In January of 2009 I made a post called "The Patient Patient" which I dedicated to Elisa Choi, M.D. at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr Choi is, or unfortunately I now must say was, my infectious disease doctor. The past tense is because I was notified yesterday that she has left the Practice at Health Care Associates, and I will be reassigned. This is very distressing to me, but my primary care physician, the poet and doctor Rafael Campo who originally put me under Dr. Choi's care is still my primary care physician and will, I am sure, make an excellent choice in reassigning me.
And yet there is a great sadness in this for me. It has been a huge comfort for me that Dr.Choi has been in my court over the last six years and so I would like to take a moment to give tribute to her.
I have made some allusion to the time in 2004 when Tufts medical insurance dropped me and I was left without HIV meds- ok, that's a comment about "Death Committees," any one who thinks they aren't present in private insurance really needs a reality check. I was without my HIV meds for a few months as a result. These were the months following the death of "The Mad Genius," a time of fear and despair. The result of this was a rather complicated and confusing case of medication resistance that surfaced when Dr. Campo and the social workers at Beth Israel managed to get me medications again. It was at this point that Dr. Campo sent me to Dr. Choi whose specialty this is.
Dr. Choi guided me through the process of identifying the medication problems and she found a new "cocktail" that eventually brought the virus under control. She also identified a host of other problems- in particular damage to my bone marrow that AZT had caused and she got me back on the road to feeling like I had some future after all. All this time my liver enzymes were way out of normal range, and the easy explanation was that it must be my HIV meds, given that I consistently tested negative for Hepatitis C- that great passenger in HIV infection. Dr. Choi was never content to take the obvious cause without proof, and it is really this that I most respect her for. She is a great scientist and wants an exactly defined cause before she rests with any diagnosis. After many, many, tests she insisted on a Hep C viral test, in spite of the negative antibody test, and found that I was indeed carrying a lot of Hep C virus. "If I can beat HIV I can beat Hep C! Don't worry." She actually said that to me once. Further exploration revealed that I was losing other Hepatitis antibody's as well.
I can not explain the importance that my relationship with her has had for me without being so personal about my health. I have seen her every two months for 6 years now, and relied on her to get me through some very scary problems. But there is also another connection that has developed.
In 2007 Dr. Choi had a child. One isn't necessarily aware of pregnancy with male doctors but you know with your female doctors. I really wanted to do something personal- for me that means giving some of my art work- to mark the occasion, but juvenile isn't really my thing. I walk to my appointments at the BI through the Fenway and I had the idea of taking photographs of the ducks and geese, thinking a kid might enjoy them. The image here is one of the results. It has ended up being a large and very successful series of prints, and each one of them has a little thought of Dr. Choi and her family attached to it. I offer her my greatest respect and best wishes for the future!