The Giant of Hampton Bays

A hook kick to the side of the head slowed his advance, so I did it again.  It connected like the first, and he stalled.  In a frantic effort to keep the colossus from harming me, I decided to go to the water hole for a third time.  That was a sizable blunder.  He seized my body, hoisted it in the air and smacked me down on the hardwood floor.  Everything was knocked loose inside my chest.  This is how I met my best friend Mitch, in a martial arts class. Mitch was a powerlifter and one of the few strength athletes to ever wander from the weightlifting half of the gym to the Combat Karate section.  Years later, I became Mitch’s physical therapist and a powerlifting magazine featured us in an article entitled, “MITCH GENE AND JOHNNY KEENAN: THEIR FRIENDSHIP BEGAN WITH A KICK TO THE HEAD.”

After returning to my office from lunch one afternoon, I received a call telling me to go to the Nassau County Medical Center. Mitch had collapsed at work.  The ambulance dashed him to the hospital and after a CT scan, it was confirmed that he had a large, high grade IV astrocytoma primary brain tumor, usually called a glioblastoma multiforme.  They removed it, but found six other tumors regarded too small to operate on.  When Mitch woke up four days after the operation, specialists informed him that the smaller tumors probably should be treated with chemotherapy – but they were not optimistic.  When I told Mitch about a new medical center I’d heard of that specialized in brain tumor research, he asked me to take him there.  Immediately I made the necessary calls and we set out a few days later for the Vincent-Marcus Brain Surgery and Research Center, far out on Long Island, in the Hamptons.

Acting as Mitch’s advocate, we were both scheduled to meet with Dr. Leah Vincent and Dr. Henry Marcus to discuss Mitch’s condition and treatment.  After driving two hours through Suffolk County to reach the center and filling out a heap of forms in their lobby, we were shuffled into a plush, tranquil office and told to wait.  Within minutes Dr. Vincent and Dr. Marcus entered the room. Dr. Marcus’s expression exuded arrogance and boredom.  As they sat down in the chairs facing us, Dr. Vincent, who was a tall maiden with long auburn hair, threw me a quick knowing smile.  Her eyes sparkled when she smiled.  Dr. Vincent explained to Mitch the scores of tests scheduled that day to precisely evaluate his situation.

Mitch asked, “Do you really think you can help me?”

Dr. Vincent reached over and touched his shoulder.  “We will try our best, Mr. Gene.”

Mitch signed the necessary forms.  Dr. Marcus abruptly grabbed them up and left the office never bothering to say a word to either one of us.  Then Dr. Vincent and I approached each other.  I was confused as to why this obviously compassionate doctor would partner with a man like that. Perhaps she could sense what I was thinking because she returned my baffled look with a sad expression and a shoulder shrug. The nurses came in with a wheelchair and took Mitch.  Dr. Vincent suggested that I leave for the day since Mitch would be exhausted when they finished with him.

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