In some ways, speaking and listening today are difficult because they force us to go back and experience the hurt we felt when we lost John last year. But we all have fond memories of him and what he meant to us and our families.
One of the memories that makes me smile the most is thinking of John dressing up along with the Fordyces as one of the Blues Brothers at the LDANJ’s. Great Imitator fundraiser at Jenkinson’s. It was almost like he became that character and threw aside all his problems and for a moment, the real John shown through, funny, down to earth, joker, people lover. He sang and danced and whooped it up as though he didn’t have a care in the world.
You would think that side would be in contrast to his intellectual one, the professional, the doctor who had to sometimes make life and death decisions. But he was really the same with his patients. I remember taking my very sick mother there when she first came to live with me. She could barely function. Milo, all serious, did the necessary evaluations and suddenly, in he popped, and began throwing these questions at my mother who had little spark of life left.
What medical questions were left unasked you wonder? None. Knowing my mother came from Slovak heritage, he began bombarding her with how do say the word for this or that in Slovak? In Czech, he said, it is that. What is the Slovak word for dumpling, how do you spell it? My mother, who was born here had some grasp of Slovak as many first generation Americans do from family conversations, and she fought to supply answers to his nonsensical burst of questions. He was delighted when he found out she also spoke German and began comparing roots of words in various languages. Then he left the room. Five minutes later he was back with more questions. As he left the room one final time, I personally was reminded of the closing line from the Lone Ranger TV series as the Lone Ranger rode out of town on his white horse after saving people from the outlaws: “Who was that masked man anyway?” I wondered what my poor sick mother would say. Not to worry. John was not only the doctor but just what the doctor ordered. She loved him and came to live at my house and began thinking of all these Solvak words for the next visit as she slowly recovered some of her former vigor.
Unfortunately, as with many, I came to meet the Drulles due to family involvement with Lyme disease. They were a godsend. I think what I appreciated the most about the visits was the medical give and take that occurred. Milo would suggest an approach and John would counter. Arguments would ensue, and we would often place mental bets on which side would win. Patients came in and brought with them many unorthodox approaches to the disease, and the tempo would increase. If truth be known, the discussions always led to the betterment of patient health, something difficult to achieve with this insidious disease. John was very outspoken, a trait that often got him into trouble I think, but a trait I valued highly, since I have often been accused of the same.
I remember how excited he was when I was appointed to the NJ Governor’s Lyme Disease Advisory Council, although I had no idea then that he & Ken Fordyce would work to have me immediately appointed chair. He thought I would set the health department on its ear, so to speak, regarding what was really happening with Lyme disease, and we were often in touch on the report the Council presented to the Governor that year, a report I believe he felt realized the above-mentioned hopes on his part. It must have, because none of us were subsequently reappointed to the council. We had done our jobs very effectively.
I called him for advice on LDA grants we were to review or scientific papers that were out there. It was then I realized his brilliance and his seemingly photographic memory. I called him once and cited a paper, and he informed me he had read X paper 20 years ago with some obscure citation in it that contradicted the paper I mentioned.
He paid one last medical visit to my mother at our house, 6 years after the first one I alluded to earlier. He was quite sick then and my mother even sicker. His kindness and compassion were evident as he quietly told me there was nothing more to be done for her.
His death was a professional and personal blow to me as I greatly admired him, and his courage, wisdom, humor, compassion. knowledge, love of family and of life were unparalleled. His memory remains strong, and I think he would be pleased that the LDA dedicated its Lyme Disease Update: Science Policy & Law book to him because of the respect they felt for him. Two weeks ago, at the LDA’s Lyme disease medical conference in NY, I could see him looking down during the annual John Drulle Memorial lecture whispering into the lecturer’s ear, I don’t think that’s quite right, you should read p. 14 of the paper published by Dr. such and such 10 years ago…”
That’s the John Drulle we knew and loved.