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January 4, 2013

Passing-the-Test

I am blessed to be a doctor, the fulfillment of my childhood dream. It has sometimes been a steep climb, but the constant challenges of being a doctor still give my life its meaning every day.

But there were times I almost gave up on my dream. The main reason I wanted to quit was that studying science was difficult. In high school I almost failed chemistry. The ideas were complicated, the language was strange. Even though I could quote my textbook like a parrot, I didn’t understand it. I floundered for months until I finally learned what was required: I had to understand each word, and grasp every concept, before moving forward.

Studying science takes a lot of work.

Knowing the Source of Health

But there is a subject more complicated than science. It is the subject of the human spirit. Understanding God, our relationship to Him, and the purpose of our lives is the most important knowledge we can acquire. It impacts every segment of our lives: our health, our career, our relationships and happiness.

In the same way we can get the answers wrong about a chemistry problem, we can get the answers wrong on the spiritual tests of life. But instead of just failing a high school class, we fail in life; and we suffer terrible unhappiness or anger.

Jesus taught us that our task in life is to love and forgive. Yet so often we judge instead.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’ ” Matthew 7:3-5

When we quote Bible verses in the name of Christ while judging others, we become modern day Pharisees – and persecutors of Him. We parrot the letter of the law without understanding the spirit.

I see this truth in my patients every day. When we choose the path of love and acceptance, our lives become happy. And when we choose to improve not our neighbor, but the person we see in the mirror, we find the peace and meaning in life that form the foundation of real health.

-Dr. Mike Litrel

January 2, 2013

Couch Potato

My office schedule was packed with patients one day when a colleague called me in to an exam room to see her patient. The situation was urgent, and I tried not to think about the delays our patients would experience because I was making time for someone else.

This patient was a thirty year old woman who had been bleeding heavily for almost two years. Her pain had increasingly become worse, so severe that today that she had arrived at the office without an appointment, insisting on being seen. Our nurse practitioner had made time for her, but it turned out her problem was complicated, too complicated to be diagnosed without a surgical perspective.

I could clearly feel the large mass in her pelvis: it was obvious she needed surgery. We performed the ultrasound and necessary biopsy to line her up for the help she needed.

Unfortunately, the patient didn’t have health insurance.

For a doctor or anyone in the healing profession, it’s heartbreaking to see patients who need help but can’t afford care. The patient glared at me with a mixture of pain and anger, and asked what she was supposed to do. I suggested going to the health department to see if she was eligible for Medicaid – or perhaps to the hospital, to see if she could get charity care.

“I already tried that!” she snapped. “And it didn’t work!” She angrily held out her hands, in a gesture that seemed to offer up her problems for me to take on. The tone of voice clearly conveyed that this was someone else’s fault.

I pointed out that she had been suffering with this problem for years – she needed to take some responsibility for not having health insurance. She was very capable. If she had begun looking for a job with benefits a year ago, instead of staying at home, she would not be in this situation, and we could perform the surgery.

Whose Health Problem Is it?

I try to be as honest and open with patients as possible about how I can help them – and how I can’t. Sometimes maybe I am too honest, and I began thinking this was one of those times. I’d tried to communicate in a non-judgmental way, but I wondered as I went back to my waiting patients if I had not just been a big jerk.

About six months ago, a patient arrived at the office unannounced, with a plate full of home baked cookies. She asked if I remembered her. I didn’t. It was the same patient. She had come in to thank me. Three months after I had examined her, she had gotten health insurance, and one of my partners had performed her surgery. She felt better than she had in years. She just wanted me to know she had made changes. And she said thank you for my honest words.

“All these years I felt like my problems were somebody else’s fault,” she said. “I think you were the first person to tell me I had to help take care of myself.”

She said she felt feel better physically, but she was most surprised that she actually felt better spiritually and emotionally. “I feel like my life is finally on the right track.”

Health is not what someone does for you, and it’s not just about your body. It’s about your soul, and what you do for yourself. To be healthy and happy, you have to assume responsibility for your life. And as we come to the time of year for making new resolutions, it’s important to know –

God doesn’t smile on the Spiritual Couch Potato.

-Dr. Mike Litrel

woman having hot flashesMenopause… Whether you’re in the midst of it or it’s yet to happen, how much do you really know about it?

Take this short quiz to find out!

 

December 28, 2012

testimonial-for-site_final“I had been through many different doctors to try to treat my symptoms and I always got the same answers:  “You’re fine, it’s all in your head.”  Finally, I found Dr. Gandhi and she’s been a complete lifesaver!  I know now that I don’t have to live in pain and what I was experiencing was not normal.  A woman wouldn’t normally talk about their experience with a gynecologist, however my experience has been such a blessing in my life (a real life changer) that I tell everyone!  I’ve actually referred two friends to her because I don’t want women to go through years of pain and sadness like I did.  They both love Dr. Gandhi as much as I do!”

Thank you for your story, Sarah!  I also want to personally thank you for sending two friends our way!

December 20, 2012

We were so thrilled to have Santa take a break from the North Pole to visit us!  He even brought one of his elves too!  Kimby the Elf took many pictures of happy families and smiling children as they whispered to Mr. Claus about their Christmas hopes! It was a great day here and we wanted to share the pictures with you!

December 18, 2012

It’s that time of the year again… shopping, Santa, cold weather, food, and traveling!

Being a parent is hard enough, but adding an eight hour car trip to the mix is bound to make it that much harder.    Child

Here is a video that gives hints on keeping your sanity while traveling.

Real Mom Tips for Traveling with Kids

We wish you a very happy holiday season, and hope your travels are safe and enjoyable!

December 13, 2012

It’s that time of the year again!  All the employees at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists look forward to our annual Christmas Extravaganza! We wanted to post some pictures so you can see us in ‘normal’ clothes for once!  Christmas party means stilettos and dresses not tennis shoes and scrubs!  All of us here want to wish you very happy holidays!

December 11, 2012

Ladies, do you get stressed out over anyone watching your kid but you? Or rather, do you let your kids eat popcorn off the floor after it has been there for more than five seconds?  Are there any ways you feel is a bad way to parent or are Questionthere any ways you feel you must parent? What are your ideas and strategies?

To find out for yourself, take this simple quiz: What’s your mothering style?

“A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.” -Anonymous 

 

 

November 2, 2012

My-Children-Will-HAve-Faith2

A single surgical clamp, placed on the bleeding vessels of a ruptured fallopian tube, can save a patient’s life.

I know this because I have placed these clamps myself. Ten years ago, a patient arrived at the emergency room of Grady Hospital in shock from such a rupture and the resulting loss of blood. I was a fourth year Chief Resident on call for the surgical emergency. After placing the clamp, I instructed my pretty, wide-eyed junior resident to suction the half gallon of blood and clots from the patient’s abdomen and pelvis. I remember keeping my voice calm, to emphasize the achievement of total control—“Just another day in the operating room, ma’am.”

I tried to limit my swagger as we walked to the waiting room to reassure the patient’s family and give them the good news. But afterward, alone in the call room in my blood-stained scrubs, I allowed myself to bask in the full power of my accumulated years of study and training. I felt a Cheshire cat smile of self-congratulation steal over my face.

Always a mistake.

A superb textbook on obstetrics and gynecology opens with Alexander Pope’s famous refrain,

“A little learning is a dang’rous thing;

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,

And drinking largely sobers us again.”

Many times I had flipped to re-read that quote before diving into my studies. It was a warning to the overconfident. But on that day toward the end of my eighth year of training, I fell into the deep sleep of the self-satisfied. At last, I knew exactly what I was doing and what was going on in the world.

A phone call the next day proved how wrong I was.

The caller was Ife Sofola. Ife (pronounced Ee-fay) was one of my classmates from medical school. A tall, muscular Nigerian, Ife was not only a brilliant student, but a man of deep compassion and undeniable charisma. His easy smile, booming laugh, and lilting Nigerian accent were a comfort and delight to both friends and patients. At the time, he was a flight surgeon at the renowned Bethesda Naval Hospital, where our Presidents receive their medical care.

Ife had called to let me know that his mother had died. But it wasn’t the sorrow he wanted to share. It was the miracle.

Months earlier, Ife’s family learned that his mother was dying from liver failure. Brought to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, she fell into a coma. She was put under a DNR order—Do Not Resuscitate. Those orders are reserved for patients who cannot be saved. The words are a kind of final acknowledgement: that modern medicine has failed the patient, that we can do nothing, that Death is coming.

But Ife and his siblings were not ready to let go of their mother. They had been already heartsick with the loss of their father, who had died earlier that year. The looming loss of their mother was too much to bear.

Desperate to do something, Ife’s sister sought out a friend of a friend of a friend who was reputed to be a “healer”—someone who could save life where others had failed. Ife’s sister flew the healer to America from Nigeria, keeping it a secret from her family until the healer showed up at Bethesda. A student of medical science, Ife was dismayed and agitated by his arrival. But there was nothing to lose, so he and his siblings permitted the healer to stay.

The healer directed them to hold hands around the dying woman’s bed. They prayed in silence for five minutes. Then the healer announced, “It is done.” With that he departed, taking a taxi back to the airport.

Twenty minutes later, Ife’s mother awoke. She smiled and greeted her family and got out of bed to take a shower. Ife said there were no words to describe how dumbstruck her physicians were. Ife himself, exuberant, believing, brimming with unadulterated joy, raced and leaped down the hallways in his white coat, yelling so all could hear, “A miracle has occurred! Here, at Bethesda! A MIRACLE!”

Within a few weeks, Ife’s mother succumbed to her disease and died. But not before she had left the hospital and spent precious days with her children at home saying good-bye. Her explanation of what had happened was simple and profound. “I came back,” she said to her children, “so you would have faith.”

The power of modern medicine is an illusion. The physician’s sense of mastery, the gratitude of patients and their families—all these constitute a thin veneer which sometimes covers the truth. The source of the healing lies far beyond our earthly skills. It emanates from the realm of the Unknowable—from God, the Source of Life.

The other day a patient told me she was confident about her upcoming surgery, “because I have faith in you.” A decade ago I would have enjoyed that kind of comment. The trust and respect of patients is a blessing. But the truth is that we are all participants—patients and physicians alike—holding hands in a circle of healing and praying for a miracle. And we are blessed with this miracle of healing every day we live.

Ife concluded his call to me with his own revelation. His tone was not one of grief, but excitement.

“Michael,” Ife said to me, his voice trembling, “how many hours did we spend in the lecture hall? How many books did we read? How many operations have we performed? We think we are doctors, so we must know something about life and death.” He paused for a long moment. “I tell you this, Michael—we know nothing. Nothing.”

I fumbled for words. I said his story was just amazing, that it had changed my life.

Ife laughed his large, unforgettable laugh. “And well it should, Michael—well it should.”

-Dr. Mike Litrel

October 17, 2012

Dr Gandhi - Woodstock, GA

There’s a reason why so many women drive from all over to see Dr. Gandhi in Woodstock. She’s a highly trained, compassionate doctor who prides herself on really listening to her patients. She believes in paying attention to the details and clearly, that makes all the difference in the world.

Dr. Gandhi’s quote on how she treats her patients is pretty simple but it’s mighty powerful. Especially if you’re the woman on the exam table. She says:  “A good doctor should be listening a lot – get the whole story and not just one simple complaint. I like the quote by Shakti Gawain, Our bodies communicate to us clearly and specifically, if we are willing to listen to them. I like to think that I genuinely care and listen to my patients’ needs, and that helps guide my recommendations.”

In her free time, Dr. Gandhi enjoys reading, classical Indian music and dance. Wow! Reading, classical music and dancing? No wonder she’s so zen!

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“Dr. Litrel was a fantastic doctor. I had my first exam with him, although at first I was skeptical about a male doctor for my GYN. But after I met him I’m glad I kept an open mind, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a better doctor. He cares about you as a person and not just a patient. The front desk ladies and nurses were very friendly and it’s a great office, very clean and not intimidating. I highly recommend Cherokee Women’s Health.”
– Vicki