They streamed into Memorial Church in twos and threes on a piercingly beautiful Cambridge fall day: clinic and hospital colleagues, patients from his primary care practice, and siblings and cousins from a sprawling New England family. As I greeted cousins and family friends who came to honor my brother, I asked myself when does devotion to a job you love becomes hazardous to your health.
Skip had been a primary care clinician for over 40 years in the Boston area, although he had many friends and interests outside of medicine, his eulogies were full of stories of going the extra mile at work: phone calls to patients long after he had promised to be home, making sure his patients on the university service were taken care of, and house calls to a friend’s ailing father.
Heroes are selfless and tireless. No hero looks at their watch and says, “Okay, time to head home to family.” However, when our heroes are human, they need to rest, be able to ask for help, and be allowed to say, “I’m done. My turn to be taken care of.” In honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, to all my health care colleagues, please, put your own oxygen mask on first.