I don’t write celebrities. I joke to friends that I’ve spent more of my life in fictional Korea, circa 1951-52, than real-life 21st century, USA.
In August, 2014, comedian/actor Robin Williams committed suicide. The following day was one of remembrance. I had read Mike Farrell’s memoir years earlier during two-hour session while waiting for public Phoenix library computer. I liked his bitter memories as volunteer United States Marine, but could not remember what he wrote about the movie he co-produced. I searched the internet locating the book. I was saddened that Farrell was so angrily disappointed that the movie he dreamed would inspire others was ruined by its writing and horrible director. The director worked with comedian Jim Carrey on financial-hits “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Liar Liar”. Farrell had not envisioned an OUTRAGEOUS, slapstick comedy specialist (attorney Jim Carrey once beating himself senseless in bathroom with toilet seat telling shocked stranger who enters, “Do you mind? I’m kicking my ass!”) as correct choice for personal story about his serious, non-fictional friend.
Actor Mike Farrell describes Patch Adams (whom he and his wife met and bonded during a two-week visit to Russia): “The army brat, the child of a distant father, the gangly loner and science nerd who had no friends and lost the one adult who believed in him to suicide, the young man who teetered on self-destruction, committing himself to a mental institution as a last hope, had finally through the force of a singular will, turned his life into a whacky ode to joy.”
DR. PATCH ADAMS (the real one – not the movie): “The role of a clown and a physician are the same; it’s to elevate the positive and relieve suffering.”
Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Ebert, beyond naming the movie worst of 1998 wrote that if Patch were his doctor and entered hospital room wearing red-rubber nose while tap-dancing with bed pans he’d telephone police department. So I wrote the horrified Mike Farrell, remembering the “M*A*S*H” home-made martini, toast scene by fictional Doctor Benjamin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce (Private Finance): “Eddie – wherever you are – whether you know it or not – you did good.” I wrote ‘Mike’ that even though he feels the movie a failure it changed one woman’s life. There is Muslim woman in Turkey told by conservative men not to educate herself and instead should subserviently raise babies. I wrote she is medical student whose movie experience offered hope while changing her vision. She vows one day to make ‘clowning’ – or at least positive medicine and making others smile/laugh – part of her medical arsenal. I basically wrote, “Mike Farrell – wherever you are – whether you know it or not – you did good.” I received the following response:
“Thanks, Mr. Shelton,
My dissatisfaction with the film has nothing to do with Robin (Williams); it was a result of the fact that the director turned it into a rather shallow comedy instead of the meaningful piece my partner and I wanted to do about my friend, Patch Adams, who was so much more than they were willing to portray. The fact that your friend (Ceren) was impacted in the way she practices medicine is a tribute both to the spirit of Patch Adams that did come through and to Robin’s skill in conveying more than the director was capable of understanding. I’ll copy Patch here. Thanks for writing. Best,
Ceren was a ‘star’ medical student. Maybe this is an area actors Mike Farrell and Alan Alda – or Larry Linville (fictional evil 1950’s Army doctor, Frank Burns) knew more that success can overwhelm someone. Ceren would learn guitar from one of Turkey’s most famous heavy-metal musicians – ride horses – learn tango dancing – attempt to learn sign language – Doctor’s Without Border’s volunteer – vocal interpreter of Sebnem Ferah songs – altering Turkey/Israel suspicious relations with impassioned compassion – part of Turkey’s national paintball championship – offering inspiring English-language medical speeches in Amsterdam – that maybe she lost focus. Following her graduation after 7-years medical school she shockingly failed specialization exam to become pediatrician. Suddenly, the girl who believed Muslim women could accomplish ANYTHING lost all confidence. I tried to write her, “You should see my Catholic life of screwing up and trying to stand again and then you have a story. There would be no Catholic ‘confession’ if life were an easy road. Allah or Jesus or whoever wanted this for you. Your future can be AMAZING but only if every Muslim girl thinks she’s better than you. They learn pain – and then respect you. You dreamed too hard. You dreamed too much. There isn’t Muslim girl on Earth who doesn’t respect you for this.” Her mother, brother, sister and I could love and be proud whether she is pediatrician or ER doctor but could not raise her spirits. I knew only one person could help. I retrieved Mike Farrell’s message to locate e-mail address for Patch Adams. His assistant wrote that Patch never reads electronic messages but reads all paper mail. I wrote Patch about Ceren’s situation. From what I had learned about Patch, I thought he’d be impressed by Ceren’s revolutionary vision by risking everything being tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and water-cannoned by Turkish police protesting government desire to destroy Gezi Park’s trees at Taksim Square multiple times during June, 2013. I enclosed S.A.S.E. (self-addressed stamped envelope) to make it easier – and hoped. It was near Christmas and wondered are there truly miracles. On December 15th in my Phoenix, Arizona mail was package – not letter – from Urbana, Illinois.
Your friend Christopher wrote me about you – said you loved our work. So I send a position paper and my two books (House Calls was translated into Turkish) – feel free to exchange ideas. Don’t worry – you will pass the exams. I’m cheering you on. The world is in sad trouble – it is time for all of us to be perfect. Your new friend,
Patch included a form letter involving his recent adventure involving positive medicine. He visited Ecuador to meet several ill patients which included a 5 year-old girl who was victim of rape. The little girl no longer communicated with people. Patch wrote, “There was no light in her eyes.” Doctors were ready to surrender hope. Patch held the girl’s hand for two hours. He spoke to her although she would not be able to understand. Then he lay on the ground next to her. After a while doctors were astonished, “She is moving.” Patch had to leave Ecuador to visit other ill patients around the world. Doctors in Ecuador wrote that the girl now smiles, speaks again and attends school. They had never been taught positive medicine but had become converts.
Before sending the entire package to Rize, Turkey which would take several weeks my brother scanned the notes (on Christmas day) and personal dedication Patch wrote to Ceren for each book. This was her response, “Oh my God Chriiiiiis!!! You are the best friend on the Earth!!! Oh my God!! You made me sooooo happy. Now, I feel more passionate thanks to you and Patch. I gained all my passion again. Just right now!!!
I feel I can save the children again. I was like that (Ecuadorian) girl. There was no light in my eyes too. All my hopes were dead, but now they’ve reborn! You made it! Oh my God, I’m so excited to study and work again!”
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November 2nd, 2013 – Magomed Abdusalamov (18-0-0, 18 KO’s) vs. Irish Mike Perez (19-0-0, 12 KO’s).
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City. Mago is 32 years-old and weighs approximately 231 pounds. Mike Perez is 28 years-old and weighs approximately 235 pounds. Mago has 2 ½ inch reach advantage. It is interesting and unusual that both heavyweights are Southpaws. It is scheduled for 10-rounds but no one believes it can go the distance.
Ringmaster, Michael Buffer: “Two undefeated warriors. Somebody’s 0 (“oh”) has got to go!!!”
ROUND 1: A heavy-punching round. Perez is off to a fast hard by landing immediate. Mago lands a couple hard punches midway through the round. Perez receives a warning by referee Benji Estevez for low blow, and later landed another, but his extensive Cuban amateur experience (more than 300 bouts) seems to make him more instinctive. Mago appears to plod and ‘think’ while Perez reacts. The superior boxing, along with hand-speed and punching power of Perez easily dominates and wins the round.
Most telling, and it would be life-threatening and ultimately career altering, was following the round. Mago worries he has a broken nose. His corner doesn’t appear particularly concerned. The blow was an illegal (though accidental) forearm by Perez to the face of Mago. The announcers do not notice the forearm and just assume it was a legal punch which caused the damage. Had referee Estevez noticed he could have stopped the bout and declared No Contest.
ROUND 2: Roy Jones continues his astute comments regarding Perez’ Cuban boxing background: “What we’re seeing is Cuban amateur boxing elevated to the professional level.” He appears to notice a potential mismatch which no one else realizes. The pugilists continue to exchange heavy punches. Perez appears to tire midway through the round. Mago appears fresher. Perez has landed more efficient on offense while aiming at head and body. His defense has been superior. Mago is purely an offensive pugilist mostly aiming – and often landing to head. It is an action-packed, exciting round. Jim Lampley mentions Mago has broken nose before the conclusion of round. I would give Mago the round scoring the bout 19-19 thus far.
ROUND 3: Perez is backing and boxing more. Mago steps forward throwing punches. Perez is given another warning by referee Estevez for low blow. Jim Lampley, “Just to be clear. We are not doctor’s so cannot confirm a broken nose. (Mago) thinks he has a broken nose; and it looks like he’s got a broken nose.” Perez probably knows Mago has a broken facial bone. The only people who don’t seem to notice or care are the doctors. Perez backs only slightly with superior defense, hand speed and body movement. He seems content to locate an opening for punches to Mago’s nose. They return to exchanging punches. Mago’s punching power appears to be superior. Perez, with a weight advantage although arm and reach disadvantage, begins to bull in closer which is what his corner had suggested. He forces Mago backward with physicality. Perez forces Mago onto ropes. Both pugilists continue to throw non-stop punches. It is another great round which is extremely close. My scorecard would read 28-28 while Harold Lederman has 29-28 for Perez.
Sort of combining the announcer’s thoughts out of order, Harold Lederman says of Mago, “He’s a guy who swings for the fences with every shot he throws.” Jim Lampley observes, “He (Mago) may not have fought someone with Mike Perez’ chin before. He’s not used to someone who doesn’t easily go down.”
ROUND 4: A slightly slower paced round. Both continue stepping forward. Perez does not throw as many punches. Mago lands more frequent with harder punches. I would give him the round and 39-38 lead. Harold Lederman’s card reads 38-38. Mago’s growing dominance could be a bit misleading. Perez likely intentionally slowed the pace wanting the fight to go deeper. When the 5th round is mid-action – which appears will occur – it will be the 7th time for Perez in his professional career to be at that stage of bout. It will be the 1st time for Mago.
ROUND 5: Perez is stepping forward while Mago backs. Mago’s punch-count is slowing down. Jim Lampley suggests Mago is tiring. Roy Jones disagrees and feels it’s resulting from a couple of Perez right-hooks landed early in this round. Perez appears to be picking off his opponent more-so as the round continues. Everyone comments on a see-saw battle of two heavyweights with such different background and style. Perez has won the two most dominating rounds – the 1st and 5th – but my scorecard would read 48-48 while Lederman’s card would be 48-47 for Perez.
But I agree that Perez has an advantage. His game opponent is fighting with broken facial-bone. Perez, not just in his professional but amateur career has much more experience fighting into later rounds. The bout is only half over – assuming it goes the distance – while the wounded professional Mago has never been this far before.
ROUND 6: Mago begins the round aggressive. The left side of his face is becoming increasingly swollen. Jim Lampley, “By the way his face is swelling I am wondering if it was the orbital bone which was broken instead of the nose.” The pace has slowed with Perez appearing to be patient. That all the announcers are concentrating on Mago’s physical condition and whatever happened in the 1st round suggests something ominous. Jim Lampley, “It could be the orbital bone – it could be the cheek bone – it could be the jaw. It could be anything. But it’s on the right (sic) side of (Mago’s) face and it’s beginning to distort him in a way which he suggests there must be some big pain there.” Roy Jones Jr., “Yea, there’s definite pain. But he’s not showing any at all. I’ll tell you what; he just landed another big uppercut on Mike Perez and Perez doesn’t even pay attention.” With more than a minute remaining the outcome seems no longer in question. Max Kellerman: “I’ll tell you what. The story of this fight is that (Mago) is taking a beating.”
Yet it remains a close bout in points. Mago and Perez both show heart. The key with the announcer comments is the doctors should be having a closer look at what happened to Mago in the 1st round. There are four doctors for this bout. They don’t need all four viewing live action. They are not supposed to be boxing ‘fans’ – but professional medical personnel employed to protect the pugilists. HBO could provide access to video of previous rounds – in particular the 1st round. These doctors are not hired to enjoy the bout. They are hired to work.
Perez feels confident that he controls the bout. Perez wants to take the fight deeper while continuing his dominance with 10-9 rounds. My scorecard is 58-57 for Perez while Lederman’s card would read 58-56 for Perez. Mago sits down following the round which is unusual for him. He asks (in Russian), “Is the side of my face swollen? It feels swollen.” Jim Lampley notes that Mago attempts to close his mouth with glove, but is unable.
ROUND 7: Mago begins the round aggressive. Perez is backed onto ropes with Mago landing punches. Perez slips from ropes and begins throwing more punches. It is an unusual mix of combinations, jabs, right hook sort of looping to face. Perez is throwing anything to get inside the larger man. Max Kellerman suggests Mago could still win by knockout but that his corner should consider stopping the bout: “He has taken a brutal beating the last two rounds.” Roy Jones concurs, “Now he’s got a bad cut above his left eye that’s bleeding into his left eye…. He’s taken a bad beating” Perez controls with patience. They both remain fairly aggressive, but Perez is picking off his man methodically.
The bout has the feel of being terrific for 4-rounds. But the medical situation of Mago looms larger the past 3-rounds. The television announcers deserve much credit for prioritizing. Often, with big bouts, the undercard receives less attention from everyone involved. These announcers have been alert, astute and fair with their observations. Jim Lampley, “(Mago’s) never been cut before; now he’s cut for the first time. That’s another thing to go with his obvious preoccupation with the swelling on the left side of his face.” Perez continues to patiently locate an opening in Mago’s defense and push a quick, landing jab to facial wound.
The attention shifts to talent of Cuban boxers so unfairly kept from world glory due to Fidel Castro and embargo with United States. Again, sort of lost with the extent of Mago’s injuries is the deserving Irish Mike Perez – both as boxer and slugger – so prepared and experienced by displaying tour-de-force performance. But the bout has stopped being the forefront of proceedings. Perez continues to add control and dominance. Toward the end of round, Mago lands a couple hard shots to head. Perez sticks his tongue out sort of petulantly.
My scorecard would read 68-66 for Perez while Lederman’s card reads 68-65 for Perez. The reason the judging numbers remain important – so trivial in retrospect – is the bout remains close enough so that Mago’s corner won’t concede. In hindsight, this would be a terrible decision. Two ring doctors have finally shown concern for Mago’s condition following the round. Mike Perez would state later that he felt the bout should have been stopped. He HOPED it would be stopped! But he incredulously looked at the ring doctors, referee Estevez and Mago’s corner that refused to stop the bout stop so he had no choice, but to continue fighting. Just like Mago, he has three daughters to support and needs the paycheck. Boxing – and giving this Russian opponent a beating – is his job!
ROUND 8: The misleading bout continues with both boxers being aggressive while throwing punches to begin round. The HBO announcers mention Mago has bigger hands and head than almost any heavyweight ever seen. Roy Jones Jr.: “You can’t take nothing away from Mike Perez either, because we didn’t expect him to be able to come in here and go toe-to-toe with this hard punching animal.” Mago continues to do enough by landing hard punches and not back away so that talk of stopping the bout lessens. Both boxers display tremendous heart and courage. Were it not for the outcome this would be remembered as one of the greatest heavyweight bouts. Both throw and land BRUTAL punches at ferocious rate while continuing to deny their obvious fatigue. Mago lands three-punch combination with seconds remaining. It is Perez’ round, though.
Should the bout be stopped? Both Harold Lederman and I would give Perez a nearly insurmountable (short of knockdowns) lead. My card would read 78-75 for Perez; his 78-74 for Perez. Mago is still landing hard punches but Perez does not appear close to be knocked down or out.
ROUND 9: Mago begins the round aggressive. Perez lands another low blow. Referee Estevez calls “time” to halt the bout. He gives Perez a deserved one-point deduction for ignoring two previous warnings. Mago continues to be game but Perez now appears to be landing the harder punches. He pushes Mago backward. Perez remains simultaneous aggressive and patient. He knows bout is his to win if he continues the same methodic dominance. Mago has the look of a defeated boxer – not a quitter – but that he is behind with time dwindling. He also attempts to hide his excruciating physical pain. But then Mago suddenly rejuvenates by landing hard punches. Perez refuses to back down or acknowledge his own pain. They continue mutually landing hard punches until the bell sounds. Harold Lederman gives Mago a 10-8 round.
ROUND 10: Mago steps out aggressive while throwing punches. Perez is backed onto ropes. Perez slips ropes and throws punches. Both continue to land. Every attempt by Mago to regain control is immediately squashed by Perez. With a little over a minute remaining Mago continues to land hard shots. Perez seizes an opening with a hard-right jab punch which appears to nearly knock Mago down. Mago is slightly wobbled. Perez follows-up with jabs. Perez backs Mago away with jabs and occasional hook which misses its mark. Perez has Mago bulled backward. Referee Estevez shouts a warning at Perez not to push Mago’s head down. Perez believes his man is in trouble so steps forward a bit too aggressive. Mago responds by landing with less than 30-seconds remaining which opens a cut over Perez’ left eye. Both continue to stand toe-to-toe exchanging punches as the bout concludes with only the final seconds finding both boxers unable to overcome their fatigue.
Two of the three judges rule that Perez has won 7-10 rounds with a one-point deduction. The other judge rules the bout even after 9 rounds, but gave Perez the 10th for a unanimous decision.
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The couple of hours following the bout are controversial with everyone passing the buck in the ‘blame-game’ – except those who insist no one is to blame: it’s boxing and the athletes are aware of danger before they participate. What is clear is that Mago needed to be immediately transferred to the Emergency Room by one of two ambulances waiting outside Madison Square Garden. By any account, both boxers were involved in one of the hardest-hitting bouts in heavyweight history. Both boxers received more head blows than a typical 10-round bout. Why not transfer both boxers via ambulance to the hospital to be checked by neurologist? The Garden’s doctor checked Mago and declared him non-emergency safe. He told Mago’s handlers to have a personal physician look at him in 1-2 days when they return to Florida. The urine sample Mago provides shows blood. Mago’s situation quickly deteriorates backstage. The ambulances were gone so a taxi was hailed which took 15-20 minutes because no one would stop for them. When they finally were inside a taxi (“Take us to the nearest hospital”) it becomes stalled in traffic. Emergency Room workers lost valuable time in what has become a life-or-death situation.
Mago’s final hour or so of ‘normalcy’ as he had known prior was much pain from his swelled face. He has a broken left hand, broken jaw and cut over his left eye. The pain is due to his brain forced against the skull. The brain is bleeding. Mago’s speech is impaired but he could still speak. He is handed a check for $30,000. He vomits. The pain increases as he began stumbling with difficulty standing or walking.
Dr. Rupendra Swarup of Roosevelt Hospital has become the doctor in charge of Mago’s emergency care. The Emergency Room workers are the unsung heroes of boxing. When they save a boxer’s life or revive to 100% health it is not a media news story. Every waiting room at an Emergency Room in the WORLD is filled with disgruntled patients of varying ailments who believe they are being ignored. Mike Farrell’s acting partner, Alan Alda, summed the situation as Dr. Hawkeye Pierce, “(ER) is the only place I know where being worst makes you first.”
Let’s not forget the Emergency Room nurses as heroes for Mago or every pugilist. Neither they nor the doctors are allowed personal opinions while working whether an accident or disease merits more empathy than patients via brutal, violent sport which the American Medical Association has recommended being banned. Let’s not forget the intake receptionist who must receive verbal threats and venom when a patient who has been waiting several hours must wait longer because recent arrival Mago or another is deemed as priority.
Via brain scan, Dr. Swarup diagnoses a blood clot and later said had surgery not been immediate from the time of Mago’s arrival he would have been brain dead. Dr. Swarup removes part of Mago’s skull to relieve the pressure of his brain’s compression.
Following two medically induced comas and a stroke – move ahead 28 months to a Connecticut apartment where Mago’s family lives courtesy of one of their Russian friends. Mago had $50,000 insurance for the 2013 bout which was swallowed long ago with $2,000,000 medical bills. Mago remains permanently paralyzed on the right side of his body. He suffers permanent brain-damage which has lessened than the early days, weeks and months. He has not walked since November 2nd, 2013. He cannot eat solid foods so everything must be pureed. His few, mumbled low-volume words can only be interpreted by his wife, Bakanay. The GOOD news is better than winning the heavyweight championship; He recognizes his daughters and can give while receiving kisses.
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I wrote Ceren requesting her to describe life as an Emergency Room doctor. I did not believe Dr. Swarup – after communication with ESPN and New York Times – would reply to any message from me. I was stunned (but proud) by what she wrote:
DR. (Ceren Altay) ALTAY: “What’s happening in Kacker ER? First I’ll tell you the working pattern. There is a green room, a yellow room and a red room. In green room there will be one doctor and nurses. In yellow room there will be one doctor and nurses. In red room, there will be none till somebody needs CPR. We put people there to do CPR.
And there are the last room where there are 10 beds. There, people get their medications intravenous and having rest till they feel okay. One day a car accident has happened. There were three injuries to people. Two has been taken to the other hospitals and one was taken to us. We went to the red room which is resuscitation room. The lady has been injured very bad: Head trauma, thorax trauma and multiple fractures.
We immediately started to do CPR. Every 10 minutes we change and do CPR consistently. 90 minutes passed. There is a little work of her heart, but she has lost very big amount of blood during CPR. There was no air in the chest anymore. There was just blood because 90 minutes chest pressure and costa fractures.
I was crying and still saying, ‘She’s gonna live. C’mon old lady!!! C’mon!!!’ The others (nurses) were hopeless and just saying, “She lost too much blood and there is no life for her. Look at the aspiration cable. There is just blood. Please stop doctor! Please stop!’ I wasn’t listening to them, but they were right.
We stopped. I was crying and my hands and arms were shaking due to hard, muscle work.
Then I went out to tell her children that we lost the patient. Everybody started to scream and cry. It was very hard for them.
Then somebody come next to me from the resting room and said. ‘My child still has nausea. You are such a reckless doctor. Shame on you!’ I was shocked, ‘Whaaat??’
I was doing 90 minutes CPR and people are crying here and she said that. Her child still has nausea. The weird thing is that I show her watching me do CPR at a time the resuscitation room was opened three seconds. I laughed at her very loud and said, ‘Okay lady, I’ll save your child’s life immediately’.”
I feel soooo bad for Ceren. Since I am not a medical person cannot truly envision her situation. Ironic, or perhaps not, my only frame of reference are television actors, Mike Farrell and Alan Alda via their fictional 1950’s Army counterparts, Dr. B.J. Hunnicutt and Dr. Hawkeye Pierce. In “M*A*S*H” episode co-written by Farrell (Death Takes A Holiday) he attempts for hours extreme medical procedures to keep brain-dead soldier alive. The Catholic priest, Father Mulcahy, attempts to administer Last Rites but Dr. Hunnicutt orders him away, “You can’t have him.” Dr. Hunnicutt orders the nurse to administer more adrenaline while he hand-pumps the heart. Dr. Pierce, his agnostic best friend, intervenes, “Hey Beej! Let the man (Father Mulcahy) do his job. Let him (the patient) go. Let him rest.” Another episode (Life Time) has Dr. Hunnicutt outside the surgery room removing a recently deceased soldier’s aorta for transplant saving another life. The sickened soldier’s best friend, also wounded, realizes what is happening so disgustedly scolds, “YOU BASTARD! You don’t care about him at all. He’s just a piece of meat to you.” Another episode (Say No More) concluded with Dr. Pierce informing a father (General), whom he doesn’t personally like, that his son didn’t survive post-surgery. Dr. Pierce and the father knock down shot of whiskey together. I am sure actors Farrell and Alda feel fortunate to be fictional doctors instead of Ceren’s shoes. I have heard the worst tragedy for parent is to outlive their kids. My grandma outlived my father by many years. But if I were doctor, I am not sure could possess Ceren’s courage. I think it would be personally easier to tell someone’s father than their kids (or mother) that their kin is unexpectedly dead. Ceren probably wishes she could knock down shot of whiskey with family – but this is real life – so she cannot.
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DR. PATCH ADAMS: “I first came to Russia because of the culture, literature and music…. (Also) my interest in the 19th century revolutionary spirit of Herzen, Bakunin and Kropotkin…. Russia is a wonderful place for clowns because Russians give back a wonderful response.”
Bakanay Abdusalamova insists Islamic religious faith will help the family persevere any crisis. She and Mago teach their children the highest Islamic principles are helping others – belief in higher power – and kindness toward others. Bakanay must daily bathe, shave and feed her husband. She was 18-years old when an arranged marriage paired her with the 22-years old, Mago, in the Russia republic of, as they call it in Turkish, Dagistan Cumhuriyeti. They lived the fantasy of ‘new life’ immigrants by moving to Florida, USA, although neither of them could speak English. Bakanay grew to love the shy, goliath man of abominable spirit with stereotypical description, “Gentle Giant.” She always felt protected and accepted a subservient role not as inferior, but structured for family unit. Mago would work and make money while Bakanay would work (unpaid) running the household and raising three daughters. The irony of Mago’s injury is not lost on Bakanay; it was always Mago who protected her, but now it is ‘tiny’ her who must protect him. She never imagined such personal strength.
Patch Adams would say that Bakanay is already practicing the best medicine for Mago. She shows up. Just being with Mago is medicine. Patch would prescribe holding his hand for hours, telling jokes, singing or being silent with love. Everyone can sing. If Bakanay is poor singer this could be source of mutual amusement. There is nothing contradictory about being Muslim and doctor wearing the funny red-rubber nose which has become Patch’s trademark. Mago may not be able to laugh, but can you imagine the smile from his wife’s unpredictable behavior? Patch would suggest Bakanay sing opera to Mago. Why not? Bakanay could pretend she is Barbara Hannigan. Mago would smile which is best medicine.
When actor Christopher Reeve (“Superman”) was permanently quadriplegic with his life (supposedly) ruined he contemplated suicide from hospital bed. He believed only to be burden on his family and could ONLY help them – and himself – via suicide. One day, a completely-insane Russian doctor entered hospital room and insisted on prompt proctology exam. The Russian-accented doctor insisted Reeve’s butthole be checked immediately. Reeve had never known moment of such helplessness and defeat – until the doctor revealed to be his friend from Juliard School for Performing Arts, Robin Williams. Reeve wrote later it was the first moment he laughed since his accident which gave him realization of desire to live.
QUR’AN (21:73): “And We made them leaders who guided by Our command, and We revealed to them the doing of good and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of alms, and Us they served.”
Patch would encourage Bakanay to develop a new passion or hobby. Mago’s permanent injury must not be associated with negativity. Patch would suggest dancing. Tango dance with cleaning supplies like broom or mop. A person can be silly by themselves, and besides it is good exercise.
Patch would encourage Bakanay’s wisdom which she learns from Qur’an. What would Muhammad think about Mago’s recovery and future? The entire family is in recovery. The wisdom of prophets – especially in poetic stanza’s can be a much treasured daily sharing between wife and husband.
QUR’AN (9:71): “And the believers, men and women, are friends one of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and obey Allah and his Messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.”
Patch would tell Bakanay that whenever she feels helpless wondering what more she can do – just touch Mago. Touch is greater medicine than most pills. Tell a story to Mago, or gossip, while you hold his hand. Gossip is nourishment – no matter what anyone says. Patch believes in hand-holding even with patients in coma, so he would remind Bakanay not merely to hold the hand with feeling, but spend time (perhaps hours) holding his paralyzed hand.
Patch would suggest, which Bakanay already does, to remain hopeful. Hope can take the form of longer gambling odds such as Mago walking ever again. But also have hope that he can swallow pureed food without choking. Have both reasonable and unreasonable hope to retain dreams, but also limit disappointment.
QUR’AN (5:93): “On those who believe and do good there is no blame for what they eat, when they keep their duty and believe and do good deeds, then keep their duty and believe, then keep their duty and do good. And Allah loves the doers of good.”
Patch would encourage Bakanay to create some sort of garden for fresh vegetables. It would be healthful for Bakanay, Mago and their daughters. Patch emphasizes nutrition as important for continued health and positive attitude. The garden can be indoors. It need not be large. Perhaps something such as home-grown tomatoes or red bell-pepper added to Mago’s pureed meat/potatoes lunch.
Patch would be proud of Bakanay’s daily hygiene habits of shaving and cleanliness for Mago; her daily remembrance which she shares with Mago that he remains the most handsome man alive. Physical attraction does not have to end with Mago’s recovery. The next logical step would include some sort of sexuality within marital relations, which is not something Patch has written, but seems in accordance with his beliefs. The late wife of Christopher Reeve publicly spoke of their enjoyable sex life following his permanent paralysis below the neck.
QUR’AN (19:31): “And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and poor-rate so long as I live.”
Patch would encourage Bakanay to allow her own life continuance. Be a good mother. Allow long walks or needed conversation with dear friend. Patch would tell Bakanay not to be tough on herself regarding the altered family dynamic. Caretaking takes patience which we teach ourselves. The teacher cannot teach before they learn.
Patch would suggest that Mago be informed of his current medical situation. It has been more than two years since his final boxing bout. It might seem more natural to shield bad news. Patch would suggest that an informed patient is more likely to be optimistic than depressed. Mental health is important so force Mago to be good patient, instead of helpless, with responsibilities as with everyone else. Mago must discover on his own, just like everyone else, how to cope with loneliness and boredom.
QUR’AN (22:41): “Those who, if We establish them in the land, will keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and enjoin them good and forbid evil. And Allah’s is the end of affairs.”
Patch would probably discourage Bakanay’s frequently published words of economic despair over hospital bills with fear of homelessness. Bakanay would only depress Mago and herself with such public negativity. Mago would likely blame himself for family straits. The quest for money and power is shattered dream. But those two ‘Gods’, as Patch derisively calls them, once dismissed allow closer family personal dynamic. If Mago had achieved his goal of becoming heavyweight champion there is no guarantee the family would have survived. There would be stress and sinful temptations. Patch would probably advocate the Chinese proverb: “Be careful what you wish for (power/money) for it might one day happen.”
Patch would advocate for all of Mago’s visitors, including family or journalists, to smile, make eye-contact and remain positive. Ignore his paralysis as the center of attention. Mago won’t view his paralysis as the primary focus of his life if others don’t. Patch would encourage Mago and family not to pray for him to become ‘normal’. Embrace idea that no one is normal. Mago wasn’t normal before the Irish Mike Perez bout so couldn’t be expected to be normal afterward. Embrace his individuality. Very few people know the deserved pugilist greeting by strangers, “Hey Champ!” Children would be thrilled to meet the great heavyweight boxer, Mago, and would likely accept the awkwardness of paralysis better than most adults.
By happenstance, most of the major players in this story are Muslim. Mago and his wife, Bakanay, are Muslim. The Emergency Room doctor that saved Mago’s life, Dr. Swarup, is Muslim. Dr. Altay (aka/ Ceren) my dear Turkish friend for many years who works the ER room in Rize is Muslim. This is not a Muslim story, but a shared human one. Dr. Adams (aka/ Patch) insists on community which is created of family, friends, co-workers, the familiar grocery store clerk or the person you meet for 5-minutes of your life at bus stop or DMV line. Irish Mike Perez, so proud of his Cuban background which he felt forced to defect, but insistent that Ireland is his home and heart is part of our shared community. Announcer Jim Lampley, the great former champion, Roy Jones and anyone reading this is shared community. Something terrible occurred with the outcome of the November, 2013, Mago/Perez bout but we share – whether Muslim, Catholic, Jewish or atheist – community.
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DR. PATCH ADAMS: “Unlike a lot of people, I don’t feel powerless. I know I can do something. It’s not about being special. It’s about deciding to do it.”
Irish Mike Perez, who lives in Cork, Ireland was born Ismaikai Perez in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Perhaps the bout versus Mago produced no victors. Following his unanimous decision over Mago his record stood at 20-0-0, 12 knockouts. He appeared a potential candidate for heavyweight bout versus champion (at the time) Wladmir Klitschko. Perez’ next bout opponent was Cameroon boxer, Carlos Takum – for which he was heavily favored. He and his wife had received numerous threatening, taunting Facebook texts which blamed him for Mago’s health condition. Perez had been asking his trainer nearly every day, “How is Mago? Is he doing better?” There was concern he would think of Mago during his bout with Takum and lose concentration. His trainer hadn’t been in the ring with him during the Mago bout deeming it more important to be backstage with his ‘star’ pugilist, Gennady Golovkin. Sure enough, Perez won the first 5-rounds of the 10-round bout, but during the 6th round, began thinking of Mago. Perez wishes his handlers had allowed more time to clear his head. Perez began to worry he’d hurt Takum. Suddenly, he could not throw hard punches so held back. Takum won the final 5-rounds in a bout declared Draw.
In the more than two years since his greatest, high-profile victory Irish Mike Perez has only won once with his record currently 21-2-1, 13 knockouts. His last bout was in Russia versus the formidable Alexander Povetkin (28-1-0, 18 knockouts). Perez was knocked out in the 1st round. As an historian, I can inform that it is common for the victor of prize-fight which results in death to fall apart as boxer. It is common for championship caliber boxers to suddenly sustain defeat upon defeat while often being knocked out. Several of those who ‘killed’ an opponent in the ring have died from injuries themselves from future boxing bout. Former heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson, was famous for stating his desire to ‘murder’ an opponent. Most professional boxers don’t share such venomous sentiment. The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, publicly stated that he never wanted to injure an opponent but merely win and look good. Irish Mike Perez could have suffered depression or had his ambition tempered by accepting responsibility for Mago’s condition. It is true that the only illegal punches were by Perez that night: with several low-blows and the devastating 1st round forearm which began the swelling and pain which the Russian endured for the next 9-rounds. I am in agreement with the majority of boxing’s community – which is split over whether Mago’s post-Garden medical care was inept and thus legally libelous – that Perez did not appear to intentionally fight dirty.
Patch Adams would suggest to Irish Mike Perez the same advice for others – locate and build a community. If Perez’ ambitions for money and power were thwarted by the extent of Mago’s injuries; Patch would remind the worst circumstances can breed best results. Of course, Mike Perez’ Catholicism would encourage the same mindset. How could a good and righteous God allow something so terrible to occur? But that’s why it is called faith. Life is not supposed to make sense as unraveled in the moment but over period of time. Patch would suggest Mike Perez touch people, help people and surrender his ego for others. As ridiculous as it seems, the great heavyweight Irish Mike Perez dressed as clown wearing red-rubber nose visiting a Cork orphanage or hospital patients could be the cure to assist someone’s sagging spirits and unintentionally provide medicine for his own soul. As boxing fan, or as an historian, I would tell Irish Mike Perez what I cannot say to those other centuries-old boxers long deceased who felt the need to be ‘punished’ – or just didn’t have their heart or head into boxing any more: don’t allow the Povetkin’s to beat you senseless. Stop boxing and make your fellow Cork, Ireland citizens proud of your new journey.
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DR. ADAMS’ inscription inside Gesundheit!: “For Ceren – chase your wildest dream. Respectfully, Patch.”
CEREN: “The (Patch) package has arrived and you and Patch made my dreams reborn. I am sooo happy to feel your support behind me. You always believed in me. You always believed what I do. Even when I am soo busy and selfish, you have never stopped holding my hands and always tried to make my dreams live alive. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being giant part of my life. Now, I see me in Turkish Gesundheit Institute. You made this!! I’ll never stop dreaming on this. And when I do the opening ceremony, I wish you will be there as my dream supporter and lifelong friend. You cannot guess how happy I am right now. I hope I will pass the ‘specialization’ (that word scares me) exam As Soon As Possible…. By the way, I am really studying hard and every morning I read your and Patch’s letter which gave me motivation. I have some plans to spread health and happiness. I will tell you the result after the exam and write long letter to you and Patch.”
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With Ceren passing specialization exam and becoming pediatrician I plead she work in Urbana, Illinois at Gesundheit Institute and learn ‘clowning’. There was another ISIS terrorist attack in Istanbul as I wrote this story (5 dead – 2 are Americans – 36 wounded) so of course I worry she will be killed. She was ordered by Turkish government not to leave her apartment. There have been seven terrorist attacks upon Turkey in past six-months. Living in Middle-East is too dangerous so she must exist somewhere else. I wrote, “We can find you housing in Urbana, Illinois. I have Illinois contacts in boxing community who respect your life. Americans are not nicest people – everyone has gun – but maybe you can be safer and save lives here. Saving kids is saving kids.” Ceren replies: “I’d really like to work with Patch. I’d die for this, but my plan is to do the same thing here what Patch has been doing there (USA). There are many suffering children (in Turkey) and I want to spread physically and mentally health for them. I don’t wanna leave my country. If I leave, if people like me leave, there will be nobody to fight against ignorance. I wanna spread the light of wisdom and joy. I don’t feel safe here, but I’m gonna fight against these things. I feel that you and Patch support me and that’s all I need.”
I love Ceren and 100% believe in her. But I wouldn’t be friend if I did not respectfully disagree. You cannot save ANYONE if killed by Kurds or ISIS! The light dies from our eyes of those you care about most. OKAY – USA is not for you – it hasn’t been so great for me – then move to Amsterdam and fight ignorance. Fight for kids! You can only do this alive. Stay alive! There is no heroism in death – there is just death.
Mago and Bakanay never wanted to leave Russia. Irish Mike Perez never wanted to leave Cuba. They are not traitors, but made difficult decision for what was best future. What could be more difficult than rejecting home? You build a new home. Mago and Mike Perez would tell Ceren to leave Turkey following her heart and destiny.
So this story doesn’t have happy ending – or Pity Party. Everyone makes their choices. If you are ever in Emergency Room instead of yelling at doctor – give them hug. ER doctors are human beings, too – not miracle providers. It is easier for me via Jose Cuerva tequila w/ lime to toast and thank our community for this story – Bakanay Abdusalamova, Barry Kemp, Dr. Rupendra Swarup, Max Kellerman, (the late) Siskel & Ebert, Alan Alda, Teddy Bear Hospital – especially pugilists Mago, Irish Mike Perez and the late actor/comedian Robin Williams, “Wherever you are – whether you know it or not – you did good.” Salud!