My Tribute to a Front-Line Medical Worker Who Set an Example for All of Us.

I have three friends who died this past month. One friend was fatally injured in a fall and another died of a massive heart attack. Just one week ago, I learned that a third friend died of Covid-19. Here is my tribute to one front-line medical worker who became my friend over 30 years of service to my family.

Dr. James (Jim) Boudwin, M.D. served as my general physician for more than 30 years in Dayton, New Jersey. Although our relationship remained largely professional, we developed a true friendship over the years as he was always there when my family needed his help. And help he did, both medically and in other ways. I do not have the space here to share all the ways Jim helped me and my family. But in service to his memory, I thought I would share a couple of stories that illustrate why we should honor him.

Jim earned his medical degree while serving in the U.S. Army, an association he was deeply proud of. So proud, in fact, that he confided in me one time that if the Army made him the right employment offer, he would reenlist as an Army doctor. This military background benefitted me personally when my 16-year-old son Evan, who was a Junior in high school, informed my wife Kathy and me that he wanted to enlist in the Army. Neither Kathy nor I had served in the armed forces. Therefore, we had a very limited frame of reference by which to advise him. It would be an understatement to say we were both a bit uneasy about his decision.

During a previously scheduled medical appointment, I mentioned to Jim that Evan had intentions to enlist and we discussed my concerns over such a major commitment. I remember Jim getting this grin on his face as he told me about his own experience in the Army. He said as an Army doctor he obtained some of his best medical experience because they permitted him to perform procedures and treat military patients in ways that the private sector would never legally allow. He then reassured me that Evan would be fine. In fact, he told me that for Evan, going to basic training would be like summer camp on steroids. He told me Evan would love it. Jim offered to speak to Evan about his interest in Army service, an offer Evan would later accept before his enlistment. Such reassurances are those that only come from a doctor whose concern about his patients go beyond simply their health.

Evan joined the Army Reserve and attended basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky the summer after his Junior year of high school. While he was away, Evan would send us letters to tell us about the challenges he was facing and his determination to complete his Army training. That August, Kathy and I attended Evan’s graduation at Fort Knox and experienced both the pride and emotion one would expect from such an event. As we drove home together as a family from Kentucky, I remember asking Evan about what he thought of his experience. His answer was simple: “I loved it” he said. It turns out that Jim Boudwin was right all along.

Jim’s medical advice was often as sound as his personal advice on family matters. I personally benefitted from this on one occasion in a way that may very well have saved my life. During my mid-30’s I began experiencing intermittent heart palpitations, the kind that would last a few minutes and then would pass. Jim and I discussed the problem, and he told me that it was important to get these palpitations recorded on an EKG so we could diagnose the problem and treat it properly. He told me that if I experienced palpitations again while in the vicinity of his office that I should immediately come in and he would put me on his EKG machine to obtain a reading.

Years would go by before I would take advantage of this open EKG invitation. I woke up one morning and my heart was racing with a pulse of about 160. I called Jim’s office to let him know I was coming in. Jim immediately ran the EKG, read the results, and without saying a word left my examination room. He returned about 60 seconds later with a pill he placed under my tongue and a patch that he slapped on my chest (both presumably nitroglycerine). He then told me he had just called an ambulance because he thought I might be having a heart attack. That was not the news I was expecting that morning.

When the ambulance finally arrived it kicked off a series of events that eventually lead to a cardiac ablation being performed two days later. I remember waking up early my first morning in the hospital to the sound of someone entering my room saying “Eric?” There was Jim Boudwin, standing at the foot of my bed making his morning rounds. I remember sharing a “high-five” with him over the fact that we had finally figured out what was going on with my heart: atrial flutter. The ablation procedure effectively cured the problem as I have not had a reoccurrence in 20 years. This is just one example of how Jim was there when I needed him.

Jim Boudwin died at 67 years of age still working at his medical practice, this despite recent personal challenges that I understand had limited his time commitment. However, he once told me that he would like to keep practicing till he was 100 years old, if he could. That kind of commitment was ever present, including on September 11, 2001 when he cancelled one of my appointments and raced into New York City to see if he could help the injured. God has a special place for people like Jim who are committed to serving others in this way.

Although Kathy and I relocated to Greenville, South Carolina in 2018, and I have since established relationships with new doctors, none have had the profound and beneficial influence on my life that Jim Boudwin did. His example as a professional, and as a human being, should be an example for all of us.

Rest in peace my friend.

Eric A. Beck
Free Nation Media LLC
Greenville, South Carolina


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