My father, Howard Netter, M.D., spent much of his life welcoming new people into this world. His work as an obstetrician-gynecologist perfectly melded his love for medicine with his absolute respect and joy for humanity. I recently returned to my hometown of Albany, New York to practice holistic medicine and energy healing. After speaking with streams of my father’s precious patients I realized that this wonderful clinician and surgeon was, in fact, always practicing holistic medicine as well! He truly cared for every patient’s mind, body, and spirit. He offered precisely what each patient needed to feel: supported, nurtured, and respected.My father was completely devoid of pretense or malice. He had impeccable integrity, a deep, joyous and uninhibited laugh, and a golden gentle energy all around him. He adored practicing medicine and loved teaching the residents and medical students at Albany Medical Center. His active work in the community included promotion of the National Kidney Foundation and co-creation of the Capital District Physician’s Health Plan (CDPHP).
When faced with deteriorating renal function and health challenges due to Polycystic Kidney Disease, he practiced what he believed: You must actively participate in your own health care process. He felt that: “The more I help with my own healing, collaborating with my doctors rather than blindly being taken care of and lettings things just be done to me, the more I can thrive.” So he exercised, tried to eat healthy foods, and laughed a lot. In this way, as well as in the way he simply moved through this world with ease and compassion, he served as an example and inspiration to his patients, friends, and family.
He applied this belief in self-healing to his own journey through dialysis and kidney transplantation. He defined himself as a person who happened to have kidney disease, not as “a kidney disease patient”. I think this perspective empowered him and allowed for him to live a fuller life. In the years before he required hemodialysis, when his kidneys were still functioning adequately, he would close his eyes, get very relaxed, breathe deeply and serenely, and visualize his body healing. While on home hemodialysis he did positive, life-affirming things: he rested and did self-relaxation exercises, spoke on the phone with patients, and spent quality time with his family. He had a successful kidney transplant but eventually his transplanted kidney was not able to function properly. He did peritoneal dialysis in characteristic style-with grace and no complaints; He would just take a break from the office, come home to dialyze and then head back to the office with a smile in his heart and step.
My father also served as a constant cheerleader and supporter for my mother. A successful attorney with no medical experience, my mother courageously learned how to insert the needles into his fistula. She also learned how to live her life fully even while fearing that her husband could die at any time. She shared with me that the experience of my father’s kidney disease was incredibly challenging for her. With his constant love, encouragement and positive attitude, though, she was able to navigate fears and worries to live a happy and fulfilling life.
Howard Netter, M.D. loved and respected all people. We all felt this. Even when his body was emaciated following two open-heart surgeries and multiple systemic infections, his light was so strong that people simply wanted to be near him. In his last days, when he returned home from yet another hospital stay, he was so frail that when we took a walk he had to physically hold on to me in order to make it down the block. Yet, somehow, I was still being energetically and emotionally boosted by him!
The most valuable life lesson I learned from my father was that his resilience came from some place deep within. For years I observed the “enlightening” experience each person felt in his presence. We always thought it was him but it was, in truth, his spirit showing us our best selves. I believe my father’s health and courage were boosted every time he had a chance to serve and to love – which were one and the same for him. Because of this, his health and well-being were always nourished by giving and caring for others. What an inspiration.
About the Author
Beth Netter, M.D. is a Holistic Physician associated with the Center for Integrative Health and Healing in Delmar, New York. She is a Nutritional Consultant and Certified Medical Acupuncturist as well as a Reiki Master Healer and Teacher. She was previously the Director of Obstetric Anesthesiology and staff anesthesiologist at Memorial Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, having done her residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard University in Boston after earning her medical degree from SUNY Buffalo School of Biomedical Sciences.
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