Friday, September 28, 2007

Vilmos Branyik M.D

This blog is not about me, but is about my father who passed away yesterday; September 27, 2007.

He was 91 years old and had had a good life. I couldn't be any prouder of him. I am grateful he was my father.

He was born in Hungary February 19, 1916 and was the youngest in a large family. He came to the United States at the end of World War II. His hope was to establish a life for himself and his family here.

When he came to this country he was able to speak, read and write 12 languages; English was not one of them.

So even though he was a doctor and surgon in Europe he had to be an orderly in an hospital in Peoria Illinois while he learned to speak, read and write English well enough to take the exams to become a Doctor in this country.

So for a year he changed sheets and bed pans, never complaning that the work was beneath him. He was happy to be in America.

After becoming licensed he needed to find a place to work. Back then people from middle Europe (specifically anyone that looked or sounded German) were not well liked and treated a lot like we now treat people from the middle east.

So when it came time for him to be placed in a town to work he didn't get one of the choice assignments. He was sent to Dunlap Illinois. A town of about 500 people outside of Peoria.

Back then it was illegal and considered unethical to advertise. So he opened an office and waited for people to come in. And even though he was different the people of Dunlap embraced him and he became their doctor. He took care of their needs and delivered their baby's. He was as much a part of the town as anyone that had grown up there.

It was there that he met his wife (my mother) Karen. He met her at an ice cream social. The were married in 1956 and remained married until the day he passed.

I followed a year later in 1957 and my brother Vince came into this world in 1959.

We moved to Chicago in 1968 because my father was invited to teach other Doctors at a very prestigious hospital there. But he grew tired of teaching and missed being a family doctor.

So in 1970 our family moved to Zion Illinois where he again started a family practice. In 1976 when he was 60 and most people are looking forward to retirement, he was still as busy as ever. Not to make money, just because he wanted to help people. He lived a very simple life then, making his daily rounds in the morning, seeing patients all day and then making rounds in the nursing homes in the late afternoon before dinner.

In 1980 he and my mom moved to Abingdon Illinois. He had gotten a job at the Galesburg Mental Health and Research hospital. He took the job because being in private practice had become too stressful for him. He was 64 at the time and (as always) was very attached to his patients. Whenever one of his patients in the nursing home would pass on he would be depressed for days. When one of his patients was pregnant and close to delivery he wouldn't sleep well for days and be on edge waiting for "the call". He always charged just enough to cover his expenses and never sent anyone to a collection agency. If they couldn't pay he figured if they didn't pay they just couldn't. I remember when the father of a baby he had just delivered approached him to tell tell him that with all the expenses of having a baby he couldn't afford to pay his bill. My father told him not to worry about it, that his family was more important. But the new father's pride wouldn't allow him to accept that so with my father protesting every time he did it he washed the windows at my fathers office for months.

In 1989 at age 73 the hospital that my father worked at closed. He didn't want to retire but was too old to start another practice and was unable to find anywhere else close to work. My father needed another year working for the state to be eligible for their retirement. That was an important to him as he never made a lot of money in private practice and the retirement plan the state of Illinois provided was very important to him.

So at 75 it looked like he wasn't going to have any retirement. But then......

Someone found out about the year he worked as an orderly when he first came to this country and in a strange twist of fate that year counted towards his retirement and put him 3 days over 10 years.

He ended up retiring with a full pension from the state. After being a doctor for 50 years and worrying about everyone else he was able to finally take time for himself.

So what did he do? Travel, pick up a new and exciting hobby?

He just stayed home to be with my mom and their dogs. He bought a lawn tractor and fooled around in the yard and loved every minute of it.

You see, my father was a simple man with simple needs. We never lived in a fancy house or had fancy things. We lived pretty much like any other middle class family. My father never had a car for less than 10 years and they were always a plain station wagon with an AM radio. The only luxury he allowed himself was an automatic transmission.

Growing up with my father was different. Because of his commitment to his work he was gone a lot and when he was home he spent a lot of time reading medical journals to keep himself current. A habit he continued into his late 80's.

The best times I had with my father were our family vacations. We would take 2 - 3 weeks off and travel from our home in Illinois to the upper peninsula of Michigan to a small resort with 3 cabins on a lake. There were no phones, no television and nothing for a young person to do but fish and swim.

For my father it was total freedom. No one to call during the middle of the night, no one to worry about and no schedule. I think those were the happiest times of his life. They were the only times I ever saw him completely relaxed and able to have a good time.

The last year of his life was not easy for him. While he was fortunate enough to have pretty good health he had lost most of his sight and hearing. It was difficult and frustrating for him to function day to day.

I was happy to be close to him when he went and I know that his passing was quick and painless. He didn't seem to suffer at all. I can't say enough good things about the people at the hospital and from his church that took care of him in his final hours. They knew he was a Doctor and treated him with the respect that title means in a hospital.

So even though he gone from this earth much of him remains. So many are better off for knowing him.

Especially me.....