Friday, March 20, 2009

His last breath -- Dr. Donald R. Thomas

My heart isn’t in posting today. My father, Dr. Donald R. Thomas, died in a Cincinnati hospice this morning.

Born in 1925, he lived most of his life in Cincinnati. He attended the University of Cincinnati as an undergraduate and a medical student after serving as a gunnery instructor during World War II.

He married Elizabeth Ann Green in 1954, and they moved briefly to San Mateo, California, where I was born. Soon they returned to Cincinnati, where he and a colleague had a family medicine practice. A second son, my late brother Matt Thomas, was born soon after that, and then my sister, Beth. He later he acquired an industrial medicine practice in downtown Cincinnati, where he served a variety of business and individual clients until he retired in 1998 or so.

Throughout his medical career, he taught at the University of Cincinnati Medical School in various capacities. His students were a constant source of pleasure for him, and he often spoke proudly of the ones who had gone on to successful practices.

He loved medicine and was an excellent doctor, with views that were well in advance of his time. A skilled diagnostician, he thought many people were overmedicated, and that too often doctors prescribed unnecessary tests. He also didn’t believe in prolonging life unnecessarily, and often condemned strenuous measures that ignored the patient’s pain and suffering. With consistency and courage he stuck to this belief at the end of his own life.

He long intended for his body to go to the medical school, and one of his last requests before he went to hospice was make sure the paperwork was in order, something that he planned to do ever since his honeymoon, according to my mother.

He smoked. Two packs a day for decades took a toll on his lungs, and resulted in the emphysema that blighted his later years. Yet his diminishing lung power and coronary bypass surgery did not prevent him from going on a serious post-retirement weight loss and exercise campaign. He was a fixture at the Tri-Health Gym at Kenwood. He had a favorite treadmill.

I trace my lifelong interest in science to his example, even though he was an Ohio Republican who couldn’t believe that global warming was real. As the end approached, he relented somewhat. I told him that doubting the climate science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a rearguard action, similar to the stance of creationists who deny evolution. That seemed to get through.

Goodbye, Dad.

Eden Park in Cincinnati (one of my father's favorite haunts), shot by Lanskeith17

1 comment:

Stunato said...

I had the personal privlidge of knowing "Dr. Don" as we shared the same locker space at Tri-Health where we both worked out several days a week. He was popular in the company of men of all ages, and when asked would give advice to anyone who freted over a PSA score or whatever. He loved joking with the guys although we knew he was suffering from terrible back pain.
He is already sorely missed. Dr. Don...Rest In Peace,