Congratulations Uncle Broccoli

Uncle Broccoli looking all professional and stuff.

Uncle Broccoli looking all professional and stuff.

This weekend my wife and I and our three children will be making the four hour trek to Marietta Ohio, the vacation capital of the world. To be honest, there's not much in Marietta. The last time I was there we struggled to even find a decent restaurant nearby for a nice family dinner. So why go back?

Aside from this one restaurant, and a covered bridge, Marietta also boasts Marietta College, which has a Physician Assistant program and is the reason for this upcoming trip. More specifically my wife's younger brother is graduating from said program and we are going out there to congratulate him.

Familial lore says that when he was a child, Bradley's siblings struggled with pronouncing his name, and therefore he was dubbed broccoli because that is, apparently, MUCH easier to pronounce. Though pronouncing 'Bradley' has become easier for these brothers and sisters, the name still pops up every once in a while, along with tales of broken front teeth, fights with his twin brother Benjamin, and the infamous photo of him and Benjamin in girls bathing suits being tortured by their older brother for laughs.

Ain't family funny?

At moments like these, when a young person achieves a major accomplishment, it's easy to think back to those funny stories from the past and laugh, reminiscing. But it's also easy to overlook all the work and effort it took them to get to the finish line.

If you're not familiar with Physicians Assistants, they are the closest thing you can get to a medical doctor you can be without actually being a doctor and having all the years of school, piles of school loans and what not. The program he was enrolled in was intense; several years of medical training crammed into a two year program of intense study, multi-week rotations with different doctors (sometimes in different cities), trips back to school for periodic testing, all while not getting paid. The program is so intense that participants are not even ALLOWED to work because they need to devote themselves so thoroughly to their studies. That's right, don't even think of going down and stacking books at the school library for less than minimum wage, it's forbidden. In spite of all this he persevered. Broccoli, or Bradley (whichever you prefer), is a great kid.

I can say kid because I am old and he is not.

He is one of those guys that if you knew a single girl, you would actually recommend him to her. He is shy, humble, intelligent and has many excellent qualities. But if you asked me to describe him in two words they would be:

Diligent and Determined.

Too often in life we look at those who have achieved great things and we think: "Well they are just really talented." As though they somehow struck a "talent lottery" and we didn't.

By virtue of being married to his sister, I have had the privilege of watching this young man grow up since he was about 14 or 15 years old. While he is extremely talented, and very gifted, I know how many hours he has spent studying while sacrificing other things he could have been doing for the sake of getting where he wanted to go.

While many of his friends were out boating on the lake, or partying, or chasing the ladies, Bradley was volunteering for the local fire department, or down at the firehouse studying for his degree, or for his medical classes. It would be easy to look at him collecting his diploma at graduation and simply think he's talented, and while he is, I remember all those hours he worked with no one looking over his shoulder to get to where he will be on Saturday.

The truth is, the family (myself included) could not be prouder of him.

From early on, we all knew he would do something in medicine. I remember going on vacation with my wife's family, and walking out of my room to see him on the couch watching some show on TV from some hospital's trauma room. Nothing like waking up, wiping the sleep from your eyes to behold someone screaming in an ER while their guts and organs are gushing out and nurses and doctors scramble to keep them alive. Then for your father in law to shout: "Hey everyone I fried up some SPAM!"

Makes you really yearn for breakfast!

But each decision he made, was calculated, each step always bringing him closer to the destination he had in mind. From making runs as an EMT/Paramedic in the middle of the night trying to save the life of a car crash victim, or working at the county morgue to gain more medical experience and learn from the Dr's there, he worked hard, day in and day out for years to get to where he wanted to be. All with the goal of helping people.

How do I know?

About a year ago, my life was in a pretty dark place due to severe migraines. I have struggled with headaches my entire life, but they reached a climax of suffering several months ago. It started once a week or so, where I would wake up around 2am with my head feeling like it was about to explode. In the ensuing months, the frequency increased to around 2-3 times a week, nearly every other day. I sought medical counsel, and was given the typical answers: Pills, Surgery, Diet, etc. It was so bad I was literally afraid to go to sleep each night, dreading the pain that might wake me.

Bradley felt there was a different cause. In the course of his training he had run across medical studies linking headaches to Sleep Apnea and recommended I have a sleep study conducted. I brought this information to my Dr's (who would have to order the study for insurance) and they felt they knew better.

Coincidentally Bradley even went to work for my primary care physician on one of his rotations, who continued to ignore his recommendations. Instead I had sinus surgery, an MRI, and was prescribed medication that did not help. I quit caffeine, switched other medications, to no avail. In fact at one point the MRI actually came back with a spot that was of some concern, and I couldn't get an answer from anyone on what it actually was. Honestly, there was a definition, but no one in the medical community seemed able to explain what the MRI was showing. I had to wait weeks to see a Neurologist to be told it was no big deal.

So that was fun.

After months of visits, thousands in medical bills, eventually after meeting with my ENT post sinus surgery and still suffering through the headaches nearly nightly now, my ENT finally gave in and ordered a sleep study.

Low and behold, I stopped breathing 56 times per hour, and carbon dioxide was building up in my brain which caused the headache. My body thought I was dying and lit my brain on fire so I would wake up and breathe instead of sleeping and dying.

Apparently your brain needs oxygen to survive. Go figure.

Since sleeping with my CPAP machine, I have not had a single instance of a headache like before. It has completely changed my life. And it's all due to one young man with a genuine desire to help and not simply prescribe the same stuff that has always been done before.

So here's to you Bradley on your big day. Congratulations on this wonderful accomplishment from your very first patient. Enjoy reaping the harvest of nights spent pouring over medical books quizzing yourself, hours spent reading, and thousands of note cards consumed with scribbled facts. Hopefully you can feel it's all been worth it. And please know that each day I wake up not wanting to remove sections of my skull to allow my brain to breathe is another day I am thankful you pushed me to push my Doctors to think outside the box.

I'll say it again Uncle Broccoli, we are all very proud of you.



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