Our Clan Had A Medicine Man

Mary DugganBy Mary Duggan

I hate working weekends. It makes me crabby. And I have to do it on a regular basis. This weekend in particular was guaranteed to be a rough one. The week began with the Boston Marathon and tragedy and stress and heartache and loss that will be ongoing. Then the horrific explosion in Texas that wiped a whole town off the map, crushed a nursing home and killed scores of people. Add in tornadoes, an earthquake in China and here in Chicago flooding. If ever a Friday night called for hard cider and gluten free pizza, this was the one. And Saturday would be best spent with multiple pots of coffee and  the newspaper in the a.m. and restorative yard work in the p.m.

Granted, the Duggan Sisters fared better than many with the flooding. When I bought this old house seven years ago, I had 11 foundation cracks sealed immediately. The guy did a great job and the basement has been bone dry. Then last year we found one more crack. But it’s small and rarely a problem and always seems to move from the to-do list to the maybe next time list. But this time the rain was different: powerful, relentless and exhausting.

Annie heard the sound of water in the basement below very early on Thursday. She and Clare had clocked in hours of moving furniture, removing rugs, protecting stock, emptying 25+ industrial-sized buckets of water, and sandbagging with towels (which were then relayed for washing and drying) before I even woke up.  When I did wake up, I didn’t recognize the sound of the industrial bucket on wheels being dragged across the basement floor. I thought we were being robbed and was tip-toeing around carefully upstairs, trying to get my bearings, and stifling a scream when I realized Clare’s bed was empty. OMG! They’ve taken Clare. Razor sharp, folks. Day or night, razor sharp. A moment later Clare came upstairs to bring me up to speed on the flooding, told me they had everything under control, and ordered me back to bed. I obeyed.

I’d ordered Clare to bed just a few hours earlier when I’d found her at her desk at midnight completing an e-mail to potential business partners in Australia. She’d looked exhausted then; she looked positively deranged with fatigue now. Still she and Annie worked side-by-side for hours and then grabbed a few minutes of rest before the cats were demanding attention and the dog needed walking. Business lines rang bright and early with no time to spare for flood recovery. Thursday was under way and it was relentless. Wednesday and Thursday had combined into a 48-hour event with a small nap inserted. Not enough sleep to quell the resulting exhaustion. And then there was Friday.

Clare poked her head in my door as she returned from her 6 a.m. dog walk. One suspect is dead and Boston’s on lockdown! She knows to never withhold Big News Events from me; I am not proud of this but I find them addictive and compelling. I turned on daytime TV, which I never do, and then struggled for hours to turn it off. I managed to disconnect for a few hours of work and then joined the nation as we took it on home that evening, all the way to the boat and the stun grenades and the celebrations in the street of I’m not sure what. I just wanted it to be the weekend. I wanted the focus to be yard work. I wanted to be outside with robins and our swampy little back yard and the finally budding trees. But we were working Saturday. And now I’m glad we did.

reynes lifestinks displat

Seeing our products installed at Integrative Therapies was exciting.

Integrative Therapies Wellness Center, the River Forest based brainchild of Dr. Carlos Reynes was having a party and the Duggan Sisters were invited. We were proud that Dr. Reynes is now offering the full line of Duggan Sister products and were happy to support the cause of breast wellness and more that he was providing. Never fans of mammography, we wanted to be a part of this event that was focusing on Infrared Thermal Imaging to identify breast abnormalities earlier and more safely than mammogram. Combine that with bone density testing, hydrotherapy, acupuncture demonstrations, snacks and more and you get some idea of the scope of the festivities planned.

reynes thermal imaging poster

Safe screening for real prevention and breast health.

On a crisp, sunny, clear, positively beautiful Saturday morning in Spring there was no better place to be and no better antidote to the stress and hopelessness of the week we as a nation had shared. When we arrived mid-day the office was hopping and folks were already stacked up and ready to talk deodorant. What Dr. Reynes, his wife Linda, and the entire enthusiastic team at Integrative had put together was a conversation about getting well and staying well and that is my favorite venue for  preaching the Duggan Sister Gospel of natural deodorant, lymphatic wellness and tips for healthy pits.

reynes launch

reynes conversation corner

Women long ago refined the art of collective wisdom. Some call it a conversation.

Of course the kind of folks drawn to Integrative Medicine are already so turned on and tuned in that it makes everything so much more fun. Snacks were flying off the buffet as we all enjoyed crackers and homemade breads prepared gluten free and healthy. Shrimp with sauce, platters of dates, and spicy dehydrated garbanzo beans rounded out the amazing salad creation of Linda Reynes featuring baby spinach, garden peas and slivered Parmesan dressed with pesto and drawing rave reviews from everyone. It was a party in the truest sense.

What a wonderful way to take the sting and scare out of breast health diagnosis. Let’s face it, this sort of medical appointment is so often lonely, scary and clinical that it makes it really easy for women to postpone or avoid it altogether. How much smarter to gather together and share information and laughter about what we as women (and men) are all trying to manage and heal. Let’s all share what we know in a family-friendly setting that reminds us that we’re all in this together and we all have something to offer and questions to pose and similarities to explore and celebrate. And isn’t it easier to take your worries and concerns to your physician when he is relaying appetizer trays between the toaster oven in back and the buffet in front? Aren’t doctors who are willing to hang up their white jackets and ban all arrogance  just the absolute best?

REYNES smiling

Dr. Reynes is happy to have a bug repellent that is both safe and effective against bug born disease.

Which brings me back to working on Saturdays and the crabbiness that usually ensues but most certainly did not this time. Here’s why I think this event was such a delight to attend and really felt more like a party than work. I am old enough to remember an altogether different era in medicine. It was just before extreme specializing and sinister insurance companies and the advent of the impersonal and scary medicine we are so often exposed to. I remember Dr. Ed Clancy so vividly that I feel chills.

My Mom had 61 first cousins. When anything went wrong, anything at all, there was always a cousin to turn to. One batch of cousins, in particular, met many of the needs of my Mom as she raised her eleven children: the Clancy brothers. My Mom was a Reynolds and their Mom was a Reynolds. They had lost their mother very young and so had my Mom. She had boatloads in common with this family of 5 brothers and she loved them and was enormously proud of them. Frank Clancy, one of the older brothers was her Godfather; Jerry Clancy, the family plumber seemed to constantly be at our house, as someone was always flushing a wash cloth or a hair brush or a toy. Jerry was patient and shy and generous. He never charged and when he’d fixed the plumbing he’d always sat in the kitchen for a few minutes visiting with my Mom while she prepared dinner for a dozen or more. But nobody meant more to my Mom than Dr. Ed Clancy, the brother who became a doctor. To my Mom, that is, and her entire enormous extended family of Irish cousins and their Polish spouses.

1960's.c mid. Bob, Ray, Gerry, Frank & Ed Clancy (L-R)

The Clancy Brothers, mid-1960s, Bob, Ray, Gerry , Frank and Dr. Ed. They didn’t sing, but they did so much more.

My Dad was sickly. Ulcers, a ruptured appendix, bad lungs, alcoholism, serious problems with depression. Dr. Ed saw him successfully through it all with compassion, wisdom and really good doctoring. With the exception of my oldest sister, who was born in New York because of WWII, and Clare, the youngest, Dr. Ed delivered nine of us at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois. And because he’d lost his mother too young and our Mom had lost both of her parents younger still, he took extra special care of our mother. He knew what it cost a family to lose a mother and he pulled ours back time and time again when blood cots made pregnancy very high risk.

I was a sickly kid, wracked each and every winter with severe bronchitis that was always tipping towards pneumonia, so I had more contact with Dr. Ed than some of my other siblings. I remember the long waits to see him, with my Mom and I taking our places on the enormous leather chairs in the enormous 1950s waiting room. And the waits were enormous too. And I remember my Mom telling me that any doctor worth going to was worth waiting for; the good ones always have long lines. I had to become an adult before I realized why my Mom never minded the wait. She was at a party that did require her to clean the house or prepare food and all her cousins and close friends were in attendance.

Dr. Ed’s office was the official headquarters for my entire extended family. And there was no better way to get family news, especially about who was sick, or who was “expecting,” or who was having marriage troubles or had taken to the bottle or had lost their job than Dr. Ed’s shared medical offices lobby. I learned much of what I know about adulthood and family secrets and tragedies and penicillin and hernias and female troubles and more from listening in while I spent hours hunkered down and bundled up, coughing and wheezing and sneezing and feverish and waiting for Dr. Ed.

Dr. Ed wasn’t special just because he was a cousin. In anybody’s book, he was a brilliant diagnostician who my Mom always said could gather more information with a tongue depressor and a patient saying aaaahhhhhh than other doctors could determine with thousands of dollars of sophisticated tests. He had served bravely during the war and when he wasn’t heard from in a really long time the whole family had feared he’d been killed. Then there he was one March morning in 1943 on page 40 of the Chicago Tribune. Soldiers wounded and weary from fighting the Battle of Guadalcanal were being unloaded from a ship in Australia, of all places, for treatment and rest. There at the bottom of the gangplank, 29 years old, a physician, a Marine, ALIVE, was Dr. Ed.  The phone calls flew and the tears fell that morning. The women went to Mass and gave thanks.

In the years following the war, Dr. Ed distinguished himself as part of Dr. Jim West’s surgical team at Little Company of Mary Hospital as they successfully performed the first kidney transplant. But not in time to save my Uncle Red Reinke with the bad kidney that killed him and left seven little kids without a Dad and broke Dr. Ed’s heart because he understood that kind of loss.

Bottom left corner Dr. Ed WWII March on March 1943 Front page of Chicago Tribune

Bottom left corner reveals Dr. Ed Clancy is ALIVE! March 1943 Chicago Tribune

And it seemed that something else in life had broken his heart as well because there was always a sad and somber quality about Dr. Ed and I overheard grown up talk in the lobby about him not having married the right girl to be a doctor’s wife and then there was the divorce and everyone could see the ensuing loneliness and it just wasn’t good. And then he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 55 and I remember sitting sad beside my mother at his wake and all the people I knew from the lobby were there, the cousins and the neighbors and the friends and people were distraught. And I can remember them all turning to my mother and asking, “Mary Jane, what are we going to do without him? Where will we turn? How can we ever replace him?” And that’s when I learned how important doctors are to the clan and the community. Losing Dr. Ed was a staggering event for my whole family.

I’m so glad that I was introduced to medicine in that way. In that everything is connected way where it matters if you’ve lost your job or married the wrong girl.  Every one has a story that needs to be heard for them to be healed. Secrets can kill and only the most sensitive of listeners can evoke and hold the sometimes terrible truth. Grief makes us vulnerable to disease. Loneliness weakens the immune system; and fear and isolation take a terrible toll. I think that is what good doctors are trying to re-integrate into the medical experience. That willingness to listen and do whatever is best to heal that particular person. Sometimes herbs get the job done and sometimes the most serious of surgical interventions are necessary and life saving. Chinese Medicine gets it right a lot of the time and for a spinal subluxation it’s best to see a chiropractor. Acupuncturist or Naturopath, Homeopath or Cardiologist, it takes a village in medicine, as well. Ego is never ever helpful and people are as sick as they’ve ever been.

The Duggan Sisters with the whole team.

Even if just for the day, it was fun to be part of the team.

I hope other doctors move towards the medical vision of Dr. Reynes and others like him. I think it’s humanizing and highly effective. And I hope they take one last cue from Dr. Reynes and the team at Integrative Therapies Wellness Center, as well. Once the final patients were gone, the other practitioners had packed up and left, and the snack table was being dismantled and dishes were being washed, out came the gluten free red velvet cupcakes with thick moist cream cheese frosting TO. DIE. FOR. Thank you Tina’s Mom for baking them and Dr. R for carefully stashing one special treat for family and close friends. Cause what’s a party without cupcakes?

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14 Responses to “Our Clan Had A Medicine Man”

  1. Carlos Reynes, M.D. says:

    Thank you for being a part of our Saturday Spring Screening, You helped make the day a big success. We are honored by your kind words and are thrilled to be involved in helping to promote your products and your message. Life Stinks and Life Stings but you don’t have to!!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Dr. Reynes,

      Participating in your Spring Screening was our pleasure. I tried to shorten this post for you. But, in trying to shorten this entry I realized I would have had to omit any mention of you and your team 🙂 So, isn’t longer better?

      Hope the fuller story held your attention and that it was worth your while. I like to tell folks that this is how my brain works: I am writing about today, I am overwhelmed with memories of long ago, the connection between the two engages my heart as well and that is where story is born – at least in my brain.

      Hope you enjoy selling our antidote to stink and sting. Let us know if we can be of any assistance.

      Warm regards,

  2. Pat Clancy says:

    Thanks for the story, Mary. You have captured Dr. Ed’s essence. I only have one small correction — The Clancy Brothers did, too, sing! Jerry and Ray (my dad) had beautiful tenor voices. I don’t remember for sure about Bob and Ed, but there was always singing at our family parties. Frank lived in New York, so who knew?

    • Mary says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Pat. I have to laugh. I just knew someone would get me on the singing thing. I, of course, was referring to the Irish folk group; but, I had a feeling in the back of my mind that these Clancy brothers, as well, knew how to carry an Irish tune. If Mom was still here she would have cautioned me to not use that caption. I did not set out to write about Dr. Ed; as I imagine is clear in the piece. I really did just set out to write up a work related blog; but I was overwhelmed with memories of doctoring and family and my own history. I had not revisited my memories of Dr. Ed in a REALLY long time. Of course with our super large family I have mostly memories of Duggan and Reynolds stories. My most powerful Clancy memories are all of Dr. Ed. I was worried that I would step on toes or infringe on fuller and/or different memories from “actual” Clancy family. Still hoping I didn’t do that. I just tried to keep close to my Mom’s absolute adoration of the man – or should I say the men – figured that would serve me well. Again,thanks for reading. Hope you are well. Mary

  3. Pat Tracy says:

    Mary, I remember Dr. Ed’s wake and funeral and was so impressed by the size of the procession that I have never forgotten. I think that was when I realized the value of wakes. Grief shared is lessened and strenghtens the community that is left behind. Thanks for the great memories.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Pat, Thanks for reading and thanks for the thoughts on wakes and recovery. I could not agree more. When folks leave instructions for nothing to happen upon their death I find it to be highly selfish. Hey, that’s for those of us left behind. Mary

  4. Caithlin Flemming says:

    Thanks for the heads up, Pat! Great blog article. It’s amazing to be 65 years old and still have fond memories of the doctor who brought you into the world. I still miss him!

    • Mary says:

      OMG! Another Fleming. Thanks for reading and the kind words, as well. Isn’t it amazing to have been delivered into the world by your mother’s cousin? That small and insular community is so rare now. We were “privileged characters”- as my Dad used to like to say.

  5. Eileen Wysocki says:

    Very cool story!

  6. Mary Ann Adamson says:

    Thank you Mary for the great blog. Your writing about Dr. Ed brought back many similar memories. Uncle Ed delivered me and my siblings and was my God father. The many visits to his office was as you described. I truly believe I was inspired to be a nurse for over 40 years by his love of his profession and his patients.

  7. Peggy Fleming says:

    Thanks, Mary Duggan, for sharing memories of Dr.Ed. We lived in Tinley Park until 1964, and neither of my parents drove – but we still went by Rock Island and CTA to his office.

  8. marilyn says:

    Thank you for the recognition you bestowed on my brother.
    I am so very proud of him.

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