A community that cares

By Reade Brower | Jul 24, 2014

“Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way it cares for its helpless members.” — Pearl S. Buck, novelist, (1892-1973).

Dr. Ira Mandel is retiring as the medical director of Pen Bay Healthcare’s Hospice and Palliative Care Program. As a health care provider for more than 30 years, Dr. Mandel has supported patients with chronic, life limiting and end of life diseases with what is termed palliative medicine.

The emphasis of Dr. Mandel and the Palliative Care Program at Pen Bay Hospital is on creating the best quality of life, while managing pain and controlling symptoms and not ignoring the emotional and spiritual aspects that come with end-of-life.

I have only met Dr. Ira, as my mother called him, once or twice when his visits collided with mine during the end of my mother’s time here on earth in 2013. What struck me was his ability to exude “nice” and the gentleness that accompanies that trait. While my mum did not particularly like the home nurses, or remember that she was sick, she always managed a smile when told that Dr. Ira was stopping by. “He’s the one with the bow tie and he smiles nice at you” is how we would describe him if she was confused.

What’s important to note is that this gentle medicine doled out by Dr. Ira during end of life has been expanded to include his decision to join a small group of local doctors willing to pitch in on helping people with chronic addiction by using an alternative to methadone treatment, Suboxone, that can be administered in a doctor’s office rather than through a drug clinic.

As a proponent of this program, Mandel writes that he needed to take an eight-hour class online to be certified to care for up to 100 addicts. What he likes about the program is the normalcy afforded the recovering addicts. They are treated in a doctor’s office and this is more akin to treating it like a chronic illness rather than having the person feel alienated or shuffled off to a clinic, which can put the patient under the scorn and scrutiny of many in his/her local community.

This human approach is helping people with narcotic addiction that, though incurable, can be managed like alcohol addiction. Dr. Mandel writes, “Until the community comes together to face the issue, the toxic environment that exists in Midcoast Maine will continue to breed more addicted adults. This problem will not solve itself, and ignoring it is a recipe for endless problems.”

He urged and pleaded that other doctors in the area, and other forward-thinkers step up and help him break the cycle with compassion and love based treatments, rather than punitive or humiliating techniques.

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Dr. James Buckley is a chiropractor in Rockport who, like Dr. Mandel, has also served his community for many years. As a naturalist and healer, Jim has been instrumental in the well-being of many, and has made himself available on demand for many of his clients for the years I have known him.

On July 17, "A Night for Jim” was held at the Camden Opera House to benefit Jim and his family in their battle with cancer. What is extraordinary to me is the way a community can care and come out in numbers for those in need of support.

This was a night of music, dance and singing, and much more. It was about love, prayer, and the understanding that no man should be an island and that none of us can go it alone.

It was about a man, his family, and their path and journey down the abyss, weaving and bobbing through new territory, as a family unit, searching their path back to health and wellness.

It is about the good spirit of a community that wants to give back and that wants to help.

Kudos to those who worked with Jim, Rita and their family to put together a show that was professionally adept, joyful, full of hope, and, all-in-all amazing and uplifting.

Jim’s road to recovery is a journey that has a lot of costs on many fronts including financial, emotional and spiritual. If you would like to support Jim and his family, there is a website where you can donate: giveforward.com/fundraiser/5mp4/jim-buckley-s-beat-it-cancer-fund

Reade Brower can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com.

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