Love and Serve Your Neighbor

“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me to your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25: 35-36

Last month, I participated in my first ever-medical mission trip. Until then, I admit that I allowed school, raising children, and never-ending work to get in the way of service. Well, that has all ended. My husband, who is an ordained minister, organized a trip for 13 volunteers to go to Kumasi, Ghana on a medical mission and education trip. We were two physicians and one dentist, two educators, one journalist and seven other missionaries. Our ages ranged from 14 to 70! We brought along 19 boxes and duffel bags full of medical and dental supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shoes, clothes, and Bibles. It was a wonderful experience, and mindboggling to the two teenagers with us. To meet smiling, happy, and welcoming youth in the midst of unbelievable poverty surprised them. The kids their age did not have cell phones, laptops, cars to drive or the latest new sneakers. They lived with no electricity or running water and no school cafeteria. Yet, they were smart, eager to learn, and they appreciated what little they had. Our teenagers were inspired and came back home also more appreciative of what they have.

The mission trip affirmed what has been instilled in me by my parents since childhood, which is to be of service to others in whatever way you can. When I grew up, the basement of my family’s home in Copenhagen was always occupied by a newly arrived immigrant, a refugee, or a friend of a friend who was in need of housing. My dad was always in the kitchen cooking scrumptious Ghanaian food for everyone and anyone who needed a good meal. As a recent retiree, my mother moved to Katmandu, Nepal for 18 months to work as a pediatrician in a hospital in a very poor village. She returned 15 years later, close to 80 years of age, with a substantial donation to the hospital that she raised through friends and colleagues.

Janet Jackson sings in one of her songs, “What have you done for me lately?” She clearly does not feel any love because the object of her affection didn’t show love through action. He was all talk and no walk. We should also be careful to make sure we both talk the talk and walk the walk. Caring for and loving others takes compassion and commitment, time and money. Thoughts and prayers alone are not enough. Loving our neighbor and serving our neighbor go hand in hand. So, I encourage all of us to show our love in service to others by any means possible. We should be both intentional and creative about how we can be of service to others – whether that means opening our home to a stranger, or going out of our way to give of our time, talents, and treasure to those in need.

Peace,

Dr. Washington

How Does Your Health Grow?

How Does Your Health Grow?

Spring is in the air and summer is just around the corner! The excitement is palpable as we anticipate the days we will spend playing at the beach, lounging poolside, taking strolls in the mountains, and just enjoying those things that make our hearts happy.

This spring, for the umpteenth time, I have decided to plant an herb garden. I love to cook with fresh basil, cilantro, dill, parsley and mint, and every year I start out great for the first two weeks. Then life gets in the way. Slowly but surely my herbs wither away because I forget to water them and pluck out the weeds that threaten to choke them. But I always keep hope alive and reassure myself that this year I will do better. I will finally take time out to tend to my little patch of herbs.

My herb garden can be seen as a metaphor for those things in life that we hold dear and wish to accomplish. We know we want something, but we usually don’t make the sacrifices necessary to have and keep it. Patients share with me daily how they really, really, really want to lose weight, but they cannot find the time to work out regularly or change their eating habits by cooking healthy food at home. They tell me how stressed they are, and that their intimate relationships are on the rocks, but that they are still somehow unable to carve out the time and energy the relationships need to flourish. Health and relationships are like my herb garden: without water, sunlight and weeding, they die, too.

So, this spring, I invite you to join me in rededicating yourselves to regularly spending time doing what is good for you and what makes you happy. Unapologetically clear out the unhealthy, smothering weeds in your life. You might find that your blood pressure will improve, your tension headaches will lift, your shoulder pain will ease, and your stomach and digestive system will calm down. Stress sits in all these places, and our bodies speak to us daily asking us to please make a change. Instead, most of us just go to the doctor to get medication, which treats the symptoms but not the causes of our discomfort. The best treatment may simply be to water your desires and needs, give them some sunlight, and weed out whatever may be hindering your growth.

Happy gardening!

Peace,

Dode Washington, MD

Earth care

Care for OUR Earth

There are many awareness issues celebrated in April, but I would like to focus on just two – Autism Awareness Month and Earth Day (April 22) – and combine them through introducing you to my newfound heroine, Greta Thunberg.

Greta is a 16-year-old Swedish girl with Asperger’s, which is a developmental disorder on the Autism spectrum. She is a passionate environmentalist, with tremendous zeal and courage in communicating her agenda to politicians on a global scale. She is urging them to make an immediate and drastic change to current environmental policies so that we do not experience a human-induced environmental catastrophe in our lifetime.

Greta learned about the greenhouse effect in elementary school. It interested her so much that she started conducting research on her own. Eventually, Greta realized that the adults in charge of environmental policy refused to make policy changes to save our environment not because they didn’t have the necessary scientific information, but because of political inertia. Environmental policymakers were lackadaisical, apathetic, lethargic and nonchalant about the scientific information available to them to make change.

This realization was so devastating to Greta that she went into a deep depression. She stopped eating, speaking, and going to school as she lost hope for the future. Thank God Greta eventually realized that she did have something to live and fight for. She decided that even as an introvert with Asperger’s, she had a voice and she would use it. Greta says she was inspired by Rosa Parks, who too was introverted and quiet, but who nevertheless started a movement by sitting down and refusing to get up on that bus one day in Montgomery, Alabama.

Greta’s protest involves skipping school on Fridays to demonstrate peacefully outside the statehouse in Stockholm, Sweden. What began as one lone teenager has now become a worldwide phenomenon with its own hashtag #FridaysForFuture. Due to the impact of her work, Greta spoke at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in 2018, and I encourage you to watch her inspiring speech here.

For Greta, having Asperger’s means her brain is wired differently than other teenagers her age; she sees things as back or white, and solutions are very obvious to her. She is not interested in usual teenage girl activities like partying, makeup and boys, but is very focused and determined to solve the problems that matter to her. Greta has become a vegan because of the impact that meat production has on the greenhouse effect and has asked her parents to follow suit. She has also stopped flying and chooses to take the train instead – even for international meetings and speaking engagements – because fossil fuel emissions from airplanes are devastating to the environment. And she has convinced her mother, who is a famous opera singer, to stop flying all over Europe to give concerts and become home-based in Stockholm. This is indeed practicing what you preach!

Greta speaks with no religious overtones that I can detect, but the words from Psalm 24:1 come to mind when I think of her work: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

My question for you today is, what are you doing to protect the earth? Are you a good steward of our planet’s resources? Are you trying to live a sustainable lifestyle by reducing, reusing and recycling? Are you eating less meat and more vegetables? Do you turn off the water when brushing your teeth, buy fuel-efficient cars, opt for e-receipts, use cloth grocery bags, or decrease your use of plastic bottles and straws?

I invite us all to make 2019 the year where we commit to taking better care of OUR earth. Where we become more informed about our environment and how to love it better, and worry less about what “they” are doing and begin to understand that change begins with us.

I will end with a quote by our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt, from his speech “Conservation as a National Duty, given at the White House in 1908:

“We have become great in a material sense because of our lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation. These questions do not relate only to the next century or to the next generation. One distinguishing characteristic of really civilized men is foresight; we have to, as a nation, exercise foresight for this nation in the future; and if we do not exercise that foresight, dark will be the future!”

Here’s to the bright future that I believe we can all create through collectively deciding to be better stewards of our planet.

Peace,

 

Dr. Washington

Womens History Month

Women’s History Month

March is a busy month for health awareness topics. When I Googled “Health in March,” this is what came up:

  • National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
  • Brain Injury Awareness Month
  • National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
  • Save Your Vision Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month
  • National Kidney Month
  • National Endometriosis Awareness Month

There’s so much to say about all of these very important topics, and I encourage you to research and learn more about them. But March is also National Women’s History Month, and I feel led to reflect on that for this month’s Wellness Wednesday.

I am fortunate to have had many wonderful women role models and mentors in my life, and I would like to mention just two of them.

My mother, Dr. Eleonora Faber, was born in 1929 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She went to medical school at a time when few women did and married an African man when interracial relationships were unheard of. She had courage and led a fearless life, not worrying about what other people would think of her. That led to great inner peace. She took the exam to become a pilot and could fly a small plane, learned sign language so she could communicate with her patients at the school for deaf children, and often traveled to work where she was needed most, in places like Kathmandu, Nepal and Greenland.

My mother always followed her heart unapologetically and has been my role model in life for just about everything. Watching her practice medicine made me the doctor I am today. Her love of Jesus Christ and her fellow human beings meant she was always helping someone, regardless of their nationality, race, sexual orientation, or economic station in life.

The second phenomenal woman who comes to mind is Maya Angelou.

Among the first books I read when I immigrated to the U.S. in 1985 as a newlywed was the autobiography of Maya Angelou. I admit I bought the book because I liked the colorful cover; I had no idea who she was! But I fell in love with Maya Angelou after that first reading and have loved her ever since. To celebrate her legacy, I would like to share her poem, “Still I Rise,” written in 1978.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

 

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

 

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

 

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

 

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

In closing, dear women of Coastal Carolina OBGYN, this month and every month, I invite you to reflect on your own she-roes and role models. If you have one that is alive today, send her a card or flowers or simply give her a call and let her know what she means to you. Likewise, I encourage you to take hold of a young girl’s hand, help her along the way, and be a mentor or role model for her. Pay it forward!

Peace,

Dr. Washington

 

Take Care of Your Heart Health

Take Control of Your Heart Health

Welcome back to our second Wellness Wednesday talk. I received such nice feedback from the first one that I will try a second one.

The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1897-1971) is accredited with the Serenity Prayer, which many people are familiar with from the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program. It goes something like this:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

February is heart health month, and I challenge all of us to acquire wisdom and courage to make changes to our lives in order to take better care of our heart health, and to let go of the things, which are out of our control.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in all adults, surpassing deaths from all cancers combined. Yet, we often seem more worried about cancer deaths than deaths from heart disease. The main culprits in heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating habits and stress; these are all factors, which we actually can do something about!

Starting today, let us take control of our heart health. We do not have to suffer the same illnesses as our family- we CAN change our destiny.

  1. If you smoke, quit those cigarettes NOW.
  2. Begin a daily exercise program aiming at 150 minutes of exercise a week. Join a gym or do your work out routines at home in front of your TV or computer using of of the many work out routines found online, like for instance , “21 day Fix” which I find fun.
  3. Drive past the fast food restaurants to avoid the deep fried foods and sugary drinks and begin to cook you own nutritious food. Current dietary information seems to point us toward eating a more plant based diet. Did you know that dairy, red meat, and pork leads to increased cancer and inflammatory conditions like arthritis? Let me reference a couple of great vegan cookbooks one can order online (vegans eat no animal products at all) and two documentaries which I think are a must to watch this month on Netflix.

The must watch documentaries are “What the Health” and  “ Forks over Knives”.  They had a profound impact on me, and I am sad to say that we were not taught this information in medical school or in residency.

Great Cook Books to help inspire you to try vegan recipes are “Forks over Knives”, which also has a very handy APP that I use a lot,  “ The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease cook book” by the Esselstyn family, “Oh She Glows Cookbook” and the “Sweet Potato Soul” cookbook for the southern palate.  We can REVERSE heart disease through our diet! Isn’t that a crazy thought! Somehow, we have come to believe that only pills prescribed by doctors can do it or stents and bypass surgery can help us, but we can truly do something for ourselves by completely changing our eating habits, exercising, and by leading less stressful lives.  The latter often means that we have to change our attitude and not let things get to us, that we have to make an effort to stay calm, cool and collected. Some folks pray to stay focused and calm, some meditate, some sing, some exercise, some read, some go for walks, some spend time with peaceful loving people, some garden. Whatever works for you, make an effort in 2019 to seek it out and give it a try for the benefit of your own heart health.

Peace,

Dr. Washington

Wellness Wednesdays

Wellness Wednesdays

WELCOME TO WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS

Happy New Year to all of our patients, friends and family of Coastal Carolina OBGYN.

Thank you for choosing us to be your gynecological and obstetrical provider.  We appreciate you and we will continue to strive to provide you with the very best and most compassionate care possible.  Excellent medical care however, does not only deal with treating ailments of our physical bodies, but also talks about prevention, nutrition, and mental and spiritual health.  I have found that the latter three topics are as important as the first two, and I encourage everyone to make 2019 the year of mental and spiritual healing as well as beginning a path to wholesome nutrition.

Starting today I will share with you a monthly Wednesday Wellness blog, which I hope you will find beneficial.

Mother Theresa is often accredited with the poem “Anyway”, but it actually originated from a 1968 leadership book by then 19-year-old Harvard student, Kent M. Keith. He called it “The Paradoxical Commandments”. Mother Theresa found these commandments so inspiring that she hung them on the wall in her children’s home in Calcutta, and thus they became famously known as the “Anyway” poem.

I would like to begin 2019 with sharing this poem and invite you to meditate on it, and encourage you to forgive, be kind, succeed, be honest and sincere, create, be happy, give your best, do good and always love anyway.

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered

LOVE THEM ANYWAY

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives

DO GOOD ANYWAY

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies

SUCCEED ANYWAY

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow

DO GOOD ANYWAY

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable

BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight

BUILD ANYWAY

People really need help but may attack you if you help them

HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth

GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU GOT ANYWAY.

 

 

 

Peace,

 

Dr. Washington