Dr. James H. Frey of Birmingham has been my doctor since 2005.
Dr. James H. Frey of Birmingham has been my doctor since 2005; since before MDVIP ever came into our lives. My gynecologist had trained under Dr. Freys father, so I knew what kind of mindset had fostered his desire to practice medicine.
I am a trial lawyer and, as I began my relationship with Dr. Frey, I already understood all the arguments about tort reform and managed care. I knew that concierge medicine was what I wanted for my future medical needs.
Right from the start, I knew Dr. Frey cared and, most importantly, he listened. I was amazed when, during a visit, he would remember things I had said 2 or even 3 visits earlier. His patients are important to him, and I began to worry about him and how the changing medical industry landscape was changing the way he was required to interact with his patients. Because he cared so much about each patient, I knew he was going to experience increasing levels of dissatisfaction and frustration, which such good a guy and such a good a doctor should not have to tolerate.
So when Dr. Frey sent me the first letter about the possibility of his joining MDVIP, I jumped right on the bandwagon with both feet. I attended the first informational meeting that Dr. Frey and his wife hosted with personnel from MDVIP-HQ. Dr. Frey laughed when he saw me, and when the MDVIP corporate-type wanted me to sign up, she seemed surprised when I told her that I had already submitted my paperwork by mail.
And so, we continued along, laughing about my empty sella and cheering over my weight loss and the near-resolution of my IBS. Dr. Frey had become a pal and a working partner. When my job required me to relocate to Montgomery from Birmingham, and folks suggested that I find a local doctor, I cut them off. I already had the best doctor in Alabama and had no intention of replacing him under any circumstances. He was always there for me, when I fell down a flight of stairs at work and broke my collar bone, when I needed a thyroid biopsy, and when my car was nearly totaled after being hit head-on by a 1987 Plymouth.
And then my life changed. My mother, 900 miles away in Pennsylvania, began to show symptoms of dementia. I was required to bring her to live with me. I asked Dr. Frey if he would accept her as a new patient and he agreed without hesitation. My mother liked him; as an old-school nurse since 1950, that was high praise.
Her condition deteriorated rapidly and so did mine. I had not anticipated the stress of being a caregiver. As an only child, all of the responsibility fell on me to make sure her physical needs were met, as well and all the other stuff that went with her: managing her finances, prescriptions, real property, taxes, and insurance; closely monitoring the caregivers to whom I entrusted her each day; and trying to give her some level of quality of life through little outings, dinners out, and trips to the hairdresser.
Sometime in 2012, I was in Dr. Freys office; my weight had soared, as had my blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. My blood glucose was becoming a concern and my thyroid was still behaving in a puzzling way. I often forgot to take my medications, and even forgot to refill them on occasion. I was drinking a lot of wine. A LOT. He was telling me all the reasons why I needed to take care of myself and I kept telling him all the reasons why everything about Mama was so much more important. I will never forget what happened next. He looked me right in the eye, for about 5 whole seconds, and then he said, I will not let you go down with this ship. I was startled. He had gotten my attention. If I had not had the personal regard for him that I do, I doubt that the impression would have been as great.
I started being more conscientious about my own needs, even though 2013 proved to be a difficult year. Dr. Frey was with me every step of the way on the final part of my journey with Mama, from her deleriums and her aggression, through her multiple seizures, to her commitment to a psychiatric unit, and her eventual transfer to a nursing home and into hospice care. I relied on him, maybe too much, to help me make tough decisions and I will be forever grateful for his kindness, compassion, sense of humor, and outstanding professional skill.
Mama has passed now and I am making slow progress healing. I am back on my diet and exercising so that I can fully enjoy the next chapter in my life, and so that when Dr. Frey sees me next, I can make him smile.