Dr. Chahfe: Practicing Medicine with Kindness

In Honor of National Doctor's Day

Posted by Nancy Lee on March 26, 2022

March 30th is National Doctor's Day. In honor of the occasion, I am sharing a story about Dr. Chahfe, an ENT who practices medicine in Utica, New York, with compassion and kindness.

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Proverbs 3:27 (ESV).

I stifled back a yawn as the hospice nurse examined my mother. It had been a long two weeks, and I was tired and frazzled.  

“Do you have any other concerns?” my mother’s hospice nurse asked. 

“The inside of my right ear is sore,” Mom said, “I went in last week to get new hearing aids.  I need to go in next week to get the ear molds fitted.”

She shined a light into my mother’s right ear.  “Oh, I don’t like this,” she said as she shook her head. “It’s red. I think an ENT needs to look at this before you get the ear molds.”

“But I was planning to take Mom to a family wedding in California in two weeks. She needs her hearing aids before the trip,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said before heading for the door, “I really think she needs to be seen.”

Another appointment, I thought, In the two weeks since Mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, I have dragged her to appointments almost every day. 

I called my mother’s ENT and explained the situation. I was told by the receptionist that the soonest she could squeeze her in was in three weeks. 

“But we’re supposed to be in California by then, and she really needs her hearing aids before the trip,” I said, trying not to sound too pushy.

“The best I can do is put her on a waiting list,” she said. 

I wanted to say, “She’s a hospice patient; She might not be alive in 3 weeks!” Instead I said, “Thank you anyway.” But inside I was not feeling thankful. I knew this would be Mom’s last chance to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and it was important to me that she be able to hear them.  I couldn’t help but think that the receptionist might have been able to come up with a creative solution.

Then Mom had an idea. She said she had gone to a different ENT, Dr. Chahfe, seven years ago.  Mom had changed doctors because she was hard of hearing, and Dr. Chahfe was difficult for her to understand. “Why not give him a call?” Mom suggested.

I dialed his office and explained the situation to the receptionist. She put me on hold and was back after a few minutes.  “I was able to access your mother’s records,” she said. “We don’t have any appointments available, but we’ll squeeze her in. Can you be here at 10:20 Monday morning?”

“Yes, of course,” I replied, “Thank you so much!”

Later that afternoon the receptionist from Dr. Chahfe’s office called.  “I got the medical records forwarded from your mother’s primary doctor,” she said. “I would like to go over them with you to make sure they are thorough and accurate.”  I grabbed Mom’s medical file and compared notes with the woman on the phone. 

When she hung up, I told my mother, “I am so impressed with Dr. Chahfe’s office, and I haven’t even met them yet.  I think you’re in good hands.”

I came over to Mom’s apartment a little early Monday morning to help her get ready for her appointment. Mom was perched on the edge of her couch, already dressed in a navy and lavender outfit, looking classy as usual. Her chestnut-colored bangs were neatly curled under. No one would have guessed that she had just received such a horrific diagnosis.

When we got to the clinic, we walked into a waiting room which was overflowing with patients, spilling into the hallway.  I couldn’t find two seats together, so Mom sat, and I hovered near her.  Someone moved to give me a seat next to her.  The receptionist handed me a folder and asked me to check to see if all the information was correct.  I looked through it and handed it back, then I turned to my mother, “They’re so thorough,” I said.

A while later the receptionist called my mother’s name, and I walked with her into the examination room. Soon Dr. Chahfe, a middle-aged man with a slight build walked in wearing a lab coat.

 “Hello, Elizabeth,” he said.  “I haven’t seen you in a long time. What brings you here today?” he asked. 

 Mom went into a long explanation about her new diagnosis and how she needed her ear checked so she could get her hearing aids before her trip to California. 

“Well, of course, Elizabeth, I will help you,” he said. He then looked in her ears.  “Yes, I see some inflammation in your right ear.  I am going to prescribe some ear drops that should clear it up. You should give it a few days before getting the molds fit for your hearing aids.” 

What Dr. Chahfe did next, I will never forget. He pulled his chair close to my mother, looked directly at her, and said, “How old are you, Elizabeth?”

“89,” she replied.

“Well, I’m 51.  You are doing so well at 89.  I hope to live that long.”

“Thank you,” my mother said.

“And I will pray for you, Elizabeth,” he said as he patted her hand.   As he walked out the door, he turned around and lingered for a moment. “Have a wonderful trip to California,” he said.

I was overwhelmed to think that a doctor who had not seen my mother in seven years squeezed her into his schedule and then, with a waiting room filled with patients, took the time to encourage her, an 89-year-old cancer patient.  And he even told her he would pray for her!

It takes effort and sacrifice to be the person who does good when it is in your power to do so. But it is well worth the cost. “. . . so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:16b (ESV) It results in the ones you have blessed giving praise to God.

I think we all agree that there are times when we need someone like Dr. Chahfe in our lives, a person who goes out of his way to do good to others even when it is not convenient. I hope you have been inspired by his example to be that person to others.