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How I got from there to here: life at 100 percent

Dr. Rekha Magar and son

Living life at 100 percent for me is stepping out of my comfort zone and putting myself through the unknown and trusting in the best outcomes regardless of the situations.

This core belief is what has carved my journey, which started in a small town of 2,797 people at age 12 and led to the capital city of Nepal to the United States of America.

I grew up away from my parents in a boarding school, making summer and winter break visits that meant a nearly 10-hour bus ride over paved and dirt roads. My family, especially my father, believed in empowerment with education. He is the first person in his family to attend college, and he knew that there was more to our lives which would come with providing us an opportunity to attend one of the best schools. My mother, who never went to school beyond fourth grade, supported my dad’s dream of educating their children even though it meant sending us away and seeing us only twice a year.

Moving to the most prestigious school in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, from a very small school came with its own challenges. I learned at a young age to be courageous in new places and build skills to adapt, adjust and grow in a new environment.

When my dad tells stories of my childhood, they are not about academic success but about acts of kindness. For instance, my parents used to have a grocery store in early to mid-90s, without credit cards and more advanced ways of doing business. My dad kept records of customer credits and would occasionally ask me to go to different villages and collect money from borrowers. He said I would get wrapped around their stories of sorrow and poverty and instead of collecting the money I would spend my day helping them with the cattle or in the farm.

My strengths have been empathy and kindness, with a strong sense of social responsibility inherited from my father. My basic instinct has always been to trust people and believe in best intentions, which has paved my path at professional and personal levels.

I have not been afraid to leave my nest. Leaving behind my home and family thousands of miles away, I have taken this exceptional journey towards self-growth and accomplishment. With each passing year and a quest for more in life, I have drifted further and further, sometimes wondering if I drifted too far.

I have always enjoyed human interactions and was certain, early on, that I would have a bigger purpose in life. Five years of medical school in China, three years of internal medicine training in Brooklyn, New York, and two years of specialty training in Metabolism/Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Minnesota have not only built me up professionally but given me a variety of perspectives. During the years of training in New York City and Minneapolis in the United States after medical school, there were times when I questioned if I was making a difference in a larger scale after all these years of hard work.

Like other physicians, I was living a comfortable life, but I was disillusioned about practicing medicine in a corporate world and the lack of trust in relationships between patients and physicians.

When an opportunity came for me to take this position at St. Croix Regional Medical Center, I strikingly remember the astonishingly beautiful town with hills and river that I instantly fell in love with. Unlike my past experiences with larger hospitals and outpatients clinics in big cities, this place was relatively small with a natural aura of friendliness. The closest to knowing someone in this community was an employee who went above and beyond her job description via emails to find an apartment for my family. It was a pleasantly surprising first cue that people actually cared and would go the extra mile to make things happen in this place.

After training at bigger facilities with advanced technologies, working in this community in a small practice and bringing in new ideas and technologies has been a fulfilling experience. I take pleasure in working each day to simplify and better the lives of patients who live with chronic illness like diabetes. This change could be as simple as reducing the number of insulin injections per day to life-changing actions like wearing a patch with a scanner to monitor blood glucose 24 hours a day, instead of checking it four times a day with a needle prick. I take pride in working with each patient individually on their barriers, needs and goals for managing their diabetes.

I take a personal responsibility to advocate for my patients. It comes with huge privilege when people trust you with their health and let you into their lives. Each person who walks into my office seeking help leaves teaching me in return. Some show me what perseverance looks like in the face of multiple, ongoing, incurable diseases. Some show me what courage looks like in little things like trying to inject themselves with insulin despite needle phobia. Some keep failing to engage in their care in spite of my efforts, and they teach me patience in the face of failure. Others take exceptional care of themselves with very minimal direction and show me what discipline can attain. I get amazed by elderly couples who walk into the office and genuinely care about each other even after decades of marriage, and they restore my belief in love. I stand on the same value incorporated by my parents that to be a useful member of the community is to lead a meaningful life.

When we first moved to St. Croix Falls and knew no one, my son and I would go the overlook each Friday to mix with the community. Two years later, our family has extended beyond us and our two cats, Diya and Ginger. My son’s quick sense humor and easy temperament has earned him several good friends who have become his second family, with frequent invitations to camping, horse rides and fishing trips. It almost feels like home here, with a sense of belonging rather than isolation.

This feeling has taken a long time to grow in my heart, as I keep moving and shifting gears in life, but a big part of living my life at 100 percent has been shifting those gears without fear.

Rehka Magar, MD
St. Croix Falls, WI